The Maryland Attorney General’s Office is completing work on a four-year investigation of allegations of abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, committed by priests, teachers and other archdiocese employees. The Archdiocese of Baltimore includes 153 parishes, 40 elementary schools and18 high schools.
The Attorney General’s Office has now revealed that more than 600 young victims were subject to sexual abuse by the Archdiocese clergy, spanning a period of more than 80 years. Abuse took place throughout the archdiocese’s nine Maryland counties and Baltimore City. The investigation found that the archdiocese failed to report many allegations of sexual abuse, conduct adequate investigations, remove abusers from their posts and restrict their access to children. Instead, the attorney general’s office found, the archdiocese “went to great lengths in order to keep the abuse secret.” The probe, the second in the country initiated by a state prosecutor, seeks to bring accountability and detail to cases long covered up or shielded by legal defenses like the statutes of limitation.
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The public outcry over these abuses by clergy and other staff members of the Church has prompted many survivors to come forward. Those who suffered in silence for years finally have learned they are not alone. Indeed, in recent years, thousands of victims have come forward with their stories of sexual misconduct at the hands of Catholic Church staff. The Catholic Church has paid more than $3 Billion in settlements for abuse. Now adults, individuals have finally found their voices heard with the help of Maryland injury attorneys across the state.
The alleged abuse of hundreds of children is a wildly disturbing subject, but what is even more disturbing is the pattern of response indicated in the tens of thousands of pages that were recently released. It’s clear that accused priests were simply moved or promoted.
Many priests were placed back into the ministry. Although Church officials pass the blame to their predecessors and deny any attempts to cover up abuse scandals, it appears that there were serious problems with how these cases were handled.
We believe sexual predators within the Catholic Church need to be held accountable for their horrendous actions. The next step is for the Maryland legislature to relax the statute of limitations for these crimes. In that way, people who have suffered in silence needlessly for decades would be able to seek the justice they deserve. Some Maryland politicians have tried to get a law passed to provide victims justice, but so far, the effort has been unsuccessful.
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Several states have opened up their statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault. The statutes have differed in how this has been approached, but for the most liberal statutes, windows have been opened for several years to allow the abused to file lawsuits for civil claims. Just by way of example, under federal law, Congress recently passed, and the President signed into law, the PACT ACT which gave statute of limitation relief to hundreds of thousands of veterans who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune by contaminated water.
If there’s a will, there’s a way. And now, with the Attorney General’s report, there certainly is a will. It will take the voices of the victims, and their allies, to make sure there’s a way. Jenner Law is an ally, and we’ll be there to help.