State investigation identifies 158 priests accused of abuse, over 600 victims in last 80 years

The investigation went through 80 years of documents.

November 18, 2022, 6:04 PM

More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore have been accused of sexually and physically abusing more than 600 victims over the past 80 years, an investigation by Maryland's attorney general found.

Attorney General Brian Frosh identified 115 priests who were prosecuted for sex abuse or that had been identified publicly by the archdiocese as having been "credibly accused" of abuse.

Another 43 priests had been accused of sexual abuse but were not identified publicly by the archdiocese.

This information comes from an investigation starting in 2019 that resulted in a 463-page report that is not yet public. Frosh filed a motion in Baltimore Circuit Court to release the report, which includes information retrieved via grand jury subpoenas.

PHOTO: The St. Edward Roman Catholic Church, May 15, 2002, in Baltimore, Maryland.
The St. Edward Roman Catholic Church, May 15, 2002, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Alex Dorgan-ross/Getty Images, FILE

In the court filing, Frosh said "publicly airing the transgressions of the Church is critical to holding people and institutions accountable and improving the way sexual abuse allegations are handled going forward."

The investigation went through 80 years of documents and opened a phone and email hotline to hear from potential informants or victims. Over 300 people contacted the attorney general's office through these means and investigators interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses, the AG's office said.

"For decades, survivors reported sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and for decades the Church covered up the abuse rather than holding the abusers accountable and protecting its congregations," the court filing stated. "The Archdiocese of Baltimore was no exception."

According to the attorney general, the archdiocese failed to report allegations of sexual abuse, adequately investigate such claims, remove abusers from the ministry or restrict their access to children and young adults.

"While the Archdiocese reported a large number of allegations to police, especially in later years, for decades it worked to ensure that the perpetrators would not face justice," the court filing read.

The court filing noted that even though 600 victims were identified, there may be "hundreds more" since most incidents of sexual assault go unreported. The filing called the impact "immeasurable."

Victims were made up of both boys and girls, between preschool age and young adulthood, the court filing said. The abuse claims were sometimes reported to priests who were accused or guilty themselves of sexually abuse, the filing said.

The filing includes claims that the Archdiocese of Baltimore appointed an abusive priest at a Catholic high school and failed to report subsequent sexual abuse and that the archdiocese knew of a priest's sexual abuse claims for over 30 years before alerting authorities.

Archbishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore apologized to victims in a letter on Thursday, saying, "to the victim-survivors who were harmed by a minister of the Church and who were harmed by those who failed to protect them, who failed to respond to them with care and compassion and who failed to hold abusers accountable for their sinful and criminal behavior."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events