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Sins of the Fathers: Abuse and Betrayal in Baltimore

Scripps News held a roundtable conversation with survivors and investigators of sex abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese.
Posted at 7:26 AM, Apr 12, 2023

A four-year investigation has linked the Archdiocese of Baltimore to more than 600 cases of child sex abuse over 60 years. A bombshell report released by Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown detailed the decades of abuse, torture and cover-up by more than 156 clergy members, from priests to church educators. 

In a roundtable conversation with survivors, investigators and journalists, Scripps News, Scripps News Baltimore and The Baltimore Sun spoke with survivors who fought for the truth to be exposed, and for changes in the church and state law, who came forward with their stories.

In his first extended interview since the report's release, former Attorney General Brian Frosh pushed back against the Archdiocese's claims that it has been transparent and embraces the report. His investigation took four years to complete, something he attributes to a lack of resources, the enormity of the investigation and the slow process in obtaining documents from the Archdiocese.

"I think they followed the law, but I think they took too long to produce the documents," he said.

In one case, Father Frederick Duke, who spent more than 20 years at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Baltimore, admitted to abusing 26 boys between 1949 and 1961, with acts including oral and anal rape. In 1953, two to three boys had reported the sexual abuse, and the archbishop at the time knew, but did nothing. 

It wasn’t until now, after a 47-year-old victim reported Duke’s abuse, that the truth has come to light. 

When preparing to meet with that victim, the attorney general uncovered notes in the Archdiocese, which were astounding: "Do not talk about any other children"; "we will deny any liability"; "maybe we could say that we have nothing in our files"; "if a lawyer is present, express surprise"; and "no history, nothing in files."

One key figure who didn't join the program on Wednesday night was the current Archbishop of Baltimore William Lori. In a sermon on Easter Sunday, Lori said the church begged for forgiveness and asked the Lord to "heal those who were harmed." He insisted that the church is different today, and promised that any allegations are reported to proper authorities outside of the church.

Lori declined repeated invitations, extended over the past three weeks, to appear in the evening special. He also declined to make any other official available. 

Meanwhile, pews across Maryland have never been emptier. While there are still half a million Catholics in the area, the number of worshippers in Baltimore has dropped a whopping 98% from the 1950s. There were about 200,000 then, and only about 4,000 today. 

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori proceeds into the Basilica in Baltimore

Bombshell report details child sex abuse in Baltimore Archdiocese

The Maryland attorney general's report documents more than 600 cases of abuse over 60 years.