Judge OKs release of Baltimore church sex abuse report

BALTIMORE (AP) — A judge on Tuesday granted the Maryland Attorney General’s Office permission to publicly release a redacted version of an investigative report detailing sex abuse allegations against more than 150 Roman Catholic priests and examining the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s response.

Officials declined to provide a timeline for when the release would take place.

Completed last year by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the report has remained under seal because it contains information obtained from church officials via grand jury subpoenas, proceedings that are confidential in Maryland. But lawyers for the state asked the court for permission to release their findings, and Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Robert Taylor ruled last month that a redacted version should be made public.

The next step was for Taylor to review a list of proposed redactions, which he approved Tuesday. Once the attorney general has made those redactions, his office can release the report.

According to earlier court filings, the nearly 500-page document identifies 158 priests accused of abusing more than 600 victims over the past 80 years. The attorney general’s investigation was launched in 2019.

In his previous ruling, Taylor said releasing the report is in the interest of justice, partly because the “only form of justice that may now be available is a public reckoning.” He gave the attorney general a March 13 deadline to submit a list of proposed redactions.

“The need for disclosure outweighs the need for secrecy,” Taylor wrote.

He also said Maryland legislators should be able to consider the report’s contents during the ongoing state legislative session, which ends April 10.

Lawmakers are currently considering whether to end the state’s statute of limitations for when civil lawsuits can be filed against institutions related to child sexual abuse. Currently, victims of child sex abuse in Maryland can’t sue after they turn 38. Other proposals to do away with the age limit have failed to become law in recent years, but the issue has received renewed attention this session.

The judge told prosecutors to entirely redact the names and titles of 37 people from the report before releasing it. The court will then contact those individuals, allow them to review certain sections of the report and finally, consider whether to remove the redactions and release a more complete version in the future. Taylor also told the attorney general to rephrase some pieces of the report to avoid identifying 60 other people.

Another 91 individuals have since died, so their names need not be redacted, Taylor ruled, as well as those identified through a means other than grand jury proceedings. Many accused priests named in the report have been previously publicly identified by the Baltimore Archdiocese.

In a statement Tuesday, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown said his office was pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“We will work to complete the court-ordered redactions and release the report as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

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