Storied Baltimore Catholic family sues archdiocese, says sexual abuse led to death

— Francis X. Gallagher Jr.’s father founded a law firm that still represents the Baltimore Archdiocese in sexual abuse matters. Now, his children say church officials mishandled his own clergy sexual abuse claims.

Flannery Gallagher looks at a childhood photo of her father, the late Francis X. Gallagher Jr., at a news conference announcing a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Baltimore and St. Mary’s Seminary on Tuesday in Baltimore.


For more than 60 years, the name Francis X. Gallagher has been linked prominently in Baltimore with the Catholic Church. The late Gallagher Sr. in 1961 founded an influential law firm that represented the Baltimore Archdiocese and does so to this day; his name adorns Catholic institutions in the city, his face smiles from black-and-white photos with a pope on one side, a cardinal on the other.

But behind closed doors, his grandchildren now say, Catholic institutions destroyed the Gallagher family through clergy sexual abuse, neglect, coverup and shame.

In a wrongful-death lawsuit filed Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court, two of Gallagher Sr.’s adult grandchildren allege that their father, Francis X. Gallagher Jr., a successful city lawyer, banker and philanthropist, was sexually abused as a 14-year-old in 1974 while he worked the night shift as a receptionist at St. Mary’s Seminary. The suit claims that the alleged abuse, along with the mishandling of his allegations by the archdiocese and its lawyers at Gallagher, Evelius & Jones, emotionally wrecked Gallagher Jr., who began using drugs and overdosed last August at the age of 62.

His daughter, D.C. lawyer Flannery Gallagher, at a morning news conference described how her father remained a devout, generous Catholic to the end of his life, even as the archdiocese and the firm that bore his father’s name allegedly failed him and other victims over the decades.

“He was a favored son of the city of Baltimore. He loved it. But beneath the public affect were untold levels of personal anguish and pain. Our father’s trials were overwhelming and overwhelmingly unfair and undeserved. His shame belongs to the defendants, so today we hand it back to them,” she said, surrounded by poster boards with photos of her father as a child and with her at her college graduation, as well as images of her esteemed grandfather, who died at age 43.

“Given our close relationship to the leadership of the Catholic Church, it would seem we’d be spared, but we weren’t,” she said. “We love our dad, and we miss him. There are countless people in our community and across the country who suffer because of the horrific scourge in the church. We honor and stand with them.”

In a statement Tuesday, the archdiocese wrote that it was “just learning of the pending litigation and cannot offer a response at this time. The Archdiocese offers its deepest sympathies and prayers for the family.”

Gallagher, Evelius and Jones did not respond to a request for comment.

The suit levels three charges of wrongful death against St. Mary’s Seminary and University; the St. Sulpice Foundation, the religious order that runs the school; and the archdiocese.

Attorneys for Flannery and Liam Gallagher say they have not yet set a dollar amount in the suit. They also said they are considering whether to add the law firm that bears their name to the suit.

Flannery Gallagher said she and her brother learned about their father’s alleged abuse in the 2000s. At the same time, Francis Gallagher was reaching out to church officials about his abuse claims. It wasn’t until he died last year and his children went through his documents that they saw his exchanges with the archdiocese. In them, their father recounted his alleged abuse and implored officials to let others know of the man he identified as his abuser.

The man Gallagher named, the Rev. Mark Haight, is listed on the archdiocese’s compilation of clergy credibly accused of abuse. Efforts to reach Haight on Tuesday were not immediately successful.

The complaint and letters shared with The Washington Post show a 43-year-old man spiraling as he confronted his alleged abuse. He had begun “risky extra-marital sexual encounters with men,” the complaint describes. His family discovered it in 2000, which led him to disclose the alleged abuse to them and to seek help at the Johns Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic.

He reached out in April 2002 to Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop William Francis Malooly — who later became bishop of Delaware — and the Rev. Patrick Carrion, associate director of clergy personnel, to discuss Haight, whether others had been abused and if he was still in a position to offend.

“One of my many regrets is that it took me 28 years to come forward. The thought that my silence on this matter could have contributed to others being abused is something that I will have to live with forever. I would therefore like to gain some understanding on a number of matters,” an April 29, 2002, letter to Malooly reads.

“Neither official offered answers,” the complaint says of Malooly and Carrion.

Messages left for both men weren’t immediately answered Tuesday.

Knowing that Haight was based in the Albany, N.Y., diocese, Gallagher then contacted Bishop Howard Hubbard there. According to the complaint and a letter Gallagher sent to Cardinal William Keeler, Baltimore’s then-archbishop, in June 2002, he learned from Albany that Haight had abused other children in that area and that Haight’s history “was not disclosed to any of the parishes in which he was assigned and no authorities were ever notified of Haight’s crimes.”

>A message left Tuesday with Hubbard’s attorney was not immediately returned.

In the letter to Keeler, Gallagher said he contacted Albany because, he alleged, no one from the Baltimore Archdiocese was doing so.

“It was with great disappointment that I realized it would fall to me to have to make the direct inquiries to Albany,” he wrote.

In a May 2002 letter to Hubbard, according to the complaint, Gallagher wrote that by not taking more action, “the Church is continuing to visit injustice upon me, upon the victims who have come forward and upon the others who I am certain continue to suffer silently in unimaginable ways. This is both shameful and cruel.”

According to the Diocese of Albany’s website, Haight had been removed from ministry in 1996.

In July 2002, according to the complaint, Gallagher wrote in a letter to St. Mary’s Seminary President Robert Leavitt how upset he was about the archdiocese’s response and said the seminary “has demonstrated not the slightest expression of apology, let alone acknowledgement” of the situation. Doesn’t the idea of other victims suffering, Gallagher wrote Leavitt, “haunt you the way it haunts me?”

The complaint alleges that the archdiocese “threatened” Gallagher as he pressed for it to include Haight’s name on its then-new list of priests and seminarians credibly accused of abuse. If they added Haight, the complaint alleges, they would also add Gallagher’s uncle, the Rev. Joe Gallagher — one of the priests or seminarians later deemed “credibly accused” of youth sexual abuse. Gallagher told the church to publish both names, the complaint says.

The archdiocese added Haight’s name to its public list of clergy credibly accused of abuse in September 2002.

Lawyers for the siblings said Tuesday that they were unable at the moment to share any correspondence that church representatives or law firm members sent to Gallagher Jr. in response to his entreaties about Haight.

The Gallagher family’s lawsuit alleges that the church harmed the family early on. When their famous grandfather died in 1972 of a heart attack, he was representing priests of the archdiocese accused of antiwar activities in a high-profile trial. It alleges that the firm, “while making millions from Frank Sr.’s relationships and reputation,” gave virtually no financial support to his widow and five young children, who struggled to make ends meet.

It was that financial situation that led Frank Jr., then 14, to take the night receptionist job at St. Mary’s Seminary, where he was allegedly abused.

On the complaint Tuesday, the archdiocese listed as its attorney Gallagher, Evelius & Jones.

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