Baltimore’s Catholic archdiocese adds 42 names to list of staff credibly accused of sexual abuse

BY Lee O. Sanderlin and Jean Marbella

The Archdiocese of Baltimore added more than 40 names to its public list of Catholic Church staff credibly accused of sexually abusing children, including for the first time deacons, nuns and lay teachers.

The additions, approved at the direction of Archbishop William Lori, mark the largest single expansion of the archdiocese’s credibly accused list since it first published 57 names in 2002 as part of its response to the national clergy abuse scandal. With Friday’s update, the church’s list now runs to more than 180 names.

Although the vast majority of newly added names already were known publicly — 41 of 42 had been published either in news reports or in the Maryland Attorney General’s Office report on eight decades of clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups in the archdiocese — the church said the move demonstrated its commitment to transparency.

The attorney general’s report identified 36 priests, brothers, nuns, deacons and lay people — such as teachers — who had been accused of abuse, but who were not then on the archdiocese list.

Survivors of abuse and advocates had demanded Lori add names to the archdiocese’s list even before the attorney general’s office released the public version of its report in April.

The report called on the archdiocese to be more transparent in listing credibly accused employees and clergy, and Friday’s additions sought to meet that request, about seven months after the report was completed and shared with church officials.

“The decision to add the names is also an acknowledgment of a recommendation by the Maryland attorney general that the Archdiocese expand its voluntary list,” wrote Christian Kendzierski, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, in an email to The Baltimore Sun. “The addition of these names to our public database builds on the Archdiocese’s long-standing commitment to transparency, healing and to ridding the Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse.”

The attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Of the 156 names in the attorney general’s report, 46 had not been previously listed by the archdiocese. A Sun review of 36 of those people found that most of them had died. The other 10 names were redacted, but The Sun has since confirmed and published their identities. A court hearing is scheduled in early July to determine whether the attorney general’s office can lift the redactions of those names to the public report.

David Lorenz, director of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that while he was glad the archdiocese published further names, he didn’t view it as a win for survivors as the credibly accused’s identities were already public elsewhere.

“I can’t give them a win for revealing the names of 42 people, 41 of which we already knew,” he said. “When they take this long, it should come with an apology, not a victory lap.”

The sole new name was that of Father Phillip J. Linden, a longtime theology professor at Xavier University of Louisiana, the nation’s only Catholic historically Black college. He previously served as a priest in Baltimore from 1969 through 1986, according to his religious order, the Josephites and church officials.

Linden is accused of abusing a boy in the 1970s when he was a pastor at St. Francis Xavier parish in East Baltimore, according to the archdiocese. The archdiocese did not describe the allegation further.

Linden, who is in his 80s, has not been criminally charged. The archdiocese reported the allegation to law enforcement when it received it in August 2020, a spokesperson said.

Attempts Friday to reach Linden, his family and the Josephite order were not successful.

A spokesperson for Xavier University of Louisiana declined to comment on the allegations. Linden worked at the university from 1991 through May 2018, the spokesperson said. The Josephite order lists Linden as having been the dean of the university’s theology department, however the university spokesperson said that position never existed.

Father Phillip Linden in 1970.
Father Phillip Linden in 1970.

A Texas native, Linden celebrated his “Golden Jubilee” of 50 years in the Josephite order in 2019. Also known as the St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart, the Josephites are an order of Catholic priests and brothers who serve the Black community. The society’s headquarters is in Baltimore.

The archdiocese has maintained its credibly accused list, separate from that of the attorney general, with its own set of criteria — namely that it included only people who were clergy, meaning priests and brothers. Friday’s additions expand that criteria to include deacons, nuns and lay people, but it would be up to the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board to determine whether the wider criteria is used going forward.

The decision to add more names came the same week that one of Baltimore’s most well-known Catholic families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the archdiocese over abuse Frank Gallagher Jr. suffered as a teen. Also Friday, a Baltimore County judge acquitted a former Catholic school wrestling coach in the only prosecution that has arisen from the attorney general’s investigation.

The additions mark a step toward recognition of some of the horrors survivors have dealt with. Among others, the archdiocese’s list now includes John Merzbacher, a former Catholic teacher who spent the last 28 years of his life in prison for the rape and torture of a student. Merzbacher died May 12 in prison.

For a name to go on the archdiocese’s list, a complaint or report has to be made to Catholic officials. The church reports the complaint to law enforcement and, once authorities give the archdiocese permission, church officials conduct their own investigation. Evidence is then presented to the Independent Review Board, an interfaith group of eight community members from legal, academic, health care, social work and law enforcement circles. Lori appoints the members.

The board meets quarterly and votes as to whether it considers the allegations credible. Lori then determines what course of action to take, if any, regarding making a name public or disciplinary action. Priests or brothers who die before a single allegation of child abuse is received aren’t added to the list unless a third party corroborates an allegation, or a second allegation is made against the same person.

As well as the 36 unredacted names from the attorney general’s report, the archdiocese added one of the 10 redacted names to its credibly accused list Friday: Father Joseph O’Meara.

Identified in the report as abuser No. 155, O’Meara was removed from ministry in 2020 at St. Agnes/William of York Parish in Catonsville after three women said he had inappropriately touched them. The attorney general’s report says O’Meara inappropriately touched a 7-year-old girl in 1984, sliding his hand up her leg to her genitals under a table at a dinner.

An attorney for O’Meara, Michael P. May, declined to comment Friday on O’Meara’s addition to the archdiocese’s credibly accused list, but previously confirmed O’Meara is one of the redacted names.

Kendzierski, the archdiocese spokesperson, declined to comment on O’Meara being one of the redacted names, citing a Baltimore Circuit Court judge’s confidentiality order regarding the ongoing process over how much more of the report should become public.

The archdiocese previously said it could not reveal the names of the redacted abusers, citing the court’s order. The attorney general’s office, subject to the same order, disagreed with that stance, saying the church is uniquely positioned to release any redacted name because the information would come from its own files.

Michael Joseph Miller also was added Friday to the credibly accused list, despite not being included in the attorney general’s report. A former member of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, Miller was arrested in Connecticut in 2011 on child pornography charges and was sentenced in 2013 to five years in prison plus 20 years of probation. Miller was a faculty member at Archbishop Curley High School during the 1994 and 1995 school years, and again from 2003 to 2006. He celebrated Mass occasionally at St. Isaac Jogues in Carney and St. Margaret in Bel Air from 2003 to 2006.

The Baltimore archdiocese acknowledged his arrest at the time, but stated it did not have any knowledge of incidents involving children here. On Friday, the archdiocese said a man came forward earlier this year to say Miller solicited and sent inappropriate photos to him when he was a student at Archbishop Curley in the mid-2000s.

According to reports in the Hartford Courant, Miller chatted on Facebook with seven teenagers about sexual issues, inviting one to come over and watch porn and engage in sex. Pornographic videos of children and adults turned up on computers he used, according to news coverage of his trial. The Hartford archdiocese said he was removed from the ministry in 2011.

Michael Joseph Miller
Michael Joseph Miller

The Connecticut sex offender registry listed an inmate release date of December 2017, and online court records show that as of January 2020, he remained on probation. The registry gives his address as that of the RECON retreat in Robertsville, Missouri, a residential facility for troubled clergy affiliated with the Servants of the Paraclete organization. It describes itself as a Catholic congregation of priests and brothers who provide care for their counterparts in need.

Miller could not be reached for comment. No one responded to messages left Friday for the Servants of the Paraclete.

Not including Linden, O’Meara and Miller, the following names appeared in the attorney general’s report and were added to the Baltimore archdiocese’s credibly accused list. Three priests — Douglas Dempster, Robert Trupia and William Virtue — are listed in the attorney general’s report as having either lived or worked in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, but have not been accused of abuse here.

A + next to the person’s name means they are deceased:

  • +Affrica, Louis — priest
  • +Brotzman, Stephen — lay teacher
  • +Brown, Wayland (Diocese of Savannah, Georgia) — priest
  • +Callahan, Robert — priest
  • Dempster, Douglas (Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware) — priest
  • +Ernst, Francis (Jesuit)
  • +Evans, Terence — priest
  • +Figlewski, Alphonsus (Conventual Franciscan)
  • +Firlie, Joseph — deacon
  • +Flood, Theonella (School Sisters of Notre Dame) — sister
  • +Hill, Joseph (Vincentian) — priest
  • +Hiltz, Robert — priest
  • +Jameson, William — priest
  • +Julian, Albert — priest
  • +Justice, John — deacon
  • +Kelly, Thomas M. — priest
  • +Krach, Joseph — priest
  • +Kuhl, Thomas — deacon
  • +Leary, David — priest
  • +McCrory, William — priest
  • McIntyre, Patrick — lay teacher
  • +Merzbacher, John — lay teacher
  • +Messer, Joseph — priest
  • +Morgan, Eugene (Christian Brother) — brother
  • +Morgan, William (Society of the Divine Word) — brother
  • +Mountain, John — priest
  • +Nagle, Alan — priest
  • +O’Hara, Leo — Leo O’Hara was a lay candidate to become a deacon
  • +Stallings, Albert — priest
  • +Sullivan, Cuthbert (Passionist)
  • +Tomasunas, Thomas (Capuchin Franciscan)
  • Trupia, Robert (Diocese of Tucson, Arizona) — priest
  • Virtue, William (Dioceses of Joliet and Peoria in Illinois) priest
  • +Wagner, Francis — priest
  • +Whelan, Thomas — priest
  • +Wooden, Roger — priest
  • +Yocum, Francis (Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia) — sister
  • +Zerhusen, Henry — priest

One person identified in the attorney general’s report as an abuser was described by their victim as someone who began a relationship with a church official themselves while still a minor. While the archdiocese added that person’s name Friday to its list, The Sun does not name people who have been sexually abused without their permission. The newspaper attempted to contact the individual to ask about the victim’s statement regarding them, but was unable to reach them.

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