Law for child sex abuse survivors begins Oct. 1

— Lawsuits expected against Baltimore Archdiocese

The measure lifts statute of limitations for filing civil claims

By Tracee Wilkins, Katie Leslie and Jeff Piper

A new chance for justice begins this weekend for some sex abuse survivors in Maryland. The Child Victims Act of 2023 takes effect on Oct. 1, lifting the statute of limitations on abuse cases so victims from even decades ago can pursue justice through civil cases.

Though schools or other groups could be affected,  much of the focus is on the Catholic Church. In anticipation of being sued by potentially hundreds of victims, the archbishop of Baltimore has said the church is considering filing for bankruptcy.

Some survivors, including Teresa Lancaster, said while financial settlements pale in comparison to finally holding their abusers — and the systems that protected them — to account, they see the church’s move as an effort to undermine the law.

“They don’t want to help the victims,” she said in an interview with the News4 I-Team.

Lancaster said the sexual abuse she endured at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore began as a junior in 1970, continuing until she graduated in 1972. But the survivor and attorney said the effects of the abuse last to this day.

“I have three daughters, and every one of them has told me there were times when they just didn’t understand what was wrong with Mom. I mean, the depression and the anxiety rears its ugly head,” Lancaster said.

What happened to Lancaster and other girls at that high school at the hands of Father Joseph Maskell was explored in a 2017 Netflix series called “The Keepers.” Church leaders initially tried to discredit parts of the series. Then last spring, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown released a report detailing how more than 150 Catholic priests and other Maryland clergy sexually abused more than 600 children and were never held accountable

The report stated Maskell was accused of abusing at least 39 boys and girls. But despite the church knowing about these allegations for nearly 30 years, according to the report, he was repeatedly reassigned until he was placed on leave in 1994.

“When the attorney general’s report was released, they knew about Father Maskell in 1966,” Lancaster said. “I was abused in 1970. They could have stopped it.”

Maskell died in 2001. Though he was never criminally charged, the church added him to its list of priests who had been credibly accused of abuse after his death. According to the church’s account on that public list, it states it became aware of allegations against him in 1992 that couldn’t be corroborated, until additional allegations emerged two years later.

Lancaster sued the archdiocese in 1995 but said her case was blocked by the statute of limitations. For 21 years, Lancaster fought alongside others for the state to change the law preventing child abuse victims from seeking justice decades later. Last session, lawmakers passed the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023.

“We won,” she said of that moment. “Finally.”

The law allows for individual victims to sue governmental entities for up to $890,000, and private institutions, like the church, for up to $1.5 million.

But Lancaster said that’s not just what this is about.

“I just want to hear, ‘I’m sorry, and I won’t let this happen to anyone else,’” she said.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore wouldn’t talk to the I-Team on camera but pointed to a Sept. 5 statement from Archbishop William E. Lori, who said the church is considering filing for bankruptcy ahead of possible litigation.

“With the passage of the new law, there is a high likelihood that the archdiocese will face multiple lawsuits … Litigating them individually would potentially lead to some very high damage awards for a very small number of victim-survivors while leaving almost nothing for the vast majority of them. The archdiocese simply does not have unlimited resources to satisfy such claims,” he said in that letter.

Attorney Jonathan Schochor, who represents dozens of abuse victims, said, “That would represent the height of hypocrisy, in my view. It’s unthinkable to me.”

Schochor is working with Lancaster to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of church victims on Monday, once the law is in effect.

“We can’t undo the sexual abuse. We can only get full, fair and adequate compensation to help them heal,” he said.

David Lorenz, who heads the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said for abuse survivors like him, “You don’t move on. You learn to live with it.”

He, too, fought for the law change and said filing Chapter 11 could impose a new deadline on victims to come forward, if they want to be named as creditors. He worries that pressure could prevent many victims’ stories — and the names of their abusers — from coming to light.

“The terrifying part of coming forward is you believe you’re alone. You believe you’re the only one. You believe that no one will believe what you say,” Lorenz said. “If you see that name in print, it helps you have the courage to come forward, and then your healing can start.”

The I-Team asked the Archdiocese of Baltimore about these concerns, and a spokesman said the church believes bankruptcy would be a “reasonable and equitable method of compensation.”

Earlier this month the archbishop cast doubt on the validity of the new law, writing, “While passed with the aim of enabling victim-survivors to find justice, the new law’s method is also believed by many to violate Maryland’s Constitution. The courts will need to make that determination.”

Anyone interested in filing a claim should file a report with police and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, in addition to retaining legal counsel. Under the law, the abuse must have occurred in Maryland, but filers do not need to reside in the state.

Complete Article HERE!

Finding a Church That’s ‘a Little More Inclusive’

— A former Catholic priest is St. Mary’s new pastor

The Rev. Brian Raiche, right, with his husband, Loren Lee, and their dog, Chloe, outside St. Mary of the Harbor.


Brian Raiche was at the grocery store when he decided to reevaluate his relationship to the Catholic Church. Raiche was the priest at a parish in Averill Park, N.Y. Out shopping, he found himself face to face with a former parishioner who offered him some blunt advice, Raiche says.

“You’re in the wrong church,” she told him, adding that he seemed more like an Episcopalian than a Catholic. That encounter was in 2003. Raiche had been a priest for eight years, and when it came to disagreements about doctrine, his “primary concern,” he says, was the church’s restriction on leadership roles for women. “I empowered some women to preach, and that was frowned upon,” he says.

As an openly gay man, Raiche also found the church’s doctrines on sexuality problematic. All Catholic priests, regardless of their sexuality, are required to be celibate. “You couldn’t be married; you couldn’t be partnered,” says Raiche. “That can be pretty lonely.”

The church’s view of homosexuality is complicated. The catechism of the Catholic Church — a compendium of the church’s teachings meant primarily for bishops and priests — describes gay people as “objectively disordered.” At the same time, it says that those with “this inclination” face challenges, and so, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Meanwhile, “Homosexual persons are called to chastity,” it concludes. That would seem to make the priesthood an option for gay people, although Pope Francis’s predecessor, Benedict,  reportedly was not on board with that.

Francis said during a 2013 news conference, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge?” The statement, though it seemed remarkable at the time, didn’t result in any change in church law.

Raiche takes in the view from the parish hall.

Raiche entered the priesthood at 29 and devoted 10 years to the Catholic Church. “I didn’t leave angry,” he says about his departure. “I just couldn’t represent it anymore.”

Ironically, his departure from the church led directly to a career supporting it. He moved from upstate New York to Boston to work for Trinity Fundraising Consultants, which advises Catholic churches.

Raiche worked at Trinity for six years, eventually as senior vice president, before starting his own firm, Cornerstone Fundraising. The work is secular rather than spiritual, Raiche says: “I do that as a consultant, not as a priest.” Episcopal priests can be “bivocational,” according to the church’s Title IV Canons website. They can preach and have other jobs as long as those are approved by the bishop. Catholic priests typically don’t work outside the church.

Nicholson Hall, the sanctuary at St. Mary of the Harbor.

Raiche met Loren Lee at a rehearsal for a Tanglewood benefit concert in 2005. Raiche played the piano, and Lee was the guest violinist. Lee was a regular at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newburyport, and Raiche soon joined him for Sunday services. In 2013, the couple had a “big church wedding” at St. Paul’s.

The Episcopal Church, Raiche says, “has a lot of what people love about the Catholic Church –– it’s just a little more inclusive.” That’s true for both clergy and congregations: women and LGBTQ people can be ordained, and priests are allowed to marry and have families. Gay parishioners are not asked to be celibate.

It wasn’t long before the rector at St. Paul’s asked Raiche to preach on weekdays. “Slowly I got back into things,” he says of returning to a pastoral role. In June 2015, Raiche was formally received into the Episcopal Church and a year later he became the rector at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Reading, where he worked until this past July.

Next to the coat rack, a painting by Jerry Farnsworth of St. Mary’s first full-time vicar, the Rev. Robert Wood Nicholson.

Raiche and Lee bought a condominium in Provincetown as a “getaway place” and investment property to rent in the summer. During the pandemic, they began spending more time here and attended outdoor masses at St. Mary of the Harbor. Raiche says they found a spiritual home at St. Mary, not to mention friendships: “We met all kinds of different friends during the off-season.”

Raiche says he wasn’t looking to lead a parish when the St. Mary position opened up. But he says, “When I received a call to serve the parish, my answer was an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ ”

Raiche became St. Mary’s year-round vicar in September. Now he, Lee, and their dog, Chloe, are getting settled — though with the church’s rectory, where they plan to live, undergoing renovation, and their Provincetown place rented out, the couple are still back and forth to their home in Newburyport.

AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod used St. Mary’s kitchen this summer for its free lunch program. Raiche looks forward to more community outreach of that kind.

One challenge for the church, Raiche says, is not peculiar to Provincetown: how to coax people back to Mass. During Covid, he says, “a lot of people just stopped coming.”

This past summer, St. Mary opened its kitchen to the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, which prepared meals for its free lunch program there. Raiche is looking forward to more of that kind of community work.

His main focus is on creating an inclusive refuge for those in search of a “spiritual home,” Raiche says. “People are just looking to belong.”

Complete Article HERE!

Dignity Washington holds Catholic mass in honor of woman priest

— LGBTQ group celebrates its support for ordination of women priests

Rev. Ann Penick, center, performs mass on Sunday, Sept. 24 for members and friends of the DC LGBTQ Catholic group Dignity Washington.


The D.C. LGBTQ Catholic group Dignity Washington says it dedicated its weekly Catholic mass on Sunday, Sept. 24, to honor a woman priest who has served as one of its priests since 2017 in a gesture of support for the women’s priest movement.

“This Mass commemorates the ordination of Ann Penick as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest and celebrates the invaluable contributions of women who have served the church in various capacities,” the group said in a statement.

“Rev. Ann Penick’s ordination as a Catholic priest, and the ordination of female priests like her, represents a step forward in the Catholic Church’s ongoing journey towards greater inclusivity and recognition of diverse vocations within its ranks,” the statement says. “Dignity Washington is deeply honored to support her ministry and those of other women priests,” it says.

The fact that the Dignity mass in honor of Rev. Penick, who presided over the mass, and all of its weekly Sunday masses are held at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church near Dupont Circle highlights the fact that the official Catholic church recognizes neither Dignity nor women priests.

Dignity, a nationwide LGBTQ Catholic group with chapters across the country, is banned from holding any of its masses in Catholic Churches.

Penick told the Washington Blade in an interview the week prior to her saying the Dignity Mass on Sept. 24 that she was ordained as a priest in June 2011 by a woman bishop associated with a breakaway Catholic organization, the Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The organization was formed shortly after three male Roman Catholic Bishops ordained the first known women priests on a ship sailing along the Danube River in Europe in June 2002.

Two of the bishops who publicly disclosed their decision to ordain the women were excommunicated by Catholic Church officials at the Vatican in Rome. The third bishop acted anonymously and is believed to be continuing to serve as a bishop.

One of these bishops subsequently ordained female bishops who, in turn, began ordaining other women Catholic priests in Europe and in the U.S.

Information posted on the Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests website says it and others associated with the women priest movement believe the ordination of women bishops and priests is valid under the biblical concept of ‘apostolic succession.”

Under that concept, the spiritual authority that Jesus bestowed on his original apostles has been handed down to subsequent generations of clergy, and the ordained women bishops and priests can pass that spiritual authority on to other female clergy.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which oversees Catholic churches in D.C. and parts of Maryland, did not respond to a request by the Blade for comment on the women’ priest movement.

Penick, who is married and has two stepchildren with her husband, points out that the women’s priest movement has also broken with the official church over the longstanding church requirement that priests practice celibacy and cannot marry.

“The Roman Catholic women’s priest movement sees celibacy as a personal calling,” Penick told the Blade. “If a woman is personally called to celibacy, she follows that call,” Penick said. “But a woman can also be married and have children, and that’s always been a vision of the Roman Catholic Women’s priest movement.”

Penick notes that it was not until the early 1100s that the church put in place a celibacy requirement for its priests.

She has been active in the Catholic Church for most of her life in several states where she has lived and worked. She received a certification in lay ministry from the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala. in 1993, a master’s in counseling degree from the University of Birmingham in 1995, and a master’s in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College in 2008.

She and her family currently live in Alexandria, Va., and she currently works as a mental health counselor at the Counseling and Psychological Services department at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Penick said while living in Maryland she served as a priest for Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community in Catonsville, and currently serves as a priest for the D.C. Living Family Mass Community in D.C. as well as serving as one of Dignity Washington’s rotating priests.

“We are so lucky to have her,” said Dignity Washington former president Daniel Barutta, who noted that Penick and her husband are Dignity members. “She’s just a shining star for women,” he said. “And we really hope that Dignity Washington is leading the church, showing the church which direction to go in terms of empowering women and having them as our spiritual leaders.”

Barutta said Penick has joined the Dignity Washington contingent in D.C.’s LGBTQ Pride parade and the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and has led Dignity prayer services on various occasions.

Peter Edwards, Dignity Washington’s vice president, said following its Sunday mass that the organization “certainly does affirm that women can serve as priests in our community.” Edwards added, “We had a wonderful congregation tonight for a mass in celebration of Rev. Ann.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the Mount Rainier, Md., based LGBTQ Catholic advocacy organization New Ways Ministry, said she believes the fully approved ordination of women priests in the Catholic Church will someday happen.

“There is no theological reason, only cultural ones, why women have not been ordained priests,” she said in referring to the official church. “I believe that a Catholic organization that ordains women priests is living out their sincere and deep-seated beliefs and preparing the wider community for what will eventually come to pass,’ she said.

“Not all arrive at the destination at the same time, and I admire those with the courage of their convictions who lead the way,” she added.

Complete Article HERE!

Polish bishop apologises after reports of priests’ “sex party with male prostitute”

A bishop has issued a letter apologising for recent “painful events” in his diocese, where media reports suggest that a group of priests were involved in a “sex party” at which a male prostitute lost consciousness and was initially denied medical assistance.

Though the church has acknowledged an incident took place and prosecutors have announced an investigation, neither have confirmed the precise nature of what took place and the local diocese says some aspects of media reports are inaccurate.

Last week, Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading liberal daily, reported that priests in Dąbrowa Górnicza, a city in southern Poland, had organised a party in a building belonging to the parish to which a male prostitute had been invited.

“The event was purely sexual in nature,” an unnamed source with knowledge of the incident told the newspaper. “Its participants took potency enhancement drugs.”

Gazeta Wyborcza reported that “the party got out of control and the male prostitute lost consciousness”, resulting in an ambulance being called. However, when paramedics arrived, they were refused entry to the premises. The paramedics then reportedly called the police, who helped them gain access to the unconscious man.

A spokesman for the local prosecutor’s office told Gazeta Wybrocza that an investigation has been initiated into the possible failure to provide assistance to a person whose health is endangered, a crime that can carry up to three years in prison.

In response to the newspaper’s enquiries, the local Catholic curia confirmed that there had been an incident involving the “intervention of an ambulance and police in a building belonging to the parish”. It said the bishop had appointed a commission to urgently explain what had happened.

In a subsequent statement, the curia announced that the commission’s “findings so far differ from the information presented by some media”, though it did not provide any further details.

Events then took a further dramatic turn when, on Thursday night, someone set fire to the doors of the basilica in the parish where the alleged incident had taken place. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and no one was injured. Police later detained a man suspected of starting the fire.

On Friday, the curia announced that the priest in whose apartment the alleged incident had taken place – who can be named only as Tomasz Z. under Polish privacy law – had been removed from all ecclesiastical duties “until the matter is clarified”.

Meanwhile, Niedziela, a weekly Catholic news magazine, announced that it had terminated its cooperation with Tomasz Z., who had previously been the editor-in-chief of its local Sosnowiec edition.

Yesterday, a letter from the bishop of Sosnowiec, Grzegorz Kaszak, was read in all churches in the diocese. He referred to the “painful events in Dąbrowa Górnicza” and the “ashamed priests” involved, but without providing any details of what had taken place.

“I apologise to all those who were affected and saddened, or even scandalised, by the situation,” wrote the bishop. “I would like to emphasise emphatically that there is no consent to moral evil. Anyone found guilty will be punished according to canon law, regardless of the verdict of a civil court.”

“Today I turn to you, beloved in Christ the Lord, with a request for prayer and fasting – tools of victory over the particularly strong evil that destroys man,” he continued. “Let us pray for the conversion of our brother who has committed a scandalous act.”

Meanwhile, the parish priest at the church where the alleged incident took place said during Sunday mass yesterday that he “condemns the act committed by Father Tomasz Z.” But he also appealed to people to not “act to intensify the spiral of hatred: evil must be overcome with good”.

Complete Article HERE!

‘It’s time to abolish celibacy,’ says president of Swiss Bishops’ Conference

“The time is ripe to abolish celibacy. I have no problem at all imagining married priests,” said Felix Gmür.

The president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference admits mistakes in dealing with abuse cases in the Catholic Church and advocates for the abolition of celibacy and the admission of women to the priesthood.

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) am SonntagExternal link, Bishop Felix Gmür also said that the Catholic Church has been active in the topic of abuse cases for a long time.

The prevailing conditions must be questioned, the Swiss Bishops’ Conference president explains. In his view, the time is ripe to abolish celibacy and to allow women access to the priesthood.

At the beginning of his time as bishop, Gmür emphasised the legally correct conduct in cases of abuse, he said in the interview with NZZ am Sonntag. The victim’s perspective had been neglected in the process. “In this respect, I have changed my perspective over time”.

Gmür is in favour of an external monitoring of the church investigation into the cases of abuse, as demanded by the Roman Catholic Central Conference.

In general, power in the Church must be better distributed, Gmür said. “I will lobby in Rome for the Church to decentralise.” A new sexual morality is needed, together with the possibility to make regulations regionally.

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference has decided to set up an ecclesiastical criminal and disciplinary tribunal for the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland. However, this still has to be discussed with the Pope, since such tribunal is not provided for in canon law, said Gmür. However, the proceedings under church law are subordinate to state law, “so they do not replace secular criminal proceedings.”

Women should join the priesthood

Part of coming to terms with the situation is questioning the prevailing conditions. “Celibacy means that I am available to God. But I believe that this sign is no longer understood by society today,” says Gmür. “The time is ripe to abolish celibacy. I have no problem at all imagining married priests.”

The exclusion of women from priestly ordination should also fall, he says. “The subordination of women in the Catholic Church is incomprehensible to me. Changes are needed there,” Gmür said. He added that the Church is “not yet where we need it to be” when it comes to the ban on concubinage for employees.

Complete Article HERE!