BALTIMORE (AP) — A judge on Friday ordered the release of a redacted version of an investigative report detailing sex abuse allegations against more than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and examining the institution’s response.
Completed last year by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the report has not yet been made public because it contains information obtained from church officials via grand jury subpoenas, and such proceedings 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 issued his ruling Friday calling for a redacted version to be released in the coming weeks or months. Taylor said he will consider whether the redacted parts should also be released later.
According to earlier court filings, the nearly 500-page report 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 ruling, Taylor said releasing the report is in the interest of justice, partly because many abusers have avoided criminal charges and other forms of accountability.
After the victims suffered from “decades of systemic injustice,” he wrote, the “only form of justice that may now be available is a public reckoning.”
Taylor 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.
“The need for disclosure outweighs the need for secrecy,” Taylor wrote.
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.
Taylor requested a list of people whose identities will be redacted from the report before its release. He gave the attorney general’s office a March 13 deadline, saying the redacted report could be released as soon as he has approved the list. Then, the court will contact everyone on the list, allow them to review certain redactions and finally, consider whether to remove the redactions and release a more complete version of the report.
Of the accused priests named in the report, most have been previously publicly identified by the Baltimore Archdiocese, but 43 have not, according to the ruling. They will be among those included on the list, along with others facing accusations of abuse and involvement in subsequent coverups.
In a response Friday to Taylor’s decision, the attorney general’s office said it was pleased with the ruling and would “move expeditiously to comply with the court’s order and prepare a redacted copy of the report.”