Frequently Asked Questions Based on “The Keepers”

“The Keepers” Fact Check -Infographic

About the Archdiocese’s Efforts to Protect Children and Promote Healing for Victims of Abuse

What does the Archdiocese do to protect children?
The Archdiocese of Baltimore is fully committed to the protection of children and young people. To provide a safe environment for those entrusted to its care, the Church immediately reports to civil authorities all allegations of abuse; employs a zero tolerance policy for employees and volunteers credibly accused of committing abuse; conducts thorough screening and background checks of all employees and volunteers having substantial contact with children; provides ongoing education in detecting and reporting suspected child abuse for its employees, volunteers, as well as children themselves; has an independent review board of mostly-lay professionals that reviews the Church’s handling of abuse cases and advises on related matters; and cooperates with civil authorities.

How does the Archdiocese help those abused as children by representatives of the Church?
The Archdiocese immediately reports all allegations to civil authorities and offers counseling assistance to promote healing. For the past 10 years, the Archdiocese has had an active mediation program for survivors with decades-old claims of abuse. Although the Church has no legal obligation to offer settlements on timebarred claims, the Archdiocese seeks to help those abused by representatives of the Church. The mediation program takes place in a non-adversarial setting, in which the Church offers an apology for the abuse and an opportunity to meet personally with the Archbishop. The mediation takes place before a retired, nonCatholic, Circuit Court judge, who assists the parties agree on an amount of cash and often continued counseling assistance to be provided by the Archdiocese to the victim.

Did the Archdiocese support legislation that passed in Maryland in 2017 which prospectively gives abuse victims longer time to file civil claims?
Yes. The Archdiocese, through the Maryland Catholic Conference, supported the legislation, working closely with the bill’s main sponsor, Del. CT Wilson.

Is there a criminal statute of limitations on prosecutions for felonies in Maryland?
No. There is no criminal statute of limitations in Maryland for felonies, including murder, rape, and child abuse.

Why did the Archdiocese object to earlier bills introduced regarding the civil statute of limitations?
Some past legislative proposals to extend the civil statute of limitations (time to sue for money damages) did not treat public and private institutions equally, would not have encouraged prompt reporting of child abuse, and did not address evidentiary concerns regarding claims that may have occurred many decades in the past.

About Joseph Maskell

What does the Archdiocese know about allegations of abuse by Joseph Maskell?
The allegations of abuse by now-deceased priest, Joseph Maskell, arise from incidents that occurred between 40-50 years ago, primarily in connection with his role as Chaplain at Archbishop Keough High School. Sexual abuse is a horrible crime, and no child should be subjected to sexual abuse.

When did the Archdiocese first learn about allegations of abuse against Maskell?
The Archdiocese first received an allegation of sexual abuse against Maskell in 1992, more than 20 years after the abuse occurred.

How did the Archdiocese respond to the survivor who raised the initial allegations against Maskell in 1992?
The Archdiocese offered counseling assistance and strongly encouraged the survivor to report the alleged abuse to civil authorities.

How did the Archdiocese respond/what actions did the Church take upon learning of the alleged abuse?
Upon receipt of the initial allegation in 1992, the adult survivor and her attorney were encouraged to report the matter to civil authorities and the survivor was offered counseling assistance. Maskell was removed from ministry and referred for evaluation and treatment. He denied the allegation, underwent months of evaluation and treatment, and was returned to ministry in 1993 after the Archdiocese was unable to corroborate the allegation of sexual abuse through its own investigation and conversations with attorneys representing the individual who initially came forward. The Church reported the allegation to civil authorities in 1993 (when the Attorney General clarified Maryland law as requiring reporting of child abuse even when the alleged victim was an adult and did not want the allegation to be reported).

The Archdiocese continued to seek information about Maskell and when additional individuals came forward in 1994 to accuse Maskell he was permanently prohibited from public ministry. The Archdiocese subsequently made additional reports and has cooperated with civil authorities. The Archdiocese held a public meeting at St. Augustine Parish in Elkridge, where Maskell was serving at the time of his removal from ministry, to disclose the allegations against Maskell. That meeting was attended by more than 100 people and was covered by the media. The allegations were once again made public, along with Maskell’s previous assignments, during the Archdiocese’s 2002 disclosure of all known clergymen who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a child. Maskell died in 2001. The Archdiocese’s Independent Child Abuse Review Board, now chaired by (ret.) Judge Joseph Murphy, has repeatedly reviewed the Archdiocese’s responses to the allegations involving Maskell since the initial allegation was made.

Why does “The Keepers” suggest that the Archdiocese knew of a sexual abuse allegation against Maskell before 1992?
This suggestion is speculation and it is false.  The series states that a victim was contacted by the Archdiocese in October 1994 regarding Maskell, and speculates that the Archdiocese had the victim’s name in its files based on a prior allegation of sexual abuse against Maskell.  The Archdiocese did not have the name of this alleged victim until1994 when the music director at the victim’s  church told the Archdiocese that the victim might have information about Maskell.  The Archdiocese had publicly stated that it wanted to speak with individuals who had information regarding Maskell and so it reached out to the individual and set up a meeting in October 1994. The producers of the Netflix series asked for confirmation that the Archdiocese met with the victim in the 1990s and we confirmed the October 1994 meeting.  The producers never asked whether we had the victim’s name from a phone call allegedly made in the 1960s.  The Archdiocese has no record of such a phone call being made.

What has the Archdiocese done to help victims of Maskell?
The Archdiocese has offered to each victim an apology and an opportunity to meet with the Archbishop. As well, the Archdiocese has offered to pay for counseling assistance for anyone who may have been abused by Maskell. Some victims have sought direct financial assistance through a voluntary, pastoral mediation program established by the Archdiocese. To date, the Archdiocese has provided over $97,000 in counseling assistance and over $472,000 in direct financial assistance to those who may been abused by Maskell.

Why has the Archdiocese settled with victims of Maskell?
The Archdiocese has provided direct financial assistance through mediated settlements as part of its pastoral outreach to all alleged survivors of sexual abuse. This is done through a non-adversarial, mediation process overseen by a retired, non-Catholic judge.

What has the victims’ attorney said about the settlement process?
The Washington Post on May 5, 2017 reported that the Archdiocese had provided settlements “as well as payments for counseling, even though the statute of limitations had long lapsed. ‘It became a healing process for a number of them,’ Jacobs [attorney for the victims] said of the settlements reached in 2016. ‘Quite a few of them thought it was a cathartic experience.’”

Where did Maskell serve?
Joseph Maskell served at Sacred Heart of Mary (Baltimore) from 1965 to 1966, at St. Clement (Lansdowne) from 1966 to 1968 and at Our Lady of Victory from 1968 to 1970. He lived and assisted at St. Clement (Lansdowne) from 1970 to 1980, while serving at Archbishop Keough High School from 1967 to 1975 and at the Division of Schools from 1975 to 1980. He served at Annunciation from 1980 to 1982, at Holy Cross from 1982 to 1992 and at St. Augustine (Elkridge) from 1993 to 1994.

What happened in the civil lawsuits involving allegations against Maskell?
Two individuals filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants seeking $40M. The lawsuit was dismissed based on the statute of limitations, with the Maryland Court of Appeals concluding that claims based on repressed memories would not be permitted more than 20 years after the alleged events. Dismissal of the lawsuit was not seen by the Archdiocese as a judgment regarding the credibility of the claims. This is why Maskell remained prohibited from ministry in the Archdiocese even after the lawsuits were dismissed in 1996.

Did the Archdiocese know that Maskell had moved to Ireland after being removed from ministry?
The Archdiocese learned in 1996 that Maskell was living in Ireland, years after he was removed from ministry and years after he had spoken with the police and media about the sexual abuse and murder allegations. The Archdiocese informed authorities in Ireland about Maskell’s history and attempted to contact Maskell in writing on numerous occasions.

The Murder of Sr. Catherine Cesnik, S.S.N.D.

When did the Archdiocese learn of an alleged connection between Maskell and the death of Sr. Cathy?
The Archdiocese first learned that some believed Maskell was involved with the murder of Sr. Cathy in 1994, through accounts reported by the media.

Is there a record that Sr. Cathy reported allegations against Maskell to the Archdiocese?
There is no record of any report, verbal or in writing, by Sr. Cathy to the Archdiocese about allegations of abuse by Maskell.

What did the Archdiocese do in 1994 in response to renewed interest in Sr. Cathy’s murder?
In 1994, the Archdiocese and Metro Crime Stoppers offered a $6,000 reward leading to the arrest/conviction of Sr. Cathy’s killer. The Archdiocese cooperated fully with authorities investigating her murder and continue to offer full support for efforts to solve her murder.

Did the Archdiocese interfere in the investigations, as suggested by some individuals appearing in the series?
No. The Archdiocese reported to civil authorities and encouraged all to do the same, as confirmed by articles appearing in publications such as The Baltimore Sun and The Catholic Review.

The Baltimore Sun published a retraction of its reporting that an Inspector Forrest, chief of detectives, had pressured investigators on behalf of the Archdiocese after The Baltimore Sun acknowledged that Mr. Forrest had retired in 1966, more than three years before Sr. Cathy’s murder.

The Baltimore Sun also published a clarification of its earlier reporting “errors” noting that the chief of the criminal investigation division had retired before Sr. Cathy’s body was found and that the chief stated he knew nothing of any outside interference.

The Baltimore Sun reported in 1994 that then-Baltimore County Police Chief Michael Gambrill, who had worked on the Sr. Cesnik murder as a young detective, did not recall interference by the Archdiocese.

The Jesuit priest allegedly involved with Sr. Cathy in 1969 was interviewed repeatedly around the time of the murder and took two polygraph tests. His friend who was with him when Sr. Cathy disappeared likewise was questioned and took a polygraph.

When suspicions arose regarding Maskell in 1994, he was interviewed by the Police and also by The Baltimore Sun about the allegations of sexual abuse and also about the murder of Sr. Cathy.

Why did the criminal authorities not file charges in connection with Sr. Cathy’s death?
In an article dated April 27, 1995 titled “Nun’s ’69 Slaying Is Reshelved,” The Baltimore Sun reported: “After a year of pursuing leads here and around the country, Baltimore County Police have returned the unsolved, 25-year-old slaying of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik to the ‘cold case’ file where it had rested for many years.” The article quoted Captain Rustin E. Price, head of the homicide squad, as saying “[W]e have exhausted all [the leads] we had and no more leads are coming in.” The article noted the extensive questioning by City police in 1969 when Sr. Cathy was missing and additional questioning when her body was found in 1970. The 1995 article continued: “The case file remained closed until last spring, when a former Keough student undergoing therapy for alleged sexual abuse by a priest at the school implicated him in the nun’s disappearance. Detectives questioned the priest, the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, who denied to The Baltimore Sun all knowledge of Sister Catherine’s disappearance or death as well as any sexual misconduct with students. Police have not found any hard evidence to connect Father Maskell to the nun’s death, and investigators are now operating under the theory that she was abducted and killed by a stranger.”

About “The Keepers” and other Media Coverage of this Story

Is the Netflix series the first time this story has been told?
No. The abuse committed by Maskell, the death of Sr. Cathy and the reported connection between Maskell and Sr. Cathy’s murder have been the subject of numerous media reports, locally and nationally. The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, The City Paper, Baltimore Magazine, and The Huffington Post are a few examples of past coverage of these tragic events. Prior articles and reports regarding these matters are available at the Archdiocese’s website at

Did the Archdiocese comment for the production?
Yes. The Archdiocese offered on several occasions to answer any and all questions for the production and, in fact, provided written responses to questions from producers of the series. Unfortunately, the producers asked very few questions of the Archdiocese before releasing the series and did not respond to the Archdiocese’s request to receive an advanced copy of the series. Advanced copies were provided to media outlets.

Has the Archdiocese spoken publicly about this story in the past?
Yes. The Archdiocese has issued numerous public statements at various times over the past 25+ years about Maskell, including at a public meeting at his last parish assignment in July 1994 and again in 2002 when the Archdiocese released a comprehensive list of credibly accused clergymen.

How has the Archdiocese responded to the group interested in these issues? Has it defended Maskell or borne resentment toward those raising these issues?
As reported in The Washington Post on May 5, 2017: “one member of the group, who wasn’t a victim, wrote to Archbishop William E. Lori in September 2015 asking for his perspective on Maskell. Jacobs said that Lori responded within a month, thanking the woman for her efforts to ‘bring about healing for those who suffered abuse at the hands of Joseph Maskell.’ Lori’s letter also stated, ‘I deeply regret the pain caused by Joseph Maskell’s heinous, evil and sinful actions and continue to pray for those who suffered abuse by him.’”

Was the decision to close the former Archbishop Keough (now Seton Keough) High School impacted in any way by the events portrayed in the series?
No. The Archdiocese decided to close the high school based on the following factors: current enrollment (186 students in a school built for 1000); a declining trend in enrollment (down 66% over the past decade); the condition of the facility (improvement needs totaling $3.4 million); educational improvement needs ($13 million); and the school’s financial position (needed $1.9 million in support for the 2016-17 school year and received $6.6 million over the prior 10-year period).