Archbishop Lori Completes Court-Ordered ‘Listening Sessions’ with Sexual Abuse Victims

Judge Michelle Harner emphasized that the hearing was a “listening session” and that the testimonies would not be evidentiary in nature. Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Adam Parker sat in the courtroom during the two-hour hearing.

"I was deeply moved by their very powerful testimony,” Archbishop William Lori said following a second bankruptcy court-ordered listening session with sexual abuse victims on May 20, 2024. (Photo: Credit: Matthew Balan)

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori has completed the second of two federal bankruptcy court-ordered “listening sessions” with alleged victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The eight men and women who testified during the May 20 hearing gave disturbing accounts of their experiences, which allegedly occurred between the 1950s and the 1980s. The archdiocese had previously agreed to the sessions, the first of which took place with six claimants on April 8.

Last fall, Archbishop Lori announced that the Archdiocese of Baltimore would declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result of hundreds of abuse claims against it in recent decades.

Judge Michelle Harner emphasized that the hearing was a “listening session” and that the testimonies would not be evidentiary in nature. Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Adam Parker sat in the courtroom during the two-hour hearing.

Two of the eight claimants were students at St. Peter Claver Parish and School in West Baltimore. The first to testify was 12 when she said she started being stalked by a priest. She said she was ultimately raped by the cleric after numerous instances of lewd behavior. Her mother pulled her out of the parochial school. She said she later attempted suicide, which led to a monthslong stay in a state mental hospital.

Both former students of St. Peter Claver School disclosed that the abuse led to many years of alcohol and drug addiction. The second former student from that parish said she started doing drugs at age 13 after she was abused. Her mother worked for many years at the rectory. She said she was reluctant to hold her mother’s funeral at the parish due to the alleged sex crimes.

All eight detailed the lifelong impact of the abuse — ranging from not being able to trust others, post-traumatic stress disorder, and long periods of addiction. The second claimant, who attended Archbishop Curley High School in the 1980s, detailed how a religious brother introduced him to pornography during a visit to the school’s friary. The alleged victim had trouble forming relationships after his abuse, which he said ultimately led to a divorce in adulthood.

Later in the hearing, two other adult survivors disclosed that their siblings were also abused. The last claimant to testify said she and her twin sister were groomed by a priest at St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish in Baltimore, which adjoined their childhood home. The cleric befriended their family and would regularly visit the residence. Despite the abuse, the female claimant emphasized that she still believed in God: “I don’t blame God. I love God.”

Earlier in the hearing, the sixth claimant noted that his abuser had also established a close relationship with his family. He said the cleric abused him for five years and even followed him on assignment from his parish to his high school.

Following the hearing, Paul Zdunek, who chairs the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, a group of seven individuals who organized to represent all of the hundreds of claimants against the archdiocese, spoke with the press outside the courtroom. He stated that the archdiocese is “saying the right things. We hope they do the right things.”

Archbishop Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Parker decided to not speak to the press gathered outside the courtroom. However, the archbishop did give an impromptu reaction to some journalists who approached him, saying: “I was deeply moved by their very powerful testimony.”

Later, the archbishop released a more detailed statement in which he said: “Hearing these stories renews our collective determination to guard against this evil and do all we can to protect those entrusted to our care.”

“The Church’s strong child-protection policies in place today cannot remove the life-altering pain victim-survivors have endured,” he noted. “While nothing could reverse the harm suffered, it is my sincere prayer that survivors can find healing through this process and solace in our joint commitment toward the safety of children."

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