Church set­tles abuse claims

Al­le­ga­tions were made against priest at Arch­bishop Keough

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Ali­son Kneze­vich

The Arch­dio­cese of Baltimore has paid a se­ries of set­tle­ments to peo­ple who al­lege they were sex­u­ally abused by a priest who worked at Arch­bishop Keough High School decades ago.

The pay­ments stem from al­le­ga­tions of abuse by A. Joseph Maskell, who de­nied an ini­tial ac­cu­sa­tion be­fore he died in 2001.

Shel­don Ja­cobs, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing peo­ple who have al­leged abuse by Maskell, said about a dozen have reached set­tle­ments within the past few months.

“There’s no amount of money that could ever ad­e­quately com­pen­sate the survivors for what they’ve gone through,” he said.

Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Baltimore Arch­dio­cese, con­firmed that “set­tle­ments with vic­tims of Joseph Maskell have been on­go­ing since at least 2011.” He said he did not have in­for­ma­tion Mon­day on how much has been paid to the vic­tims.

Caine said the arch­dio­cese has a long-stand­ing prac­tice of of­fer­ing coun­sel­ing to vic­tims of abuse.

“For those vic­tims who wish to have noth­ing to do with the Church and/ or who would pre­fer to be in con­trol of their own heal­ing, we of­fer them a fi­nan­cial pay­ment which also in­cludes a des­ig­nated amount that is set aside to be used only for coun­sel­ing,” Caine said in an email to The Baltimore Sun. “These fi­nan­cial agree­ments are com­pletely vol­un­tary and are in lieu of any fu­ture coun­sel­ing pay­ments or any other obli­ga­tions from the Arch­dio­cese.”

Ja­cobs de­clined to say how much peo­ple who re­cently set­tled have re­ceived but that they have been dis­ap­pointed in the amounts.

“There is a lot of frus­tra­tion on the part of the survivors as to the amount of money that’s be­ing paid in these set­tle­ments,” Ja­cobs said, “con­sid­er­ing the level of egre­gious­ness and ter­ri­ble con­duct on the part of one man.”

Most of the vic­tims who have re­ceived set­tle­ments are women but also in­clude a few men, in­clud­ing one who says Maskell, Maskell

then a young sem­i­nar­ian, abused him at a camp in the 1950s, Ja­cobs said.

All of the set­tle­ments were done out of court be­cause the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for peo­ple to file civil claims had long since passed, Ja­cobs said.

In Mary­land, a per­son al­leg­ing sex­ual abuse as a child who wants to sue must do so by the time they are 25. Crim­i­nal cases in­volv­ing child sex­ual abuse, mean­while, do not have a statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

Some state law­mak­ers have un­suc­cess­fully pushed to ex­tend the statute of lim­i­ta­tions. The Catholic Church has op­posed such ef­forts.

Donna Von Den Bosch, 60, of Read­ing, Pa., reached a $35,000 set­tle­ment in Septem­ber, ac­cord­ing to le­gal doc­u­ments. She says Maskell raped her mul­ti­ple times over the course of about three years while she was a stu­dent at Keough in the 1970s.

In ad­di­tion to the $35,000 pay­ment, the set­tle­ment also will cover per­sonal train­ing ses­sions at a gym, Von Den Bosch said. The arch­dio­cese had of­fered to pay for coun­sel­ing, she said, but she did not want that.

“I ex­plained to them the odds of me go­ing to a ther­a­pist are zilch,” she said.

The Sun typ­i­cally does not name vic­tims of sex­ual abuse, but Von Den Bosch said she wanted to share her story pub­licly.

She said the abuse took place when Maskell was a guid­ance coun­selor at Arch­bishop Keough, but she had known him since she was about 12, when he was the par­ish priest at her el­e­men­tary school, St. Cle­ment in Lans­downe.

In high school, Von Den Bosch said, he would call her to his of­fice at Arch­bishop Keough, where he would rape her.

Von Den Bosch said she told a nun at her school she didn’t want to see Maskell be­cause he was “evil,” but the nun brushed her off.

“I didn’t have the vo­cab­u­lary at 14 to de­scribe what was go­ing on,” she said.

She also re­mem­bers cry­ing and throw­ing herself to the floor in Span­ish class one time when she was called to Maskell’s of­fice, say­ing she didn’t want to go. The teacher told her she had to, she said.

As a teenager, Von Den Bosch said, she fre­quently ran away to Ocean City and was ex­pelled from high school as a se­nior for smok­ing mar­i­juana.

“It was the hap­pi­est day of my life,” she said. “That was the only way I could think to make it stop.”

She waited un­til she was grown, with chil­dren of her own, to tell her parents about the abuse. Her mother told her she fi­nally un­der­stood why Von Den Bosch had been angry all those years, she said.

Ja­cobs said there were many con­sis­ten­cies in vic­tims’ sto­ries about Maskell — in­clud­ing his tar­get­ing girls who had con­fided in him that they had pre­vi­ously been sex­u­ally abused. Many be­lieve they were drugged by him, he said.

“We have so many in­cred­i­bly sim­i­lar sto­ries,” he said.

Von Den Bosch said she pre­vi­ously had been sex­u­ally abused by an­other per­son.

Von Den Bosch’s set­tle­ment did not in­clude a nondis­clo­sure clause. How­ever, it says she can­not file any claims in the fu­ture, even if the state ex­tends the statute of lim­i­ta­tions. In ad­di­tion, the set­tle­ment says the arch­dio­cese does not ad­mit li­a­bil­ity.

Maskell is in­cluded on the public arch­dio­cese list of what it calls cred­i­bly ac­cused cler­gy­men. Arch­dio­cese of­fi­cials say they re­ceived an al­le­ga­tion about him in 1992, which Maskell de­nied. They said they could not cor­rob­o­rate that claim.

More al­le­ga­tions sur­faced in 1994. Maskell was placed on a leave of ab­sence, and he was not al­lowed to per­form priestly du­ties, ac­cord­ing to the arch­dio­cese.

In the 1990s, two women filed a $40 mil­lion law­suit al­leg­ing long­time abuse by Maskell, but the state’s high­est court ruled that they waited too long to file the claim.

Arch­bishop Keough merged with Se­ton High School in 1988 to be­come Se­ton Keough High School. The school is sched­uled to be closed next year.

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