Church settles abuse claims
Allegations were made against priest at Archbishop Keough
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.