It has been reported several alleged victims of sexual abuse by late priest A. Joseph Maskell have received cash settlements from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Most of the allegations stem back decades, some as far back as the 60s, during Maskell’s time working at Archbishop Keough High School. Prior to his passing in 2001, Maskell denied he had sexually abused an initial claimant, though more victims have come forward with detailed accounts of Maskell’s actions, most of them women.
Attorney Sheldon Jacobs, who represents numerous clients who have accused Father Maskell of assault, said that although roughly a dozen of them have received a monetary payout from the Archdiocese, “There’s no amount of money that could ever adequately compensate the survivors for what they’ve gone through.” In some cases, survivors have waited over 40 years to come forward, having lived with the unnecessary shame, guilt and confusion that results from being sexually abused by a trusted man of the cloth.
Sadly, it is no longer surprising when news of improper and immoral behavior at the hands of a priest breaks; allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the church has reached epic proportions over the years, with even the highest ranking religious officials in The Vatican covering it up and protecting the predators by shuffling them around to different churches in different states (and sometimes countries), thereby sending a message to victims that the church values their offenders more than their undeserved and unrelenting pain; the exact opposite of the sacred solace promised and assumed in a holy sanctuary.
Just a few months ago, a list of 71 priests accused of sexual assault was released by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, with Maskell’s name being one of them.
Jacobs believes there are many more victims and remains encouraging of them to come forward, stating firmly they have no reason to live in the shadows out of fear. He said, “I think it’s a new world and I think it’s an opportunity for others to come out of the dark.” Now that the perpetrator has died, he hopes both his clients, and other potential victims of Maskell, can begin to find peace and start the process of healing. The amounts of the settlements paid so far have not been released, though Jacobs has expressed his disapproval in the sums. Included in the payouts is a set amount for counseling services should the survivors wish to seek it.
Baltimore Archdiocese spokesperson, Sean Caine, said it was true such payouts have been ongoing to Maskell’s victims since 2011 but would not confirm any actual dollar amounts. He further stated, “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. These financial agreements are completely voluntary and are in lieu of any future counseling payments or any other obligations from the Archdiocese.”
It would be hard to imagine the internal conflict one must experience if they have been abused by a priest but still desire to practice their faith. When such a consecrated trust is broken, how does a person reconcile their feelings of betrayal?
While it is encouraging to know more continues to be done to acknowledge the victims and vilify predatory priests, there is obviously much more that needs to be done to prevent it from continuing to happen. I have to agree with Jacobs that no amount of money can erase the memory of the horror of what they went through. It’s time the church truly and consistently practices what it preaches.