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Priests accused of child sex abuse living in Baltimore Jesuit community

The order says they are living under "restrictions" but won't say what those are.

The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, in Baltimore, Maryland is seen in this June 23, 2017, file photo. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, in Baltimore, Maryland is seen in this June 23, 2017, file photo. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

At least four Catholic priests the church believes are guilty of child sex abuse are living at a home for retired clergy in Baltimore, Maryland, ThinkProgress has learned.

The Maryland Province Jesuits, a Catholic religious order, declined to say where the men now live after it published their names Monday in a list of five current priests with “credible or established” accusations of child sex abuse. It said only that they are “in a restricted environment on a safety plan.”

But a database of public records shows that four of the five priests live at the Colombiere Jesuit Community, a home for retired priests in Baltimore’s North Roland Park neighborhood. Information compiled by a victims group also places the fifth priest at Colombiere.

A number of schools are within about a mile radius of Colombiere: Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, Friends School of Baltimore, The Bryn Mawr School, Gilman School, West Towson Elementary, Roland Park, and Redeemer Parish Day School.

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“Jesuit officials at Colombiere owe the community and the public an explanation of their safety protocols and practices,” Zach Hiner, executive director of the victim rights group SNAP, told ThinkProgress by email. “They should also confirm that the accused priests are not being permitted to perform any priestly functions that may bring them closer to children or vulnerable adults. To do any less is to do a disservice to the community.”

The Maryland Province Jesuits, which operates Colombiere, did not answer ThinkProgress’ questions about how it ensures that these men do not have access to young visitors, what is in their safety plans, how those plans are enforced, or whether other Colombiere residents, visitors, or neighbors are aware of the accused priests’ presence at the facility.

“Any Jesuit who has been pulled from ministry due to a credible allegation of sexual abuse lives in a monitored environment regardless of what community they reside at,” province spokesperson Michael Gabriele said in a statement. “Their safety plans ensure restrictions on their behavior, including the use of technology, travel, and access to visitors. The safety plans are developed and monitored in coordination with our third-party review board and our standards that are accredited by Praesidium, Inc.”

The list published Monday gives few details of the allegations against the four accused priests currently living at Colombiere.

Although the Jesuit province said that all five priests were credibly accused of abuse, only one, the Rev. Michael L. Barber Jr., has faced criminal charges. Barber, 75, pleaded guilty to a charge of harassment by offensive touching in Strathmere, N.J., in 1994 and was removed from ministry that same year.

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The Rev. James Glenn “J-Glenn” Murray, 68, was accused of child sex abuse in Baltimore in 1981 and removed from ministry in 2011.

The Rev. Claude L. Ory, 80, served across the southeast and had multiple allegations of child sex abuse dating to the 1970s. He was removed from ministry in 2007.

The Rev. William J. Walsh, 95, had multiple allegations of child sex abuse in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Pennsylvania, from the 1950s through the 1980s. He was removed from ministry in 1996.

A database compiled by the victim rights group Bishop Accountability also places the fifth accused priest, the Rev. Neil P. McLaughlin, at Colombiere as of 2010, but ThinkProgress could not confirm his current address. McLaughlin, 90, had allegations of child sex abuse in several states from the 1950s through the 1980s before he was removed from ministry in 2007.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ online sex offender registry does not show any registered sex offenders living at Colombiere.

The Maryland Province Jesuits covers much of the east coast, from Georgia up through Pennsylvania and into southern New Jersey. The religious order’s Midwestern province also released a list of accused priests on Monday.

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The Jesuits’ West Province and Central and Southern Province both published lists of their accused priests last week. The Northeast Province is the last province to share its list, and will make it public on Jan. 15, 2019, according to Religion News Service.

“The People of God have suffered, and they rightly demand transparency and accountability,” the Maryland Province said in a statement Monday. “We hope that this disclosure of names will contribute to reconciliation and healing.”

The list published by the Maryland Province does not say how many victims were involved in each case or when church officials first learned of the allegations. The province is planning an “external audit” to make sure the list is accurate, but victims’ groups say that doesn’t go far enough.

“They should tell us everything they know about them,” David Lorenz, Maryland director for SNAP, said of the accused priests. “But the fact is, given past performance, I wouldn’t trust that. They could give us everything they want and I’d still say they should be subpoenaed.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has opened an investigation into child sex abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The investigation comes after a damning report on clergy sex abuse by a grand jury in Pennsylvania that has also spurred several other state attorneys general and the federal Justice Department to look into clergy sex abuse.

But those investigations don’t include religious orders, which provide nearly 31 percent of all priests nationwide, according the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In many cases, priests and brothers who are part of these orders do not report to local bishops, and complaints against them may not have been recorded in diocesan files.

In the absence of a law enforcement investigation into abuses by Jesuit priests, SNAP has called on the order to voluntarily open up its files to law enforcement — a request that officials in the order have so far ignored.

“They’ve had the chance to do the right thing for the last twenty years, and they didn’t do it,” Lorenz said of the Maryland Jesuits. “They are trying to get ahead of the story, ahead of the attorney general.”

Do you have information about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church or another organization? Contact reporter Joshua Eaton by email at jeaton@thinkprogress.org or by Signal at 202–684–1030.