Payment Also Requires Recipient
To Relinquish Any Future Claims
By Tom Nugent
November 2016 – Reading, Pa. – After more than 40 years of struggling to get the Catholic Church to “acknowledge the crimes” that were committed against her, a Pennsylvania woman who says she was raped by two priests and a policeman while attending a Catholic high school in Baltimore was recently awarded more than $40,000 from an Archdiocese of Baltimore funding program aimed at “promoting healing for . . . victims of abuse.”
The $40,000-plus payment was accompanied by a letter of apology from an Archdiocesan official who wrote to the victim: “I am sorry for the pain you have experienced.”
Most of the money paid to the victim by the Archdiocese of Baltimore came via a check drawn on the PNC Bank of Baltimore. The check number was 313504634, and it was signed by Archbishop William E. Lori.
“This is a huge step forward for dozens of women who have been trying to get the Catholic Church in Baltimore to publicly acknowledge sex crimes that were committed against them during the past several decades,” said the reported childhood rape victim, Donna Wallis VonDenBosch, a nurse practitioner with a master’s degree who is now working on her doctorate. “For the first time that I’m aware of, the Archdiocese is validating our nightmarish experience by confirming on the record that it actually took place.”
In a statement released via email on November 1, Archdiocesan Executive Director of Communications Sean T. Caine said that the money was paid to VonDenBosch as part of a “longstanding practice of promoting healing for victims by offering therapeutic counseling assistance to victims of abuse for as long as it is helpful. . . .
“Frequently, we also include a designated amount that is set aside to be used only for counseling. This was the case for Ms. VonDenBosch, for whom we set aside an additional $10,000 for counseling assistance. These financial agreements are completely voluntary and are in lieu of any future counseling payments or any other obligations from the Archdiocese.”
But there was a catch.
In order to get the $40,000, she had to sign a contract stating that she will never sue the Archdiocese of Baltimore in the future . . . even if the Maryland General Assembly decides to change the law regarding the “statute of limitations” on past crimes involving the sexual abuse of children – a step that could open the door to lawsuits potentially involving millions of dollars.
But the nurse practitioner said she was less concerned about the money involved than about the acknowledgement by the Archdiocese that she had been abused by priests. “I was deprived of my constitutional rights when I was raped by the priests and the policeman,” she said. “Later I went to the Archdiocese and complained about one of the priests who had raped me and who was still alive – and they told me there was nothing they could do, because he was living in Ireland.
“Then I found out that he was actually living not far from me, right in the Baltimore area. For many years after that, I felt like the continuing refusal to acknowledge those crimes was also depriving me of my constitutional rights.”
The April 21, 2016, letter of apology from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, signed by the Associate Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Child & Youth Protection, reads in part: “On behalf of Archbishop Lori, I am sorry for the pain you have experienced.”
The Reading nurse, who has two adult children, said she was raped “repeatedly” while attending Archbishop Keough Catholic High School in southwest Baltimore during the early 1970s.
The first rape took place during a Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) picnic in September of 1970, soon after she began attending the high school, she said.
She was 14 years old at the time.
“Father [E. Neil] Magnus, who also taught at the school, appeared at the picnic in the passenger seat of a police car,” she recalled during a recent interview. “I was given a drink that must have had drugs in it, because I became weak and dizzy,” she said. “Then I was called over to the police car, and I saw Father Magnus sitting in it.
“He got out and came over to me and started taking my pants down. Then he put his knee between my legs and forced them apart and began raping me. Meanwhile, a second priest – Father [A.] Joseph Maskell, who had been my parish priest before becoming the chaplain at Keough High School and whom I’d known since the age of 12 – stood there looking on as Father Magnus raped me. And then Father Maskell decided to take his turn, and he raped me.”
Two weeks after the rape at the CYO picnic, she added, the high school chaplain, Father Maskell, summoned her to his office at Keough. “He said he wanted to give me some tests, and he started by having me sit on his lap. Then he told me: ‘You don’t know how to love, and I’m going to show you.’ He started taking my clothes off, after that.
“He raped me, and this pattern continued throughout my next three and a half years at Keough. He would call me to his office, and I dreaded those calls. It was a nightmare that happened again and again. Sometimes, when I go into his office, I’m raped. Sometimes he puts a gun in my mouth and warns me that if I tell anybody what is going on, he will kill my parents.
“What could I do? I was terrified all the time. Going to school each day was agony. I used to try to hide from him under stairwells and anywhere else I could hide. I didn’t dare say anything about the rapes. I thought he would kill my parents! One time a Baltimore City policeman joined us . . . and I saw him pay the priest some money. And then the policeman raped me.
“By that point, I didn’t care if I lived anymore.”
The contract she was required to sign does not directly state that the two priests and the policeman committed the rapes.
But the agreement – in which the Archdiocese is referred to as the “Corporation” – does appear to confirm that the Church regards her as a victim of abuse.
The historical record also shows clearly that both of the priests (now deceased) were credibly accused by many Keough students . . . after the Archdiocese investigated numerous complaints of sex abuse, including rape, at the high school during the period in which the nurse claimed to have been abused.
The priests were never prosecuted, however.
Although she has now been paid more than $40,000, minus attorney fees, the nurse noted that the contract she was required to sign also contains a clause which bars her from ever receiving any additional compensation for the alleged rapes.
After pointing out that she will not be permitted to bring any future compensation case against the Archdiocese, the contract states that she “. . . understands that the law regarding the statute of limitations may change in the future . . .” but that she is nonetheless “now for all time releasing any claims she may have against the Released Parties” [including the Archdiocese and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, among others] . . . “regardless of any legislative change that may occur in the future.”
Asked to respond to some of her assertions about the contract, Director of Communications Caine replied on November 1 with the following statement:
“The Archdiocese has had a longstanding practice of promoting healing for victims by offering therapeutic counseling assistance to victims of abuse for as long as it is helpful and not only for the victims themselves, but for others close to them who may have suffered the effects of their loved one’s abuse. Victim-survivors are free to engage a counselor of their choosing and the Archdiocese pays the provider directly. 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 one-time financial payment through a non-adversarial process with a retired, non-Catholic judge.
“We make these offers without regard to legal liability. Frequently, we also include a designated amount that is set aside to be used only for counseling. This was the case for Ms. VonDenBosch, for whom we set aside an additional $10,000 for counseling assistance. These financial agreements are completely voluntary and are in lieu of any future counseling payments or any other obligations from the Archdiocese.”
Specifically, Caine was replying to several questions that had been sent to him by Inside Baltimore, including the following:
Q. Why did the Archdiocese require her to sign a contract in which she agreed to never seek additional compensation from the Archdiocese or the order of teaching nuns at Archbishop Keough High School in the future? Was it because the Archdiocese fears that the Maryland General Assembly will eventually overturn the statute of limitations on sex abuse crimes against children, which would potentially allow claimants to bring massive lawsuits against the Church?
Q. Was the [money] paid to her actually a matter of “financial risk management” by the Archdiocese?
A troubling answer to those disturbing questions came recently from the nurse’s close friend and cousin, Deborah Silcox, a veteran public school system administrator in Maryland who also attended Archbishop Keough High School during the 1970s.
“I watched Donna go through hell for many years,” said Ms. Silcox. “To this day, I don’t know how she survived the torture she endured – the years of confusion, suffering, mental anguish and brutal anxiety. But she has been healing slowly, and today she is much stronger, much healthier, and much more together than she was in the past. She has a beautiful family and a thriving career as a registered nurse with a master’s degree who now specializes in helping sex-abuse victims and other trauma victims to heal.
“I admire her very much and I am very proud of her.
“As for the settlement with the Archdiocese of Baltimore – isn’t it pretty obvious that the $40,000 they have paid her is designed to protect their pocketbooks against future lawsuits? It’s financial risk management, period.
“The Catholic Church is a business, that’s all. The priests are required to remain celibate so that all of their property will remain in the hands of the Church over time – even though the Church knows full well that a certain percentage of them won’t be able to control their sexual urges and will act out by attacking the children in their charge.
“These victimized children are simply the ‘cost of doing business’ for the Church.
This is how the Church keeps its money within the ‘Corporation’ – by restricting the priesthood to males who are required to remain celibate. Only a few days ago, as reported on the front page of the New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/02/world/europe/pope-francis-women-priests.html], the Pope himself said publicly that he believed women would be barred from the priesthood forever.
“I find all of this despicable.”
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