Sun, TV Reporters Heap Praise
On Archbishop Who Permitted
Sexual Abuse of Baltimore Kids
“Cowardly and Despicable,” Say Critics
Of Pomp and Circumstance at Funeral
For Baltimore Archbishop William Keeler
By Tom Nugent
When former Baltimore Archbishop and Roman Catholic Cardinal William Henry Keeler was laid to rest on March 28 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, the local news media fell all over themselves in an embarrassing display of dishonest journalism that was obviously aimed at pandering to the region’s 500,000 Catholics.
The sanitized coverage of Keeler’s funeral failed to mention the fact that he had reportedly helped to cover up massive sexual crimes against defenseless children throughout much of his tenure (1989-2007) as the Archbishop of Baltimore.
During the mid-1990s, Keeler reportedly presided over a campaign of smears, lies and intimidation (including harassment by Church-hired private detectives) aimed at survivors of rampant sexual abuse at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School, according to numerous abuse victims who later described the attacks in detail.
The wide-ranging 1990s cover-up took place during a massive, $40-million sex-abuse lawsuit against the Archdiocese. In order to fend off the lawsuit, Keeler and his attorneys did everything they could to discredit the plaintiffs . . . while insisting that the alleged abuser-priest at the high school was innocent of all charges.
Only a few years later, however, they defrocked that same priest – while conceding that the compelling evidence of abuse against him was “found to be credible”. Soon after that admission, they began paying a lengthy series of “mediated settlements” to his many victims. Those payoffs, eventually involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, were also accompanied by archdiocesan “apologies” for the abuse that had taken place under his leadership at the high school.
But the story didn’t end there.
As later documented in Inside Baltimore, the niggling payments to the survivors (usually amounting to no more than $20,000-$40,000) invariably required the victims to sign contracts in which they gave up all rights to future compensation . . . forever.
“It was nothing more than financial ‘risk management,’” said one former Keough student who was familiar with the payoff contracts. “They were paying pennies on the dollar, in order to protect against future lawsuits, in case the Maryland General Assembly ever changes the Statute of Limitations on childhood sex abuse – which might open the door to major lawsuits potentially involving millions of dollars.
“It was despicable.”
But none of these deeply disturbing facts made it into the Baltimore Sun stories about the heart-swelling “pomp and circumstance” that dominated the funeral of Archbishop Keeler, who died on March 23.
The headline on the Sun story read:
“Keeler Eulogized as a ‘Wise and Gentle Pastor’”
The story beneath that headline didn’t mention how the Archdiocese – under his direction – had reportedly hired detectives to dig up dirt that might discredit sex abuse victims during the legal proceedings in the mid-1990s.
Instead, Baltimore’s monopoly newspaper breathlessly described “the six U.S. cardinals and 30 bishops” who attended the funeral ceremonies, while also quoting local politicians and Church officials who heaped praise on the reported abuse-enabler.
Nor was there any mention in the Sun story of a former Baltimore-area Catholic parochial school student who had died only a few days before the Cardinal’s funeral.
Unlike the Cardinal, who died at age 86 and was then honored as a “Prince of the Church,” this victim died in her early fifties . . . after a life that her friends described as “endless torture”.
After struggling for years with chronic problems related to her abuse, the victim reportedly expired in the depths of despair.
Who will remember her?
SURVIVOR: MY STORY
By Linda Tiburzi
Linda Tiburzi is a self-described Baltimore-area “thriving survivor of childhood sexual abuse who is now using her voice to empower survivors everywhere to help end sexual violence.” Along with a group of other 1970s abuse survivors at the Catholic Community Middle School in the Locust Point section of Baltimore, she contributed to the court case that put their abuser in prison for four life sentences plus ten years.
I had no shadow.
In my survivor-mind’s eye, I’m sometimes not 56 years old, but 11.
In some ways, I’m still the child who’s searching for honesty, love and compassion.
But when those visions come, I can’t see, because there is no light.
She’s cowering back there in the dark, hiding in fear.
In that dark world, my inner child is buried, left for dead. She’s screaming and hoping someone hears her. Someone must rescue her! All self-worth has been heinously ripped away. Up became down and down became up.
Where does the adult me turn for help? Who will listen? And why does all of this have to be so hard? I’m the only person who can help myself!
For a survivor of child sexual abuse, it can take a lifetime of continuous work on self to achieve any sense of wholeness.
Yes, I struggled. But then the day to begin the real work finally arrived. It was finally time to put on the “big girl” pants.
Time to start confronting my lifelong challenge.
Twenty-two years of therapy, off and on, lay ahead of me.
My psychologist’s job was to guide me. She would hold the candle that lit my path.
Breathe. Now breathe again. The abuser no longer holds a gun to your head.
Bring down the anxiety. Learn to love yourself. Learn to embrace your inner child. Slowly, painfully, I gained coping skills.
Two decades after that difficult beginning, however, fear once again stared me in the face.
Now a pastoral gesture was being offered by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
My reaction was swift: a flood of memories overcame me.
Panic set in. Now my inner child was angrier than ever. She kicked, bit, spat, and cursed them to the fires of hell. How dare they put a price tag on my head? And so my coping skills kicked in for self-protection. My tears flowed – and they were the warmest I’d ever felt. I imagined cradling the child within me, gently soothing her. I vowed to protect, and we became one. I would finally be the one to tell of the darkest evil. To tell the ones who needed to hear it the most. And I told.
Flash forward: in late March of 2017, a local news anchor announces the death of Baltimore Roman Catholic Cardinal William H. Keeler.
“A kind man. A light of hope.”
But that was far from the reality (and the legacy) of the man I had known – who had actually been an enabler, a pedophile protector, and the keeper of some very dark secrets.
He had conspired to enable and protect clergy, a lay teacher and also a School Sisters of Notre Dame nun within the Catholic parochial school system of Baltimore.
He had made sure that abuser-priests were shuffled around. And that the lay teacher who was my abuser was allowed to continue teaching. He’d also helped to ensure that the nun who was principal of my school (and who had personally witnessed my abuse, along with abuse of other children) later actually became the principal of Baltimore’s Cathedral School.
Thanks to his interference, she was eventually even transferred to an administrative position in Rome.
All of this is historical fact, of course, and these days can easily be found in court documents and grand jury testimony.
The lay teacher at the school where the crimes occurred was later sentenced to four life terms in prison – only because a group of brave survivors came forward to help provide evidence against him.
Cardinal Keeler was Archbishop of Baltimore for 18 years.
Did he protect the innocent and most vulnerable of his flock during the time of his stewardship?
He most certainly did not.
Was he ever held accountable? Absolutely not.
Instead, he was given a funeral fit for a king . . . a lavish spectacle that reportedly included 17 cardinals and 30 bishops from all across America.
Those ceremonies also included numerous politicians.
After the speeches were ended and the high Mass choir stopped singing, he was interred in the crypt below the altar at the downtown Basilica.
His death and his funeral made the front page for days on end.
But now let me tell you about a friend whose life also ended that same week. She was a childhood victim of abuse at a Catholic grade school in Baltimore. I was a close friend of hers, and I watched how her tortured life ended in chaos and agony . . . decades sooner than the life of the Baltimore cardinal had ended.
The cardinal chose not to protect her.
And there was no pomp and circumstance at her early death. Only sorrow.
The only comfort for those of us who are left to remember her is knowing that her endlessly painful “walk of the survivor” is over. She is finally at peace.
I will continue onward with my journeys.
I will advocate for those who have not yet discovered how to fully strengthen their own voices.
I will listen. I will hold my torch high in the air, hoping to shine light on truth, and on justice.
I am a survivor!
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