How Many Women Accused Father Joseph Maskell Of Sexual Abuse? 'The Keepers' Tells Some Of Their Stories
As Abbie Shaub and Gemma Hoskins discuss in the fourth episode of The Keepers, statistics show that many abuse survivors will not talk about what happened to them and, if they do, these survivors are more likely to come forward when they are older in age. Because of this, there is no certain way to know how many people Father Joseph Maskell allegedly sexually abused throughout his life. But with one of the major focuses of The Keepers being the many women who have come forward to accuse Father Maskell of sexual abuse when they attended Archbishop Keough High School in the late '60s and early '70s, there is a staggering number of accusations. Maskell was never charged with a crime and denied the allegations until his death in 2001, and told The Baltimore Sun in 1994 that "I never had sex with a kid ... It is absolutely untrue."
In a recent statement to Bustle, the Archdiocese of Baltimore acknowledged the allegations against Maskell:
"Since the 1990s, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore first learned of an allegation of child sexual abuse against Maskell, and on numerous occasions since, the Archdiocese has publicly acknowledged and apologized for the horrific abuse committed by him. The Archdiocese reported the allegations to civil authorities in the 1990s and cooperated fully in any investigation, removed Father Maskell’s faculties to function as a priest, apologized to victims and offered them counseling assistance, sought additional victims, and provided direct financial assistance to 16 individuals abused by Maskell.
Though it was unaware of the abuse at the time it occurred approximately 50 years ago, the Archdiocese deeply regrets the damage that was caused to those who were so badly harmed and has worked diligently since becoming aware of their abuse to bring some measure of healing to them. The Archdiocese is wholly committed to protecting children, holding abusers accountable — clergy and laity alike, and promoting healing for victims. These are hallmarks of the Archdiocese’s child protection efforts, which we strive to constantly strengthen.
There is no room in the Archdiocese for anyone who would harm a child and every effort must be made to ensure what happened before never happens again. It is our hope that The Keepers advances this pursuit, just as we hope the series helps those who have kept alive the memory of Sr. Cathy and our collective hope that justice will be won for her."
This has been the Archdiocese's position for a while. In September 2002, the Archdiocese of Baltimore made public a list of 57 priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse. On the Archdiocese of Baltimore's "Priests Accused of Abuse" page, Father Maskell is listed and if you hover over Maskell's name, the following partial statement appears:
"In 1992, an individual alleged sexual abuse by Father A. Joseph Maskell between 1968 and 1972. Father Maskell denied the allegation but agreed to undergo residential evaluation. The initial allegation could not be corroborated and Father Maskell returned to active ministry in 1993 to 1994. After additional allegations of abuse surfaced in 1994, the Archdiocese placed Father Maskell on a leave of absence and removed his faculties. He died in 2001."
In the time since his death, the Church has given financial settlements to a number of Maskell's accusers. The Baltimore Sun reported in an article about The Keepers that, "Since 2011, the archdiocese has paid a total of $472,000 in settlements to 16 people who accused Maskell of sexual abuse." This means at least 16 people have come forward to accuse this priest of sexual abuse, including Teresa Lancaster and Jean Hargadon Wehner, as seen in the series.
These two women, who are prominently featured in The Keepers, filed a civil lawsuit against Maskell in 1994, but as the Huffington Post reported in 2015, they lost due to the statute of limitations being over. In Tom Nugent's 2005 City Paper story "Who Killed Sister Cathy?," he wrote that "Thirty men and women with firsthand knowledge of alleged abuse came forward to offer testimony" for Lancaster and Wehner's lawsuit in 1994, but that was not enough for them to win the case. Since then, both Lancaster and Wehner have reached settlements with the Archdiocese as Nugent wrote for his blog Inside Baltimore.
Although sexual abuse survivors absolutely do not have to publicly reveal their identities, many other women beyond Lancaster and Wehner have publicly come forward to claim they were abused by Maskell and tell their stories in The Keepers, like Donna VonDenBosch and Kathy Hobeck. But it's not just women who have accused Father Maskell. The Baltimore Sun spoke with Sheldon Jacobs, a lawyer representing people who have alleged abuse by Maskell, about the settlements with the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun wrote, "Most of the victims who have received settlements are women but also include a few men, including one who says Maskell, then a young seminarian, abused him at a camp in the 1950s, Jacobs said." In The Keepers, Charles Franz also comes forward to claim he was abused by Maskell in the '60s.
While 16 people have reached settlements with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Hoskins claims in The Keepers that she personally knows of 35 people who claim they were allegedly abused by Father Maskell. But as the U.S. Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Website states, approximately only 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported to the authorities. So, reported allegations often represent only a fraction of the full story.