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The push from Maryland victim-survivors to reveal more names in AG report

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Posted at 10:01 PM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 23:18:15-04

BALTIMORE — In less than two weeks, all but three names in the state report on Catholic sex abuse can be made public.

That report came out in April, but with many names redacted.

Behind the scenes, victim-survivors and their advocates pushed for more names to be made public.

"I think of those who did come forward and gave names. And i know for a fact you shake in your boots, because you can't believe you're actually saying that out loud," Jean Hargadon-Wehner, a victim-survivor, told WMAR.

Wehner was abused at Archbishop Keough High School decades ago and, for decades, has pushed for justice and transparency.

When she found out the AG's report was on its way and there were names crossed out, she was outraged.

"I thought that the idea was so that other people would be able to know that same name, and could come forward," Wehner said, "That's what advocacy's about, that's what transparency's about."

Wehner and other victim-survivors worked with the Maryland Crime Victim Resource Center - who asked to represent them - to peel back the names from the report released in April.

RELATED: Judge orders most names in Archdiocese sexual abuse report to be revealed

Through legal action filed last November and materialized this August, they succeeded - an action the leader of that organization, Kurt Wolfgang, tells WMAR is one of their proudest accomplishments.

"The fact they're putting them back in - I feel like, okay, we deserve that anyway," Wehner added. "The public deserves that. And it made me feel as if the judge understood that transparency and some form of accountability is necessary for these types of crimes."

On August 16, circuit judge Robert Taylor ordered an unredacted form of the report - allowing all but 3 of the 146 names in the report to be made public after September 26.

He also wrote: "...these names are being released because the key to understanding the report is understanding that this did not happen because of anything the archdiocese did or did not do. It happened because of the choices made by specific individuals at specific times."

The impending state removal of the statute of limitations on civil suits on October 1 could mean major financial consequences for the Baltimore archdiocese; this month, Archbishop William Lori warned parishioners a "bankruptcy reorganization" may be in its future.

Lori argues it can help them in suits and to maintain the church, two things he says are not mutually exclusive; whether that process begins at all is still left to be seen.

READ MORE: Archbishop warns of 'devastating financial consequences' due to potential lawsuits

For other victims in other places, this is the advice from Wehner, having gone through the process: trusted representation counts - victims and their interests need to be at the table.

"Be sure there is someone representing the survivors," Wehner said.