Former Baltimore cardinal named in historic grand jury report

William Keeler served in Baltimore for 18 years

BALTIMORE, Md. - A long-time cardinal in the Archdiocese of Baltimore is accused of covering up sexual abuse in the Catholic church.  That revelation uncovered in a grand jury report released Tuesday after a two-year investigation naming more than a thousand victims who were molested by 300 Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

One of those officials is Cardinal William Keeler.

Before he served as cardinal and archbishop for the diocese in Baltimore, he was a bishop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The report says he's just one of many at the center of what Pennsylvania's Attorney General, Josh Shapiro calls the largest report into child sex abuse in the church ever.

"They wanted to cover up, the cover up. They sought to do the same thing that senior church leaders in the diocese we investigated, have done for decades. bury the sexual abuse by priests upon children and cover it up forever," said Shapiro.

Disturbing words from Shapiro who stood Tuesday, surrounded by tearful clergy abuse victims.

"Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing, they hid it all for decades," Shapiro said.

The report shows decades of abuse sexual and otherwise dating back to 1947.  It also shows a cover up by the church's top brass; Keeler was one of them who served as a bishop in Harrisburg from 1983-1989.

"The time of telling these victims to keep their truth to themselves has ended," Shapiro said.

According to the report, Keeler knew at least two of his priests were guilty of abuse.  When he left Harrisburg, Keeler joined the Baltimore archdiocese and even granted one of those priests permission to work there also, knowing what he had been accused of.

Current Baltimore Archbishop William Lori saying in a statement that the archdiocese is saddened and troubled by the news of Keeler's failures. Further saying that a proposed new catholic school in the city will no longer be named after him.

Sheldon Jacobs is an attorney who represents sexual abuse victims.  He said this bombshell will have a ripple effect.

"With the attachment, the connection to Baltimore and Maryland, there is going to be a lot of pressure here, stepped up pressure for a grand jury investigation," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said a report like this can open old wounds but may also offer hope for those survivors still without a voice.

"It will be a sense of victory, of vindication," Jacobs said.

The report said there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward.

Because of the investigation there have been charges filed against clergymen.  The other priests identified as abusers are either dead or will avoid arrest because the crimes are too old to prosecute.

​​​​Keeler served in Baltimore for 18 years.   He died in 2017.

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