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Church child sex abuse allegations from more than 600 victims detailed in new report

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(BALTIMORE, Md.) — More than 150 priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore are accused of sexually abusing more than 600 children in a newly released report from Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown.

The report, which examined thousands of documents dating back to the 1940s, states that the number of abused children is “likely far higher” than 600.

“The sheer number of abusers and victims, the depravity of the abusers’ conduct, and the frequency with which known abusers were given the opportunity to continue preying upon children are astonishing,” read the report.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is the oldest diocese in the United States, established in 1789.

The Maryland Office of the Attorney General began its investigation in 2018, seeking not only instances of abuse, but also the effort by leadership to cover up the illegal behavior.

“While every victim’s story is unique, together they reveal themes and behaviors typical of adults who sexually abuse children, and of those who enable abuse by concealing it,” read the report. “What was consistent throughout was the absolute authority and power these abusive priests and church leadership held over victims, their families and their communities.”

The 463-page report offers detailed accounts of the abuse, as well as the impact that abuse had on victims – some of whom faced substance abuse, depression, anxiety, attempted suicide and other mental health conditions and challenges in the years after.

The report accuses Archdiocese leaders of dismissing reports of abuse, exhibiting “little to no concern for victims,” and failing to “adequately investigate complaints.”

Archbishop William E. Lori apologized to survivors for the “harm caused” by the Church in response to the report. He said the report captures a period in the Archdiocese’s past “when our response to such allegations was woefully inadequate.”

“We hear you. We believe you and your courageous voices have made a difference,” an April 5 statement read.

Lori said he met with victim-survivors on his first day as Archbishop, and argues the Church is working to ensure “transparency and accountability” in responding to reports of abuse.

He continued, “Through difficult, although deeply meaningful, meetings, I have experienced your brave witness, and the power of your words and testimony compel my personal conviction to ensure we do everything possible to prevent future incidents of abuse and promote healing for survivors.”

The attorney general’s office recommends that the state amend the statute of limitations for civil actions involving child sex abuse, as studies have shown that more than half of child sex abuse victims don’t report until they are over age 50. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for a civil action is three years from the date of the harm, according to the Maryland General Assembly.

“Because Maryland recognizes a statute of limitations defense in civil cases – a defense that the Archdiocese consistently chooses to rely upon – victims have no recourse if they are over the age of 38,” the report read. “Yet many victims have suffered lifelong effects from the harm perpetrated on them by the Church.”

Legislation headed to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk would eliminate Maryland’s civil statute of limitations for such lawsuits concerning damages for child sexual abuse victims.

The agency also recommended the expansion of public accountability for those who commit an act of child abuse.

ABC News’ Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

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