First published on Salisbury News
As many of you know from my previous writings, criminal injustice has always found a soft spot in my psyche, largely because I generally believe in our Rule of Law. A program on Netflix, once again, has struck a chord within me because the grave miscarriage of our justice system stirs even for the most hardened of hearts.
Sister Catherine Cesnik is probably a name many of you haven’t heard of before. Her tale actually began and ended many decades ago. Close to 48 years ago, she was brutally murdered and many believe it was priests in her own parish who either orchestrated, planned and/or executed the egregious murder. Most importantly was not how she died but the following cover up by the Baltimore Archdiocese that makes this crime even more unsettling.
It began in November 1969 when she went out one night to buy her little sister a special engagement present. Sister Cathy left her apartment in Catonsville, Maryland and never returned home. She was killed to cover up bigger violations but in her death, silence has proven to be moot.
Does any Church deserve such political power that it expects get away with cold-blooded murder?
Since that time, through the diligence of two former students highlighted in The Keepers, her victimhood and memory has lived on in spite of the case being as a cold as the ground for which she’s buried. Even now, almost five decades later, there are still no definitives; only more questions, conjecture and speculation as many continue to investigate – reaching one roadblock after another.
FOIA requests have gone unanswered and leads have grown cold due to death and time. Many of the players involved have since passed away but the one key suspect is the Seton Keogh priest Reverend Joseph A. Maskell, who is believed to be the ultimate perpetrator, died in the early 2000s, taking his secret to his grave.
Sister Cathy challenged the Church when she began to hear from her female students at the Seton Keogh about Maskell and a fellow priest’s blatant sexual abuse of certain girls attending the parochial high school near Baltimore. The tales of torment and threats were great from these students who still live with the horrors of these acts as well as the gross betrayal from someone we are all led to believe we should trust without question.
Daylight makes all cockroaches run for cover…
Using the intimate details from their confessions, the priests exploited and extorted sexual favors from these teenage girls in the most heinous fashion and even allowed them to be abuse by others – including politicians and police officers in the Baltimore area. Maskell was never formally charged or reprimanded by the Church even though many complaints were reported by parents and students. Instead, he was moved around from school to school, allowing him a great victim pool to abuse and exploit.
Sister Cathy’s murder was the catalyst that begins The Keepers‘ saga into a series of gut-wrenching interviews, exposing the Catholic church’s blind eye policies towards atrocious pedophilia acts that causes one to question the validity of organized religion. In many ways, through her death, she has exposed a harsh light on the cockroaches lurking under the cloth and epitomizes the very reason why many do not trust religious orders any longer. Could this be the reason why our country has turned away from religion to a large extent?
Many of the victims came forward in the mid-Nineties; however, the cases went nowhere due to the statute of limitations on sex crimes in the state of Maryland. As a result of this documentary, C.T. Wilson, a Maryland State Senator and an abuse victim himself, did manage to get his bill passed after several times introducing it to the Maryland General Assembly. The new law taking effect as of July 1, 2017, extends the statue of limitations to persons abused in their childhood to the age of 38 from 25 years old. Even though this is great news for many, it also means many of Maskell’s victims will still never truly have justice for the wrong done to them several decades ago.
Will Sister Cathy’s murder ever be solved? At this point, as we know cold cases go, it is highly unlikely to be solved. Time, memories, death and evidence tend to fade, making it almost impossible to ascertain what happened to her on that cold night in November. However, through the documentary and continued efforts, perhaps one day we’ll have some semblance of resolution – regardless of how shrouded in mystery it may be when all is said and done.
Is Pedophilia becoming normalized in our culture?
The Keepers is well worth the 7+ hours to view and it will bring about many questions more than answers. However, it beckons us to ponder just how much pedophilia has become so common place in our society that we’ve become almost immune to it, not realizing (or caring about) the lifelong damage it inflicts on victims.
My last article about the WCBOE and their new policy for children walking through neighborhoods where registered sex offenders resides from yesterday garnered many disturbing comments that leads one to wonder how, even our own community, we have experienced a blind acceptance of this abuse against our children. Doesn’t this provide us with another stark example of our own callousness and moral decay?
Are we going to let this abominable behavior become so intrenched in our culture that we lose our future to mental illness? The choice is really up to you and I to determine what is deemed acceptable and that which is not, but perhaps it’s time we revisited, not only the law, but within our own souls to find a way to face this horrific problem that exists now more than it did in 1969.
Once we go down the road where molesting and raping children is normalized and sanctioned, is there really any way back to any semblance of a civilized society? I would think not.