2 women notify archdiocese of impending lawsuits

August 04, 1994|By Joe Nawrozki and Robert A. Erlandson | Joe Nawrozki and Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writers

The Archdiocese of Baltimore was notified yesterday to expect multimillion-dollar lawsuits on behalf of two women who allege that a priest at Archbishop Keough High School sexually abused them when they were students there more than 20 years ago.

Three Towson lawyers representing the women sent by certified mail copies of the complaints with cover letters saying their clients will seek compensatory and punitive damages totaling tens of millions of dollars.

Although the lawyers would not disclose the details of the complaints, they involve allegations by the two women that they were abused by the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, formerly pastor of St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in Elkridge, who was the chaplain and counselor at the all-girls high school in Southwest Baltimore from the mid-1960s until 1975.

The letters sent to the archdiocese yesterday -- from attorneys Phillip G. Dantes, Beverly A. Wallace and James G. Maggio -- serve as notification that the lawsuits are imminent unless settlement is reached.

Mr. Dantes set no deadline for the archdiocese to reply but said, "Unless we are in serious settlement negotiations in the near future, we will file the suits."

Neither William Blaul, spokesman for Archbishop William H. Keeler, nor Richard O. Berndt, an attorney for the archdiocese, returned telephone calls asking for their comments on the lawyers' notification.

On Sunday, archdiocesan officials told surprised parishioners that Father Maskell had left his parish to seek therapy for stress and anxiety related to the women's allegations and a criminal investigation in Baltimore City.

While several people called The Sun yesterday supporting Father Maskell and expressing skepticism about the allegations against the priest, former Keough students now in their 40s have told The Sun that he engaged in a variety of activities ranging from inappropriate remarks in the confessional to bizarre sexual acts, some wrapped in the sacraments of the church.

In a May interview, Father Maskell told The Sun repeatedly that the allegations were "absolutely untrue."

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