BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For some time now, WJZ has been investigating a dirty secret: child sex abuse at the hands of priests, police and a teacher back in the 1960s and 1970s. Many asked how it was possible that no one noticed.

Multiple sources have told WJZ’s Denise Koch that many people, including some nuns in positions of authority, did know about the abuse but instead of reporting it, they looked the other way.

It’s a dark chapter for Baltimore’s Catholic schools. Father Joseph Maskell, a counselor at Archbishop Keough High School, is accused of molesting dozens of students.

“I had a gun held to my head on several occasions. I was threatened with ‘I’ll kill your father, I’ll kill your grandparents, I’ll kill your dog, I’ll kill you,” Linda Tiburzi said.

She tells WJZ in the 1970s, John Merzbacher sexually abused her while she was a student at Catholic Community Middle School. Tiburzi was not alone. The Catholic school teacher, armed with a gun, blatantly assaulted other girls and boys.

It would take more than 20 years for him to be sent to prison where he’s now serving four life terms for child rape.

[Reporter: You believe that people knew?]

“I know people knew. I witnessed it with my own eyes. I was in eight grade, Merzbacher kept me after school…he locked the door, he tripped me to the floor, he straddled me, he unbuttoned my shirt blouse,” Tiburzi explains. “I was petrified, and then I heard the clicking of the door being unlocked. In walked Sister Eileen Weisman, and stood over the both of us. Her comment to him was, ‘Oh, John, I told you never to lock the door.’ And she looked at me and said, ‘You are never to stay after school again.'”

[Reporter: And she was a nun?]

“Well, I thought this woman was going to save me when she came in the door and she did absolutely nothing,” she said.

Sister Weisman was the principal of the school.

“Every teacher in that school knew what was going on at that school, as well as Sister Eileen. There was no doubt,” said Gary Homberg.

WJZ tracked down Homberg, a former teacher at the school. This is the first time he has ever spoken to the media.

“I went to Sister Eileen and sat down and told her what I had seen, what I had heard, what I had witnessed with my own two eyes,” he explains. “It was as gross and vile, as ugly as anything you can imagine.”

Homberg says he was given an ultimatum: shut up or leave. He left.

WJZ also obtained court records that state Sister Weisman repeatedly witnessed abuse, but did nothing to stop it. Decades later, following Merzbacher’s conviction, the Archdiocese publicly stated that Sister Weisman should never again hold a position overseeing the safety of children.

WJZ asked to speak with her, but instead received this statement, in part, from Sister Charmaine Krohe, SSND, provincial leader of the School Sisters of Notre Dame Atlantic-Midwest Province:

“We have found no evidence to suggest that our religious community or any of our Sisters had knowledge of Mr. Merzbacher’s conduct at the time the abuse occurred.”

“They would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to be aware what was going on. There is no doubt in my mind. They knew, and they looked the other way,” Homberg said.

Our investigation reveals Sister Weisman was not the only nun in a position of authority who was reportedly told about the sex abuse taking place in Catholic schools. Donna Von Den Bosch, a student at Archbishop Keough, told a high-ranking nun that a priest was sexually abusing her.

“I stopped in her office and said, ‘He’s evil, please don’t make me go.’ And she just smiled and said “Go down there.’ And so that’s like another day of agony I had to face,” Von Den Bosch said.

“All our lives were tragically shattered, shaken. Our souls were ripped away from us, but we turned into the warriors that we are today because what went on is certainly not right,” Tiburzi said.

WJZ has learned that Sister Weisman — who was assigned to Rome for several years during the Merzbacher trial — is now back in Baltimore living in a convent on a school campus.

The following is the full statement from Sister Krohe:

The entire School Sisters of Notre Dame community is deeply saddened by the reprehensible abuse that occurred at the hands of John Merzbacher.

We have found no evidence to suggest that our religious community or any of our Sisters had knowledge of Mr. Merzbacher’s conduct at the time the abuse occurred.

One of the central missions of our congregation is primarily education.  The prevention of child abuse, as well as pastoral outreach to those affected, are cornerstones of all of our actions and policies. .

The School Sisters of Notre Dame work continuously, in all of our ministries, to protect children in every aspect of their lives.  We continue to pray daily for the healing and comfort of all survivors of childhood abuse and their families.

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Comments (10)
  1. Eileen Gross says:

    Please correct one glaring error in this story. The abuse from Fr, Maskil DID NOT OCCUR at SETON Keough High School. That school opened in the fall of 1988, many years after the abuse occurred in the building. SETON had NOTHING to do with the abuse and I hate that Seton’s good name is associated with the horrible abuse that was allowed to happen in the building that later became Seton Keough. To correct the story, you need to make it clear that the abuse occurred at Archbishop Keough High School.

  2. This article makes a good case against becoming a member of a Catholic religious order.

  3. I attended SETON HIGH SCHOOL in the mid to late 1970’s. We were taught by Daughters of Charity. Seton was located at 2800 N. Charles Street. Seton and Keogh were NOT merged into a combined school until the 1980’s. The abuse occurred at ARCHBISHOP KEOGH HIGH SCHOOL. Please correct to story. Our nuns and our students were NOT involved in the abuse that you report in the story. Denise Koch, please get your facts straight.

  4. Thank you Denise Koch and WJZ! Thank you for your continued investigation into these heiness crimes of sexual abuse that took place in my church and school. I know many of the victims and I support them. Maskell and Merzbacher were both pure evil. The person who was to protect us – that our parents trusted for 6 hrs a day allowed the abuse to go on even when she saw it first hand. She lied to cover up the abuse….she chose to keep the abuser in her school and let the children suffer everyday, for her own pleasure.

    Please keep digging into this…the survivors needs justice.

  5. When will we see an investigation of public school abuse?

    In 2004, Hofstra University professor Dr. Carol Shakeshaft published a report for the United States Department of Education titled “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature.” It was presented to Congress as part of the No Child Left Behind Act. In it, Shakeshaft stated:

    …According to a study she did of abuse complaints against Catholic priests over a five decade period she concluded that “…the physical sexual abuse of students in (public) schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”

    1. Ha! vague wording.. so surrounding argument is %9.6 percent of the 45000 priests in the usa alone are credibly accused of sexual abuse.. Hofstra study with qualifiers like “complaints” is incredible as it decides where these complaints are made. employed by dept of ed? their skew goes to sheer number of public schools vs catholic schools. And their Omerta likened to the mafia by their own investigator Gov Richardson of New Mexico who quit due to it, decidedly affects what they have reported. Boom. seeya.

  6. Sincere apologies to your intention Geary, l was reactionary yet felt a diminishing of the reality of how especially inhuman this church has been on this problem within. Facts are we do need a wide view on and clear pursuit on everything sexual as evidenced by the metoo movement, we ought no accept the future of covering up this creating a future where abuse is allowed and secreted away. Outrage begets errant knee jerk responses l am openly admitting it yet hold my ground on the points. Thanks for understanding and attention to this issue.

  7. Abe Gonzalez says:

    Trauma plays a major role in child development. When I was 12, I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest named George Dyer. He was from the Domincan order. That was over 45 years ago.

    I can see how the abuse impacted my life in a negative way. The pedoiphile priest coerced me to invite more young boys to go swimming with the priest, where they too were molested. I feel immense guilt to this day about that. I realize that I was only a child who was manipulated by an adult predator.

    I recently asked the Domincans to pay for counseling. I have serious health problems. I would like to find some peace before I die. They refuse to pay for the counseling despite assurances made 13 years ago that they would pay for counseling. They claim that they lack the funds to pay for the counseling. Scott Thomas O’Brien is the name of the priest who denied my request.

    They care more about money than they do the victims of the predators that they enabled and protected. Hell is not large enough to house all the Catholics who played a part in the sexual abuse of innocent children by their sick, pedophile priests

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