Pastor removed from ministry after report about $200,000 in sex abuse hush money

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The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Benedictine order have removed a decadeslong pastor from public ministry and suspended his priestly faculties after he confirmed to a local media outlet that years ago he entered a confidential $200,000 settlement to quiet allegations of male adult sexual assault and financial fraud.

“I just wanted to keep him quiet, to be rid of him, because he was just stirring up trouble,” Father Paschal Morlino, OSB, told The Baltimore Banner in its October report. “My conscience is clear; it’s all stuff that he made up.”

The archdiocese said in a statement Sunday that after being made aware of the report, it immediately began an investigation and decided within 24 hours, along with the Benedictine order, to remove Morlino as pastor and suspend his priestly faculties.

Morlino, who was the pastor for more than 30 years at St. Benedict Church in Baltimore, has since returned to his religious community, Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. 

A lawyer for the archabbey declined to comment on Monday. CNA reached out to the American-Cassinese Congregation, which oversees the archabbey, for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.

CNA also reached out to the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where the archabbey is located, but a spokesman said that Morlino is not a diocesan priest and therefore does not have any faculties in the diocese.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore said in its statement that both the archdiocese and the Benedictines “intend to conduct further investigation.”

The allegations

Kathy Durm-St. Amant, a former parishioner from Morlino’s Baltimore church, told The Baltimore Banner that a friend once confided in her that many years prior he had taken a cruise with Morlino in which the priest sexually assaulted him.

”He said he went on that cruise, he was in bed. He woke up with Paschal on top of him,” Durm-St. Amant said.

That man worked for Morlino, now 85, carrying out different duties for the pastor’s church such as fundraising, cooking, and cleaning, the outlet reported.

She encouraged her friend, whom the outlet did not name, to contact a lawyer. 

That friend died in 2020, but after his death, Durm-St. Amant discovered negotiation letters between attorneys relating to the incident, the outlet reported. The letters were provided to the outlet.

One of the letters, dated Jan. 24, 2018, was from the man’s attorney Joanne Suder. 

That letter demanded $375,000 in exchange for forgoing a lawsuit, but it also accused Morlino of forging the man’s signature on bank records, the outlet reported.

“You stole all of his cash from checks telling him his expenses exceeded the balances of his checks,” Suder wrote.

In that letter, the man’s attorney also accused the priest of raping the man on the cruise in September 2000. Additionally, the letter accuses Morlino of “multiple rapes” in the years following the cruise, according to the outlet.

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“His physician has opined that your sexual, physical, emotional, and fraudulent behavior has caused him such injuries that he may never recover,” Suder wrote, referring to her client.

Suder declined to comment to CNA on Monday.

A letter from Morlino’s attorney, Salvatore Anello III, responded to Suder’s demands saying, “Although Father Paschal is indeed not a rich person, in conjunction with his family and friends, he has managed to raise $25,000 to try and settle this matter.” 

“There would have to be a release and total confidentiality agreement. As you can see whatever we do here, we are in an untenable position since the mere accusation, whether it be true or not, and it is not true, can end his ministry at St. Benedict’s,” the letter said.

Both parties settled for $200,000 in February 2018, documents show. The pastor confirmed the deal to the outlet.

Anello could not be reached by CNA for comment by time of publication.

Durm-St. Amant, the man’s friend, told the outlet that she notified the Archdiocese of Baltimore of the sexual assault allegations in August 2018 and added that she then met with Monsignor James Hannon, then-director of the division of clergy personnel, and Jerri Burkhardt, director of the office of child and youth protection.

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But she said she felt ignored. 

“What did he say? They’re going to meet with [Morlino] and counsel him?” the woman told the outlet about Hannon. “Not, ‘We’re going to shut him down.’ Not, ‘We’re going to take him out of service.’ That he needs counseling.”

In that August 2018 complaint to the archdiocese, Durm-St. Amant also alleged that Morlino had sexually assaulted a different man on a separate cruise. That man had died prior to the complaint being brought. 

The archdiocese told the outlet that Morlino denied the assault and the church could not corroborate the allegation because the man had died.

In the archdiocese’s statement Sunday, it said that in 2018 an individual brought a complaint against Morlino but that it related to sexual harassment — not sexual assault — of an adult man who had died by the time of the complaint, and therefore could not be corroborated.

CNA reached out to the archdiocese for comment on Monday but did not receive a response. 

Denying the allegations

Morlino denies all the allegations made against him. 

He told The Baltimore Banner that he did in fact go on a cruise with the man, Durm-St. Amant’s friend, along with three other friends, but had no sexual contact with him or in the following years.

Morlino also denies the fraud allegations. He told the outlet that there was an agreement that the man’s paychecks would be deposited into a church account that would cover his health care costs.

“I took care of his medical insurance; that was the deal,” the priest said. “He didn’t have any money; he played on my sympathy.”

The outlet also reported that Morlino paid the tax debt on the man’s home. But eventually, their relationship ended when the priest dismissed the man from his duties at the church. 

Morlino said he was stunned when the accusations came. 

A new administrator is being chosen to run St. Benedict Church in Baltimore, according to the archdiocese.

Anyone with information about sexual misconduct by any representative of the Church is encouraged to to contact the Baltimore Archdiocese by calling the Ethics line at 1-888-572-8026 or by visiting the archdiocese’s website.

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