Beginning in the 1980s, rumors began to spread that priests, nuns and other clergy involved with the Catholic church had been sexually exploiting children. It wouldn’t be until hundreds of documented cases of child abuse and the subsequent cover-up of these crimes came to light in the early 2000s that the stories became thrust into the mainstream media spotlight.
It is known that high-ranking church officials went to great lengths to hide these crimes going on behind church walls. Clergy accused of sexually abusing children were not subjected to prosecution, instead, these officials would be moved to another church, allowing them to prey upon even more vulnerable children.
Even as early as the 1960s, it was more or less an open secret that certain members of the Catholic church were behaving inappropriately with some of the youngest members of their congregation.
It was in Baltimore that many believed that Sister Catherine “Cathy” Cesnik, an English and Drama teacher at the all-girls Archbishop Keough High School, had stumbled across information that two priests at the school had been sexually abusing some of their students. Sister Cathy may have been planning to go forward with this information to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the highest ranking level of the church before the Vatican. Before Sister Cathy had a chance to confess what she knew she turned up missing. Her body was later found in a Baltimore, Maryland garbage dump and to date, no one has been charged with her murder.
One of the two priests who were accused of sexually abusing students, Father Joseph Maskell, denied the allegations against him until the time of his death. Netflix is now reinvigorating the story and bringing it back into the public eye with their new docuseries The Keepers.
In the series, several of the women who accused Maskell of sexually abusing them have bravely come forward to tell their stories. While most of these stories can be difficult to hear, particularly if the viewer happens to be a sexual abuse survivor themselves, some are already calling this the most important TV series of 2017.
The series strives to open up an important dialog in regards to sex crimes against children and the systemic corruption that followed. While the focus of the series is reexamining the murder of Sister Cathy, the series also acts as a platform for the dozens of other victims of systemic abuse who never received justice to speak out against their abusers.
Grab a box of tissues and be sure to tune into The Keepers during your next Netflix binge.