Sister of slain nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, writes letter to Archbishop of Baltimore

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The unexplained murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik nearly 50 years ago remains an agonizing mystery for those who remember the beloved nun. Equally vexing is the role the Archdiocese of Baltimore played in the case, both in the years before and after Sister Cathy’s death. The murder of Sister Cathy is the subject of the highly acclaimed Netflix series “The Keepers.” The following letter, written on June 6, 2017 by Marilyn Cesnik Radakovic — Sister Cathy’s biological sister — was addressed to Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Maryland. It is posted here with her permission.

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June 6, 2017

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archdiocese of Baltimore
320 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, Maryland  21201-4421

Re: An Important Message From the Archbishop

Dear Archbishop Lori:

Reference is made to your correspondence dated May 17, 2017, entitled “An Important Message from the Archbishop,” as well as prior correspondence and circumstances involving Sister Catherine Cesnik, my biological sister.

I was disappointed by many of the statements you made in your correspondence. Among the most troubling statements was the following: “The Archdiocese first became aware of an allegation of abuse by Maskell, in 1992, more than 20 years after the abuse occurred.” This statement was false, and known by the Archdiocese to be false, as Maskell was reassigned by the Archdiocese to Archbishop Keough High School in 1967 after allegations of child abuse were made by the mother of an altar boy at St. Clement Parish.

Archbishop William E. Lori.

Also among the most troubling statements was the following: “Maskell” was returned to ministry in 1993 after the Archdiocese was unable to corroborate the allegation of sexual abuse after its own investigation and conversations with attorneys representing the individual came forward.” This statement was false, and known by the Archdiocese to be false, as the corroboration allegedly sought by the Archdiocese was within the possession, custody, and control of the Archdiocese at least since 1967. In addition, more corroboration than the Archdiocese could have asked for or needed was right under the Archdiocese’s nose, in the form of Maskell’s harem, maintained at Archbishop Keough High School, without interference from, and without oversight of, the Archdiocese, since 1967.

Unfortunately, your correspondence represents a transparent attempt by the Archdiocese to “get in front of” the Netflix documentary series entitled “The Keepers,” which premiered on May 19, 2017. Anyone who took the time to watch “The Keepers,” or who otherwise informed themselves as to the circumstances at Archbishop Keough High School, would easily be able to reach the conclusion that the Archdiocese was engaged in an anticipatory, disingenuous, public relations ploy.

Your correspondence was far too little, far too late. The Archdiocese has no moral authority over the circumstances at Archbishop Keough High School involving Maskell’s  harem, or Sister Cathy. The Archdiocese abdicated its moral authority when it reassigned Maskell to Archbishop Keough High School in 1967, and left him there, to run amok, unsupervised, to commit unspeakable, predatory, atrocities against the young girls left in his charge to guide and protect, until 1975. Counselor, indeed. Maskell’s counseling program was tantamount to an Archdiocese sponsored prostitution ring.

Father Joseph Maskell.

The Archdiocese was responsible for reassigning Maskell to Archbishop Keough High School in 1967, and the Archdiocese is responsible for the “cascade of horribles” that followed, including the “cascade of horribles” that happened to Maskell’s harem, each and every one of them, as well as Sister Cathy, when she learned the unfortunate truth about the harem. The fact that the Archdiocese was able to successfully hide behind its statute of limitations defense, and avoid civil liability, does nothing to diminish the Archdiocese’s moral liability.

I will not sit idly by while the Archdiocese belatedly attempts to use Sister Cathy, my biological sister who was beautiful in mind, body, and spirit to everyone who knew her, in its efforts to justify its inaction to prevent the “cascade of horribles,” and even its concealment and whitewashing of the “cascade of horribles.” Please refrain from even mentioning Sister Cathy in any further correspondence promulgated by the Archdiocese, as it is offensive to her memory.

There is only one possible way for the Archdiocese to reclaim its moral authority over the circumstances at Archbishop Keough High School involving Maskell’s harem, or Sister Cathy. Permit an unfettered audit of the Archdiocese’s complete investigative files, and the Archdiocese’s complete personnel files, for Maskell, including all assignments and evaluations, as well as any other complete relevant files, such that the audit may follow where the evidence truthfully leads. Emphasis on “complete,” and on “where the evidence truthfully leads.” This audit would be conducted by independent investigators, not associated with the Archdiocese or the City of Baltimore Police Department, but their findings would be made available to the Archdiocese and the City of Baltimore Police Department, upon the conclusion of the audit. So much sorrow has transpired and damage to beautiful children. I cannot sit idly by. For whatever reason this has landed on your watch. I beseech you to find the courage to do the right thing. Do not take the easy path here and hide behind a false cover of religion.

This is your moment in time. Find the courage to not stand beside Maskell and continue to protect him but to reveal the truth. I believe you are a courageous man of God and will find the courage to permit the unfettered audit.


Marylin Cesnik Radakovic