Baltimore church to end religious services after priest suspended over sexual harassment settlement

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The Archdiocese of Baltimore will end religious services at one of the city's Catholic churches after its longtime pastor was recently suspended from ministry because he admitted to making a payment several years ago to settle sexual harassment allegations.

Last month, Father Paschal Morlino was fired from his position at St. Benedict Church in southwest Baltimore, where he served for nearly 40 years and became known for his efforts to help residents of the poor neighborhoods surrounding the church.

Few details have been released about the 2018 complaint against Morlino. Church officials have said they consider "alleged sexual harassment of an adult male." The whistleblower died in 2020 and a lawyer representing him in the case declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Archdiocese officials also said in a statement Saturday that they are investigating another complaint against Morlino involving sexual abuse of a minor. They said the abuse allegedly occurred in 1993. Morlino denied the allegation, according to the statement.

St. Benedict is owned and operated by Saint Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania, the oldest Benedictine monastery in the country. In a separate joint statement with the archdiocese on Saturday, monastery leaders said they would not name a new pastor to replace Morlino. They said that “the difficult decision was made due to the number limited of available clergy.”

Morlino, 85, returned to the Pennsylvania monastery after being suspended from his job as a pastor.

The church in Baltimore will continue to host community events and outreach programs, but officials said parishioners are being diverted to other churches for Mass and other religious services.

The archdiocese said it learned of the agreement last month when reporters from The Baltimore Banner They asked about it. Authorities said they immediately opened an internal investigation and decided to fire Morlino.

"We understand this news comes at a difficult time for parishioners," officials said in Saturday's statement. "An outreach team will be available to assist parishioners and, if they wish, help them receive Catholic pastoral services in nearby parishes."

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