BALTIMORE – Cardinal William Keeler apologized for the first time to those sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests and said he regrets reinstating a priest who was shot this week by an alleged abuse victim.
In an opinion piece published Friday in The (Baltimore) Sun, Keeler said he takes "full responsibility" for the decision he made in 1993 to reinstate the Rev. Maurice Blackwell after the priest spent three months undergoing psychiatric evaluations.
Blackwell remained a pastor until 1998, when he admitted having a consensual relationship with a teen-ager in the 1970s before he was ordained.
"In light of what has occurred and of what was revealed in 1998, I would not make the same decision today," Keeler said.
Dontee Stokes, then 17, accused Blackwell of sexually abusing him in 1993. Stokes, now 26, allegedly shot Blackwell on Monday.
His mother, Tamara Stokes, said her son became frustrated when Blackwell refused to apologize to him. Blackwell was listed in fair condition Thursday at a Baltimore hospital.
Keeler said in the piece that the 1993 allegations against Blackwell were credible. He said Stokes was offered treatment and counseling, a claim Stokes' family denies.
Ray Kempisty, a spokesman for the Baltimore archdiocese, said Keeler does not plan to apologize personally to Stokes or his family.
"We know that there have been painful breaches of trust, and have dedicated ourselves to seeking solace for victims and fair punishment for perpetrators, goals which we have pursued but have not always succeeded in achieving, for many years," Keeler wrote. "I apologize for instances in which our efforts have failed."
Police records show that investigators believed Stokes but didn't have enough evidence or any witness accounts to charge Blackwell. Keeler said he restored Blackwell to his post at the urging of parishioners at St. Edward Church, where Blackwell was pastor.
Blackwell was allowed to stay at the church under several conditions, which included him moving out of the rectory and in with his mother, not participating in ministry with young people and meeting regularly with a group of priests for supervision.
Blackwell also was told he would be fired if another abuse allegation against him surfaced. Keeler's reinstatement of Blackwell was criticized by an independent review board made up of Catholic and non-Catholic lay persons.