The Baltimore Archdiocese has declared the closure of a prominent city Catholic church in the wake of the suspension of its long-serving minister due to a past settlement of sexual harassment allegations.
Father Paschal Morlino, who devoted nearly four decades to serving the St. Benedict Church in southwest Baltimore, was relieved of his duties last month. Morlino was instrumental in the church’s commitment to supporting the impoverished communities surrounding the church.
The 2018 complaint lodged against Morlino remains undisclosed mainly. The church authorities have revealed that the accusations revolve around “alleged sexual harassment of an adult male.” The complainant passed away in 2020, and the attorney representing him refrained from making any statements under the terms of a non-disclosure agreement.
Saint Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania, the nation’s oldest Benedictine monastery and the proprietor of St. Benedict, released a joint statement with the archdiocese, stating their decision not to appoint a new pastor in Morlino’s stead. The monastery cites a “limited number of clergy available” for this difficult decision.
For over three decades, Morlino had been the guiding shepherd of the St. Benedict congregation.
Among the many topics discussed during a comprehensive interview with the Baltimore Banner last month – a conversation so extensive it spanned 90 minutes – was a shocking revelation. Morlino had been implicated in a rape case and had reluctantly parted with $200,000 as a settlement to his alleged victim a few years prior.
To explain his actions, Morlino confided in the Banner, “I merely sought to silence him and put an end to his disruptions, as he seemed intent on causing chaos.” He maintained his innocence vehemently, “My conscience bears no guilt. The allegations are fabrications of his design.”
Following his suspension, Morlino, aged 85, returned to the Pennsylvania monastery. Despite the recent events, the Baltimore church plans to continue hosting community events and outreach initiatives.
The archdiocese became aware of the settlement when journalists from The Baltimore Banner requested information about it last month. An immediate internal probe was launched, leading to Morlino’s dismissal.
Acknowledging the difficulty this news might pose for the congregation, the officials promised support in their Saturday statement. They assured that an outreach team would be accessible to assist the parishioners and, if required, guide them to avail Catholic pastoral services at nearby parishes.