Trigger Warning: Sex, abuse, and murder
Released in May of 2017, “The Keepers” tackles the unsolved murder of the beloved nun Sister Cathy Cesnik, a Catholic teacher at Keough High School in Baltimore. She disappeared on November 7th, 1969 and her body was found nearly two months later. Her killer has still not been found.
Not only does this series delve into the theories of how Cesnik died, but it also reveals the horrific sex abuse that occurred at Keough between Father Joseph Maskell and the students. The full story is too complicated to express in one article, but I’m going to give you the basics.
In the early 90s, many women started remembering the abuse that Maskell committed. They remembered being called to his office in the middle of the school day (he was a counselor there) and that he would proceed to rape them and then send them back to class. Many of these girls had Sister Cathy as their teacher and were very close to her.
One of the students, later known as Jane Doe, told Sister Cathy what Maskell was doing. Cathy told her she would take care of it. Next thing you know, Cathy was missing.
The forensics behind the investigation would go way too in-depth for me to talk about simply. But the bottom line was that the Catholic Church seemed to have some shady business going on.
I didn’t grow up Catholic, or even religious. And from the point of view of someone who doesn’t believe in organized religion, this disturbs me greatly. Nothing is wrong with having faith. Nothing is wrong with believing in God. But there are many wrongs when that belief comes before saving innocent children to protect a pedophilic priest.
Many believe that Maskell or someone associated with him that knew about the abuse didn’t want their secrets to get out. It’s thought that once they figured out that Cathy was going to go to the police, they decided to shut her up.
If this story seems familiar, it is very similar to what happened in Boston in the early 00s. The Boston Globe’s investigative team, Spotlight, delved into the Catholic Church and discovered many of the priests guilty of sex abuse on the children of their parishes. And if this was brought to the attention of the archdiocese, Spotlight discovered that instead of removing them completely, they just moved them to another parish or school or place where the same abuse could continue.
This isn’t private knowledge that the Catholic Church has been covering up pedophilia among its priests, and it seems even more relevant now with the exposure of pedophiles and rapists that Hollywood has been covering up.
Of course, I don’t believe that everyone in the Catholic Church knows about it and covers it up. And of course I don’t believe that all priests are pedophiles or rapists and I don’t even believe that all men are like that either.
But it’s like playing Russian Roulette. Not all of the chambers has a bullet, but one of them does. Not all men are rapists, not all priests are pedophiles. But not all of the chambers are empty of bullets. It’s a risk either way.
There needs to be more coverage on this phenomenon. Docuseries and survivors are doing their best to make these stories known, but it’s not enough. These instances show the crimes that men have been getting away with for decades, if not centuries. And there needs to be something done about it.
Both “The Keepers” and “Spotlight” are currently available on Netflix.