Although it’s common knowledge that Netflix has changed the world regarding how people consume their entertainment programs, it might come as a surprise that the platform has inspired change in the real, off-screen world.
According to the Baltimore Sun, a series revolving around a nun’s 1960s murder, “The Keepers” has encouraged an uproar in the Baltimore Catholic church.
Cathy Cesnik’s body was found dead in a frozen field months after she disappeared in late 1969 — her body had been severely beaten.
Cesnik was a Catholic nun teaching at then-Archbishop Keough High School under Father A. Joseph Maskell.
Tragically, no arrests were ever made.
However, 20 years later in the 1990s, a woman named Jean Wehner, referred to as “Jane Doe” in court, came forward alleging she had been sexually abused by Maskell and linked his involvement in Cesnik’s murder…
According to reports, the archdiocese removed Maskell from the ministry following those implications. He immediately left for Ireland, but was brought back after authorities couldn’t verify his involvement in the murder.
It’s worth noting that he denied the allegations as well.
“The Keepers” suggests, however, that Cesnik was killed because she knew of the abuse.
After years back in Baltimore, Maskell was again removed from the ministry in 1994 after multiple people came forward alleging abuse.
Since then, the archdiocese has had to pay $472,000 worth of settlements to 16 people regarding Maskell’s sexual abuse, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Moreover, Baltimore County police unearthed Maskell’s body in early 2017 (he passed away in 2001) to collect DNA evidence for Cesnik’s cold case. His DNA did not match that of what was found on Cesnik’s body, however, officials say that doesn’t rule out his involvement.
But still, even now, the church will not release Maskell’s files.Screenshot/Baltimore Sun
However, after learning of the case through “The Keepers,” Netflix users aren’t having it. Through a Change.org petition, over 11,000 people have come together to demand those files be released. The petition states:
The Archdiocese of Baltimore holds documents regarding sexual abuse claims against A. Joseph Maskell. The release of these documents will restore public trust in the Archdiocese, and confirm the Archdiocese statements regarding their handling of the sexual abuse claims.
This petition requests that the Archdiocese of Baltimore release their files regarding A. Joseph Maskell, who is now deceased, in an effort to throughly investigate all avenues that may have led to the murder of Cathy Cesnik in 1969.
“The Keepers” director Ryan White said that the show requested Maskell’s files “multiple times,” while still in production of the series, but the archdiocese declined. He told the Baltimore Sun:
“I just feel like it shows no concern for the community healing, no sign of transparency at all.”
Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine released a statement on its policy, saying:
“[Maskell’s records] are confidential, and Archdiocesan policy and state law would preclude us from disclosing much of the information in them as they include confidential personal information (e.g. names of alleged sexual abuse victims), personnel records, health records, attorney-client communications, personally identifying information (such as social security numbers), etc.”
The Baltimore Sun reported that unless it pertains to “litigation or bankruptcy proceedings,” the church will rarely release a priest’s records.
White told the Baltimore Sun that unless the church has something to hide, there’s no reason to keep Maskell’s records sealed from the public:
“Prove that you tried to corroborate [Wehner] instead of burying her — and they won’t do that.”
And judging by the petition, which is growing by the day, he’s not the only one who wants answers — and soon.