Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore

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Archdiocese of Baltimore

Archidioecesis Baltimorensis
Baltimore Metropolitan Cathedral.jpg
Archdiocese of Baltimore Updated Coat of Arms 2017.jpg
Country United States
TerritoryThe City of Baltimore and nine counties across central and western Maryland
Ecclesiastical provinceBaltimore
Area4,801 km2 (1,854 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics (including non-members)
(as of 2015)
509,491 (15.8%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedNovember 6, 1789 (230 years)
CathedralCathedral of Mary Our Queen
Co-cathedralBasilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Patron saintImmaculate Conception
St. Ignatius of Loyola[1]
Current leadership
ArchbishopWilliam E. Lori
Auxiliary BishopsAdam J. Parker
Bruce Lewandowski
Bishops emeritusEdwin Frederick O'Brien
Denis J. Madden
Archdiocese of Baltimora.jpg

The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore (Latin: Archidioecesis Baltimorensis) is the premier (or first) see of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. The archdiocese comprises the City of Baltimore and 9 of Maryland's 23 counties in the central and western portions of the state: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, and Washington. The archdiocese is the metropolitan see of the larger regional Ecclesiastical Province of Baltimore. The Archdiocese of Washington was originally part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is the oldest diocese in the United States whose see city was entirely within the nation's boundaries when the United States declared its independence in 1776. The Holy See granted the Archbishop of Baltimore the right of precedence in the nation at liturgies, meetings, and Plenary Councils on August 15, 1859.[2] Although the Archdiocese of Baltimore does not enjoy "primatial" status, it is the premier episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of America, as "prerogative of place".

Within the archdiocese are 518,000 Catholics, 145 parishes, 545 priests (244 diocesan priests, 196 priests resident in diocese), 159 permanent deacons, 55 brothers, 803 sisters, 205 lay extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, five hospitals, 28 aged homes, 7 diocesan/parish high schools, 13 private high schools, and 4 Catholic colleges/universities.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has two major seminaries: St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore and Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg.[3][4]

This archdiocese was featured in the Netflix documentary The Keepers exposing the sexual abuse history at Archbishop Keough High School and the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik in 1969. It was revealed in late 2016 that the Archdiocese of Baltimore had paid off numerous settlements since 2011 for abuse victims.[5]


Before and during the American Revolutionary War, the Catholics in Great Britain's thirteen colonies in America were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of the London District, in England. After the Treaty of Paris, signed September 3, 1783, ended the war, Maryland clergy delivered a petition to the Holy See, on November 6, 1783, for permission for the missionaries in the United States to nominate a superior who would have some of the powers of a bishop. In response, Pope Pius VI on June 6, 1784, confirmed Father John Carroll, who had been selected by his brother priests, as Superior of the Missions in the newly independent thirteen United States of North America, with power to give the sacrament of confirmation. This act established a hierarchy in the United States and removed the Catholic Church in the U.S. from the authority of the Vicar Apostolic of the London District.

The Holy See then established the Apostolic Prefecture of the United States on November 26, 1784. Because Maryland was one of the few regions of the colonial United States with a substantial Roman Catholic population, the apostolic prefecture was elevated to become the Diocese of Baltimore—the first diocese in the United States—on November 6, 1789.[6] In 1790, Father Carroll traveled to England where he was ordained and consecrated as a bishop in Lulworth Castle in Dorset, by Bishop Charles Walmesley, O.S.B. The first American-born Catholic priest, William Matthews, was ordained by Carroll at St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral in the Diocese of Baltimore in 1800.[7]

On April 8, 1808, Pope Pius VII erected the suffragan dioceses of Boston,[8] New York,[9] Philadelphia,[10] and Bardstown in Bardstown, Kentucky, which moved in 1841 to the larger city of Louisville,[11] from the territory of the Diocese of Baltimore and simultaneously raised it to the rank of metropolitan archdiocese, thereby making it the "Archdiocese of Baltimore". The newly established "Province of Baltimore"—whose metropolitan was the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore—comprised all of the states and territories of the nation.

The archdiocese again lost territory in following decades with the creation of the Diocese of Richmond (Virginia) on July 11, 1820;[12] and the Diocese of Wilmington (Delaware) on March 3, 1868.[13] In between, a part of the District of Columbia had been retroceded to Virginia in 1846, so in 1850 that new piece of Virginia was transferred to the Diocese of Richmond.

On July 22, 1939, the City of Washington was erected as a separate archdiocese.[14] The archbishop of Baltimore, Michael J. Curley, was simultaneously named the first archbishop of the new Archdiocese of Washington (D.C.) and continued to administer the two archdioceses as a single unit — in persona episcopi.[15] The see was temporarily renamed the Archdiocese of Baltimore-Washington, in recognition of the nation's capital. Eight years later, on November 15, 1947, Patrick A. O'Boyle was appointed the second archbishop — and first residential archbishop — of the Archdiocese of Washington,[14][15] which consequently began to function as a separate diocese. Therefore, the territory of the "new" archdiocese — consisting of the District of Columbia and the two Washington suburban and three southern counties of Maryland — were permanently separated from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which was thus reduced to its current extent[16] and resumed its previous name.

From 1808 until 1847, Baltimore was the only archdiocese in the United States and therefore the entire country was one ecclesiastical province.[6] As the nation's population grew and waves of Catholic immigrants arrived, the Holy See continued to erect new dioceses and elevate certain others to the status of metropolitan archdioceses, which simultaneously became metropolitan sees of new ecclesiastical provinces. Thus, the Province of Baltimore gradually became smaller and smaller. In 1846, the Diocese of Oregon City, now Portland, Oregon was raised to an archdiocese. Following in 1847, the then Diocese of Saint Louis was elevated to an archdiocese and metropolitan see of the new Province of Saint Louis. Also in 1850, the Diocese of New York was raised to an archdiocese. In 1875, the dioceses of Boston and Philadelphia were likewise elevated.

The archdiocese began to publish its diocesan newspaper, The Baltimore Catholic Review since 1913 as the successor to the earlier diocesan publication The Catholic Mirror, published 1833 to 1908. The name has since been shortened to The Catholic Review. In 2012, it changed from weekly to biweekly issues and in December 2015, it transformed again to a monthly magazine.[17]

Plenary councils of Baltimore[edit]

The Plenary Councils of Baltimore were three national meetings of Catholic bishops in the United States in 1852, 1866 and 1884 in Baltimore, Maryland.

  • First Plenary Council of Baltimore (1852): among the decrees were one that required immigrant priests to provide a letter of reference from their previous bishops, and a requirement that marriage banns be published.
  • Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1866): promulgated the custom of the Churching of women, the blessing of women after giving birth, focusing on blessing and thanksgiving; and set the age for first communion at ten years of age, as well as, handling other ecclesiastical matters.
  • Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884): was presided over by Archbishop of Baltimore James Gibbons as Apostolic Delegate. It set six Holy Days of Obligation, and appointed a commission to draft a catechism, and addressed other subjects.

Notable people[edit]

  • St. Elizabeth Ann Seton - Seton founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1809. A year later, she opened the first free Catholic school for girls in the United States. Many trace the modern Catholic school system in America to Seton's Emmitsburg institution.[18] In 1975, Seton became the first American-born person to be canonized a saint.
  • Mother Mary Lange - Born in Cuba, Elizabeth Clarisse Lange migrated to United States in the early 19th century. She eventually settled in Baltimore and opened a free school in her home where she educated black children who faced intense prejudice and were denied access to most schools. In 1828, Lange founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first sustained religious order for women of African descent in the United States. She also opened what would later become St. Frances Academy - the first Catholic School for African-American children in the U.S. In 1991, the Catholic Church opened a cause of sainthood for Lange, naming her a "servant of God."[19]

Sexual abuse cases[edit]

In 2016 the Archdiocese of Baltimore confirmed that settlements had been paid to past students of Seton Keough High School who were sexual abused by Father A. Joseph Maskell, a priest at the school from 1967 to 1975.[20][21] In January 1970, a popular English and drama teacher at Archbishop Keough, Sister Cathy Cesnik, was found murdered in the outskirts of the city of Baltimore. Her murder was never solved and is the topic of a true crime documentary The Keepers that was released on Netflix on May 19, 2017.[22] Maskell, who died in 2001,[23] was long fingered as a lead suspect in her murder.[24] Though never formally charged, the Archdiocese of Baltimore settled with 16 of Maskell's possible victims for a total of $472,000 by 2017.[25]

A report released by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on August 14, 2018, singled out Bishop and future Cardinal William Keeler for transferring abusive Pennsylvania priest Father Arthur Long from the Diocese of Harrisburg to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.[26] On August 15, 2018, one day after the Pennsylvania report was published, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced that a pre K-8 Catholic school scheduled to be opened in 2018 and named for Keeler would no longer bear his name.[27] Despite a denial from Long's religious order and the Archdiocese of Baltimore that Long abused children while serving the Archdiocese of Baltimore,[28] a leaked church memo written in 1995, the year Long was removed from ministry, revealed that accusations of "inappropriate behavior" had surfaced against Long in 1991 and 1992 during his time in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and the Pennsylvania report noted that Keeler was notified of accusations of Long sexually abusing children when he was serving as Bishop of Harrisburg in 1987.[26] Long died in 2004.[28]

In March 2019, Archbishop Lori banned accused former Archdiocese of Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Gordon Bennett from practicing any form of ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the suffragan Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston.[29][30][31] In April 2019, the Archdiocese of Baltimore added the names of 23 deceased clergy to a list of accused clergy which the Archdiocese published in 2002.[32][33] Long, a Jesuit, was among those added to the list.[32][33]


"Prerogative of place"[edit]

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is led by the Archbishop of Baltimore and a corps of auxiliary bishops who assist in the administration of the archdiocese as part of a larger curia. Sixteen men have served as Archbishop of Baltimore; As of 2012, the archbishop is William E. Lori.[34]

In 1858, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide), with the approval of Pope Pius IX, conferred "Prerogative of Place" on the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This decree gives the archbishop of Baltimore precedence over all other archbishops of the United States (but not cardinals) in councils, gatherings, and meetings of whatever kind of the hierarchy (in conciliis, coetibus et comitiis quibuscumque), regardless of the seniority of other archbishops in promotion or ordination.[6]


The archbishop is concurrently the pastor of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland in north Baltimore and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (old Baltimore Cathedral). The older cathedral is located on Cathedral Hill above downtown, near the Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood. Both are called co-cathedrals. The archbishop appoints a rector for each of the co-cathedrals. The basilica, built in 1806–1821, is the first cathedral constructed in the United States (within its boundaries at the time). It is considered the mother church of the United States. During the time from the first bishop John Carroll's installation in 1790 to the dedication of the old Baltimore Cathedral in 1821, the bishop's throne (cathedra) was at St. Peter's Church (first parish in the diocese, founded 1770). It was located two blocks south on the northwestern corner of North Charles Street and West Saratoga Street, serving as the pro-cathedral with its attached rectory, school and surrounding cemetery. Old St. Peter's was across the street from the "Mother Church of the Anglican Church" in Baltimore, Old St. Paul's Church, with four successive buildings at the site beginning in 1730 at the southeast corner of Charles and Saratoga streets in downtown overlooking the harbor. St. Peter's Roman Catholic parish was razed in 1841.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is one of only five United States dioceses that have two churches serving as cathedrals in the same city, the others being the Diocese of Honolulu; the Diocese of Burlington, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.[35] Other dioceses with two cathedrals have them in separate cities.[36]


Bishop John Carroll lays the cornerstone in 1806 for the Cathedral of the Assumption on Cathedral Hill in Baltimore, first Roman Catholic cathedral to be constructed in the United States.


  1. John Carroll (1784–1808), elevated to Archbishop


  1. John Carroll (1808–1815)
  2. Leonard Neale (1815–1817; coadjutor archbishop 1795-1815)
  3. Ambrose Maréchal (1817–1828)
  4. James Whitfield (1828–1834; coadjutor archbishop 1828)
  5. Samuel Eccleston (1834–1851; coadjutor archbishop 1834)
  6. Francis Patrick Kenrick (1851–1863)
  7. Martin John Spalding (1864–1872)
  8. James Roosevelt Bayley (1872–1877)
  9. James Gibbons (1877–1921) (Cardinal in 1886)
  10. Michael Joseph Curley (1921–1947)
  11. Francis Patrick Keough (1947–1961)
  12. Lawrence Shehan (1961–1974; coadjutor archbishop 1961) (Cardinal in 1965)
  13. William Donald Borders (1974–1989)
  14. William Henry Keeler (1989–2007) (Cardinal in 1994)
  15. Edwin Frederick O'Brien (2007–2011), appointed Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Cardinal in 2012)
  16. William Edward Lori (2012–present)

Auxiliary bishops[edit]

Former auxiliary bishops[edit]

Other priests who became bishops[edit]

Priests appointed, but never ordained, as bishops[edit]


High schools[edit]


Ecclesiastical province[edit]

Ecclesiastical province of Baltimore

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "St. Ignatius Feast Day – The Archdiocese of Baltimore". Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  2. ^ "Precedence". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York City: Robert Appleton Company. 1911. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  3. ^ Kay, Liz F. (July 14, 2007). "New home for a new archbishop". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  4. ^ Corrigan, G.M. (August 4, 2007). "Archbishop O'Brien to begin stewardship with listening tour". The Washington Examiner.
  5. ^ Knezevich, Alison (November 15, 2016). "Baltimore archdiocese pays settlements to a dozen people alleging abuse by late priest". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  6. ^ a b c "Our History". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
  7. ^ Curran, Robert Emmett (1993). The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University: From Academy to University (1789–1889). 1 (First ed.). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-87840-485-8. OCLC 794228400. Archived from the original on September 9, 2018. Retrieved March 15, 2018.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  8. ^ Lally, Robert Johnson. "Historical Sketch of The Archdiocese of Boston". Archdiocese of Boston. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  9. ^ "The Archdiocese: Timeline". Archdiocese of New York. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  10. ^ "A Brief History of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia". Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  11. ^ "Brief History of the Archdiocese". Archdiocese of Louisville. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  12. ^ "History of the Diocese & Diocesan Statistics". Diocese of Richmond. Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  13. ^ "A Brief History of the Diocese of Wilmington". Diocese of Wilmington. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  14. ^ a b Most Rev. Michael J. Curley Archived 2015-02-21 at the Wayback Machine. Archdiocese of Baltimore. Retrieved on 2016-11-19.
  15. ^ a b Archbishops of the Modern Era (1851 - 2012) Archived 2016-11-20 at the Wayback Machine. Archdiocese of Baltimore. Retrieved on 2016-11-19.
  16. ^ "About Us". Archdiocese of Washington. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  17. ^ "Catholic Review History". The Catholic Review. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  18. ^ Matysek Jr., George (October 30, 2014). "Saints among us". The Catholic Review.
  19. ^ Swift, Tim (October 16, 2019). "Meet Mother Mary Lange, the namesake of the Archdiocese of Baltimore's newest school". The Catholic Review.
  20. ^ Knezevich, Alison. "Baltimore archdiocese pays settlements to a dozen people alleging abuse by late priest".
  21. ^ Nicholson, Rebecca (15 July 2017). "The Keepers: 'I've dealt with survivors and they're sickened by the church's response'". the Guardian.
  22. ^ "Is This Netflix Docuseries the Next Making a Murderer?". Vogue. April 19, 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  23. ^ "Here's What Happened to Father Maskell After 'The Keepers'". Inverse. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  24. ^ John Meagher (2017-06-11). "On the dark trail of Fr Joseph Maskell, subject of 'The Keepers' documentary who fled US amid child abuse allegations". Retrieved 2019-12-11.
  25. ^ Knezevich, Alison (6 June 2017). "'Keepers' priest Maskell spent time in Ireland, now under scrutiny". Retrieved 2019-12-11.
  26. ^ a b Wood, Pamela. "Keeler accused of bringing abusive priest to Baltimore archdiocese".
  27. ^ Amara, Kate (15 August 2018). "New Catholic school in Baltimore will no longer be named for Keeler".
  28. ^ a b Wood, Pamela. "Catholic Church: No reports of abuse in Maryland by priest accused in Pennsylvania". Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  29. ^ "Archbishop Announces Completion of Preliminary Investigation of Allegations Against Bishop Michael Bransfield, Imposes Ministerial Restrictions on Bishop Bransfield and Former Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Gordon Bennett, S.J." Archdiocese of Baltimore. 2019-03-11. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  30. ^ Pitts, Jonathan M. "Former Baltimore bishop barred from ministering in Catholic archdiocese after allegations of sexual misconduct". Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b Pitts, Jonathan M. "Archdiocese of Baltimore discloses the names of 23 deceased clergy accused of child sexual abuse". Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  33. ^ a b "List of Priests and Brothers Accused of Child Sexual Abuse". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  34. ^ "RINUNCE E NOMINE: NOMINA DELL'ARCIVESCOVO DI BALTIMORE (U.S.A.)" [Waivers and Appointments: Appointment of Archbishop of Baltimore (U.S.A.)] (PDF) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  35. ^ Co-cathedral
  36. ^ "Cathedrals in United States". Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  37. ^ "Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary". Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  38. ^ "National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton". Seton Heritage. Retrieved 6 October 2014.

External links[edit]

Media related to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 39°17′38″N 76°37′02″W / 39.29389°N 76.61722°W / 39.29389; -76.61722