Catholic officials knew of teacher’s abuse, court files indicate

John Merzbacher, sent to prison, now seeks release

By Tricia Bishop (The Baltimore Sun, 11/25/2012)

The Catholic-school teacher had a pre-teen student pinned to the ground in his Baltimore classroom, the girl’s blouse open and her chest exposed when the doorknob suddenly turned and the school principal — a nun — burst in.

The screaming girl thought she was about to be rescued, according to court records that describe the scene at the Catholic Community Middle School in Locust Point. But Sister Eileen Weisman, who had a key to the room, merely chastised the teacher, John Joseph Merzbacher, for locking the door.

Even on his way to 4 life sentences “Merz” continued to smirk.

“[Weisman] looked down and her exact words were ‘John, oh John, I told you never to lock the classroom door,'” Linda Tiburzi, who described the incident in a civil court deposition in the mid-1990s, said in a recent interview. “And then she looked at me and said ‘I never want you staying after school again.’ … That’s all she said, that’s all she did, there was nothing, there was no investigation, there were no questions.”

That incident is one of several outlined in court documents, analyzed in a Baltimore Sun investigation, indicating that Weisman and other Catholic officials were aware of the lay teacher’s sexual abuse of students in the 1970s but did not report it until Merzbacher was criminally investigated in the 1990s.

Recent accounts from more than two dozen former pupils and a review of hundreds of pages of documents describe several situations in which critics claim the church had opportunities to protect schoolchildren from Merzbacher, but did not notify police of the allegations against the teacher.

Continue reading “Catholic officials knew of teacher’s abuse, court files indicate” at The Baltimore Sun.

…In court records, former students describe Merzbacher, now 71, as a charmer who drew them in with rock records, forbidden foul language, alcohol and marijuana, then terrorized them. The potbellied English teacher beat the boys and humiliated the girls, engaging in sexual acts with both genders and forcing the kids to turn against one another, his accusers claim in the documents. He once fired a revolver in class, students testified during Merzbacher’s trial, and routinely used the weapon to threaten children with death.

…Weisman failed to investigate after finding Merzbacher in a boiler room with a male student when he was supposed to be teaching. And she brushed off parent and student complaints about the teacher, including one in which a father said Merzbacher unclasped his daughter’s bra. In another, a girl said she spotted a female child sitting on Merzbacher’s lap with her underpants down around her feet; the principal is said to have explained that the child “was having a problem with the elastic in her underwear.”


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