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Helene Murtha: Catholic minister admits to sexually abusing high school students

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The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced on July 25 that Seton Keough High School religion teacher, Helene Murtha, 58, was fired after admitting to sexually abusing three young female students in the mid-1980s. As of this writing, the former minister and religion teacher has not been criminally charged.

Sean Caine, spokesperson for the archdiocese, said that a former student of Murtha’s came forward earlier this week with accusations of child sexual abuse, according to The Baltimore Sun. The archdiocese shared those allegations with police in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Lt. Robert McCullough with the Baltimore County Police Department said that "We investigated it, and the suspect was not charged, based on the victim's wishes."

CBS News in Baltimore quoted Caine as saying “We have absolutely no place in our church for anyone who would harm a child.” The archdiocese released a full statement disclosing the abuse allegations and also sent out a letter “to the families of current students to alert them to the allegations.”

Murtha first started teaching in Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School, an all-girls Catholic school, in 1977. In 1987, Archbishop Keough merged Seton High School to form Seton Keough High School. Murtha continued to minister and teach at Seton Keough until 1992. Murtha was appointed to the position of associate dean for student life at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland - now Notre Dame of Maryland University - from 1992 to 2010, but returned to Seton Keough “first as a substitute teacher and then, beginning in 2011, as a full-time religion teacher and member of the school's Campus Ministry Team.”

The archdiocese confronted Murtha after the one victim came forward accusing her former religion teacher of having “a series of sexual encounters” with her while she went to Seton Keough High School, according to the archdiocese’s statement, shared by The Catholic Review. And that’s when Murtha admitted to having sexual relations with not one, but three, of her former high school students.

The incidents reportedly occurred at Murtha’s home, at the high school, and at the Monsignor O’Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, [Maryland,] where Murtha helped to supervise retreats and other activities for youths and young adults. Murtha’s employment has been terminated and the investigation is ongoing. Counseling assistance has been and will be offered to those affected.

In their statement, the Archdiocese of Baltimore reaffirmed their commitment to “protecting children and helping to heal victims of abuse.” The archdiocese encourages “anyone who has any knowledge of any child sexual abuse to come forward, and to report it immediately to civil authorities.” And if clergy or church personnel are suspected of abuse, the archdiocese asks that you call the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection Hotline at 1-866- 417-7469.

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