The Keepers

'The Keepers' (Ep. 4): Suffering from Remembrances

Questions about the reliability of testimony pertaining to recovered memories puts the investigation into Sister Cathy's death at risk on the Netflix docu-series. 

Details about the immense coverup of a history of abuse at Archibishop Keough High School emerge in Episode 3. But as evidence is gathered against the school, questions about the reliability of certain narratives put everything in jeopardy.

In the early 90's Jean and a woman identified by courts as Jane Roe took out a lawsuit against the school.

Contemporarily, a detective who spoke to “hundreds” of victims comes forward to share his story under conditions of complete anonymity. Known in the documentary as “Deep Throat,” the detective admits that attempts were made to bring suits against Father Maskell in the past, but that state attorneys, specifically Sharon May, repeatedly thwarted attempts for nebulous and unclear reasons.

A former employee of Archbishop Keough High School had handed over information about buried psychological documents in a cemetery. Deep Throat says that the boxes contained images of naked girls. The evidence – according to Deep Throat – at that point was clear, but state attorneys did little to act on this.

An recent interview with May reveals that she has no real memory of photos in the boxes buried in the cemetery. She does recall numerous complaints against Maskell, but argues that legally each case against him had no way to stand on it's own. “I didn't disbelieve the victims,” she says strategically, although she similarly seems to know something was going on. She maintains that she never was pressured by the Catholic Church to cease investigations. So, who is lying: Deep Throat or May?

Maskell fled to a hospital, making him completely inaccessible, as evidence mounted against him. Eventually he made his way to Ireland – although no one knows under what circumstances and how he lived there.

Further testimony from Jane Roe revealed that a gynecologist named Dr. Richter was deeply involved with Maskell and the alleged series of abuses against girls. Richter, on the record, had admitted to allowing Maskell into examinations with girls – but maintained innocence about other accusations.

The case against Maskell mounted as debates around the reality of repressed memories roared in the public imagination. At the time, the discourse around the psychology of trauma was less sophisticated and it was quite common the be skeptical about certain kinds of psychotherapy. The defense employed a series of well-respected yet deeply Catholic psychiatrists and other experts who contested the credibility of Doe and Roe on that basis.

A judge ultimately ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on the abuse allegations and that their recovered memories did not change the circumstances of that statute – meaning that the case was dismissed entirely. Whener was devastated and essentially went into hiding, refusing to discuss the situation in public at all — until now.

Decades later, the Facebook group which is attempting to solve the mystery of Sister Cathy's death has become a hub of survivors communicating openly and honestly about their experiences, making their determination to find justice even more resolved. But what can be done now?

[Photo: Netflix]

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