Controversies about priests re-surfaced after Netflix released the 2017 documentary The Keepers. Ryan White created this film about the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in Baltimore sometime in November 1969. Sister Cathy was a nun under the order of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the order that runs the Archbishop Keogh High School. Sister Cathy was an English teacher.
The 7-part documentary shows how the investigation went on during that time. It seemed that Sister Cathy was about to expose child abuse that were happening in the school. Accusing fingers point to the school’s chaplain, Fr. Joseph Maskell. Not only did the documentary followed through the investigation, it also exposes decades of child abuse within Keogh, and how the victims were silenced.
Director White’s aunt was a student of Sister Cathy. Two of the alumnae, Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Fitzgerald Schaub, got the wheels turning. They loved Sister Cathy as their teacher and the nun’s death became a mystery to them. The two started gathering information. Gemma was more on interviews, while Abbie was more of the researcher. They interviewed key people in the investigation, including the former students of Archbishop Keogh High School who were victims of Fr. Maskell.
JANE DOE AND JANE ROE
It also touched the 1994 case of Jane Doe and Jane Roe against the Fr. Maskell and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. However, the case was dismissed, given that the notion of repressed memory is not admissible because the period to file a case has elapsed.
In the documentary, Jane Doe was identified as Jean Hargadon Wehner, while Jane Roe was identified as Teresa Lancaster. Both don’t know the identity of each other was until the documentary was filmed.
CREATED A RIPPLE
Although The Keepers‘ premise was “Who Killed Sister Cathy?”, the documentary centered on Jean’s story because it was her testimony of seeing Sister Cathy’s dead body with maggots that could have been critical in the whole investigation. The abuse the two girls got from Fr. Maskell and the 1994 case has created a rippling effect inside the Catholic church and within the community.
Fr. Maskell has died. Until now, no one claims responsible for Sister Cathy’s death. The Keepers ended with no conclusion as to who pulled the trigger of the gun that shot her. Uncovering a cover-up plus a massive intervention by the Catholic church has made this case unsolved. The documentary may provoke anger for those who could relate to this same kind of sexual violence.
Yet, it was a bittersweet victory for both Jane Doe and Jane Roe. They became the voice of the victims of Fr. Maskell’s abuse.