This will be a departure from my regular content, because it’s not horror related. Believe it or not, I do watch other things. While there are no monsters or angry, restless spirits as we normally see them, there are human monsters and there are restless spirits of the past that still harbor anger. The Keepers first came to my attention when a friend of mine who knows how much I love true crime told me about it. I was intrigued. The mystery surrounding who killed Sister Cathy Cesnik is one that is thick with deception, deeply disturbing, and runs deeper than anyone had thought possible. I have pretty strong thoughts on organized religion and even stronger thoughts on the Catholic Church, an entity that is so shrouded in controversy and so heavily protected, it makes you wonder if there is any part of it that has been left untouched by corruption. This series is not only telling the story of a woman who can no longer speak for herself, but it also tells the story of the living survivors this twisted tragedy left in its wake.
The Catholic Church is no stranger to controversy. Allegations of sexual abuse against the Church began in the late 1980’s. While there weren’t many, they alleged that the abuse had been going on for decades and that while the church was aware of it, they made little effort to stop it. They mostly just moved priests around to different parishes where the abuse was allowed to continue. It wasn’t until the Boston Globe published their in-depth investigation in 2002 did the abuse garner worldwide media coverage. What does all of this have to do with Sister Cathy Cesnik and my feelings toward the Church? Quite a lot. Let’s start with the basics. Sister Cathy taught English at the Archbishop Keogh High School. An all-girls catholic high school in Baltimore. She was close in age with the girls. Only 25. She was kind, intelligent, and loved teaching. She went missing in November of 1969 and was found dead in January of 1970. The events that led up to her death and the allegations made against Father Joseph Maskell, the schools Guidance Counselor and Chaplain, can be summed up in one word: abhorrent. Sitting there in my room, listening to the stories of what this man did to these women (and men). The abuse they endured was enough to make me feel physically sick (this is not an easy thing to do). Ultimately, this abuse and the discovery of it is what lead Sister Cathy to her untimely death. But by whose hand?
I am a true crime junkie. From books to movies to TV shows, I love true crime. I have a huge fascination with serial killers and occult crimes. I do have a bachelor’s degree in criminal psychology, after all. I judge true crime shows pretty harshly, and this show exceeded each and every one of my expectations. Director Ryan White has only a handful of previous credits, all of which are documentaries. For his first deep dive into true crime, he did an exceptional job. The cinematography, the music, the presentation of facts, everything was crafted together to make a stellar and incredibly haunting piece of work. While it is only 7 episodes, they pack a punch. To hear the survivor’s firsthand accounts of the abuse they endured at the hands of Father Joseph Maskell was harrowing and deeply disturbing. This is coming from someone who sees deeply disturbing things every day (I work in law enforcement). Things that would make any normal, sane human being ill. When you strip away the many layers of this case and get down to the bare bones of it all, where are we lead to? Back to the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik which, as of now, remains unsolved.
There is still so much of this story that remains in the shadows. There are still so many questions that are left unanswered. The maddening thing about all of this is that no one has received justice. Not Sister Cathy, not the survivors, not the families of those affected. The interesting thing about this case is that another young woman by the name of Joyce Malecki went missing and was found murdered not long after Sister Cathy. At first, no one suspected the two events could be connected, but it was revealed that her family had attended a parish where Father Maskell was a priest. He even sent her mother a sympathy card after her death. Does this imply that the two murders of these women are connected? Not necessarily, but it leads one to wonder. As of now, the murder of Joyce Malecki, too, remains unsolved.
Father Joseph A. Maskell died in 2001. Whatever secrets he had went with him to the grave. There is no retribution, no justice, and still no answers. With the production of this show, new evidence has come to light and both cases have been reopened. If it were not for the tireless efforts of Keough Alumni Gemma Hoskins and Abby Schaub, none of this would have ever happened. These cases would have sat on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust as the decades ticked by. The Keepers is a prime example of the corruption that lies within religion. That the holiest of people can do truly terrible things. In the end, two young women lost their lives, more young women and men had their innocence stolen from them, and The Church remains silent. Everyone is going to believe what they want and people will form their own conclusions, but The Keepers will not relent. They will continue their work, searching for truth and justice. Speaking for those that no longer have a voice but deserve to have their story be heard. It is a story of lies, deceit, death, pain, love, the strength it takes to do the right thing and the all too real and awful consequences speaking out carries.
If you want more information on the case or you have a tip to share please visit: www.whokilledsistercathy.org