Spin is very important for an organization as large as a Catholic Diocese. In addition to the army of lobbyists they employ to keep legal avenues closed to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of some of their priests, they employ a communications director who serves as the mouthpiece for the organization. What this voice for the Vicar of Slocum Hollow does is inform the media, and anyone else who will listen, of how deeply the Bishop feels about the victims of his rogue clergy. In a letter to the editor in the Scranton Times Tribune published in response to an article about another victim of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton, Mr. William Genello, the Diocese’s Communications Director, vents his righteous indignation at the paper and insists that the Diocese is given a bad wrap for it’s dealings with victims of sexual abuse. In his letter to the editor, Mr. Genello stated “…Bishop Joseph F. Martino always reaches out personally to each victim to express his deep sorrow.
This may be shocking, but his statement was not true. It was at best inaccurate and at worst a lie. The Communications Director was spinning a bad situation and he was probably hoping that what he said was in fact, a fact. It wasn’t and I called him out on it. I actually called his office and left him a message. The Bishop of Scranton never reached out to me personally to express his deep sorrow at any time after I reported to the abuse to the Diocese in July 2007. In fact, no priest, monsignor or bishop from the Diocese has ever expressed anything to me about the fact that as a 13 year old I had been subjected to the perverted whims of a pedophile wearing a Roman Collar.
Much to his credit, the Communications Director returned my call. In our conversation about this alleged pastoral expression of sorrow, Mr. Genello explained to me that it was all a matter of semantics. I, as the victim of the abuse, did not get anything resembling personal contact from the Bishop because the Bishop expresses this sorrow in a meeting with the victim. But the victim had to set up the meeting, and come to the Bishop. I guess the measure of a contrite Bishop is the amount of time he grants you to come to his office to hear your story. The invitation to come to see him is not made by the Bishop himself, instead some proxy makes the gesture of inviting you to request a meeting. It is all so clear. If you wish to get an apology, request it, and then you come to the office in Scranton to receive it. I am sure there is paperwork involved, in triplicate. So simple and yet so completely ridiculous.
My father thinks that Bishop Martino should hop into his Chrysler and drive on down here to Chesapeake, Virginia and make the apology to me in person. He also thinks that the Bishop should come alone and actually drive his own car. He has my address, I am sure some lowly monsignor could go on Google Maps and get directions for the Bishop.
I know I am being flip here, I am allowed, it is my blog after all. My point here is that a rational man would come to the conclusion that the Bishop himself communicated in some meaningful way directly to all victims. That is the message the Communications Director conveyed through his letter to the editor. Mr. Genello seems to think that an offer of a meeting from one of the Bishop’s subordinates is equal to the Bishop reaching out “personally”. If the Bishop, himself, wanted to reach out to me, he would have done so already. The Bishop’s silence speaks volumes. This issue is not a priority to the man.
As for a meeting with the Bishop, I was not given any compelling reason why that would be of any benefit to me. Aside from the opportunity to swing by the bookstore at the Universtity of Scranton for a new hooded sweatshirt, I really cannot see anything to be gained by driving the 350+ miles to Scranton. If there is some benefit to my making the trip, the diocese has failed to communicate to me what that might be. I guess the Communications Director is still working on that.