A recent article in the Scranton Times-Tribune identified another priest in the Diocese of Scranton who has been accused of sexually abusing children. The headline accompanying the story exclaimed, “The Diocese comes clean on Abusive Priest.” The Diocese did not really come clean; they were forced to respond to a reporter’s inquiry about allegations that Father Robert Gibson had sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy in 1973-1974. As a result of the article, Father Gibson is no longer flying under the radar. His dirty little secret is out in the open, and the Diocese of Scranton has had to admit that they were hiding another pedophile.
The 13-year-old boy in the story was me. For more than 30 years, I kept that secret to myself. I was confused, ashamed, and embarrassed by what happened. Mostly I was convinced that no one would believe my story. Gibbson was a popular priest at my school and in the community. I was raised in an Irish Catholic family where priests were seen as God’s representative on earth. We were taught early on that we were to obey them without question. Father Gibson knew this all too well and exploited it for his perverse pleasure.
For all these years, I have carried the burden of being silent. I am no longer willing to do so. I have lived with the effects of this abuse and have seen it manifested in failed relationships, the inability to trust even those closest to me, and a lack of self-confidence and esteem. While the physical effects have passed, I still struggle daily with the emotional and mental consequences.
I have been fortunate in having a family who has been very supportive, more than I could have asked for considering the damage I have caused through the years. My parents and siblings have also rallied behind me. I realize now that I am a fortunate man.
I am not saying that my behavior through the years is excused by revealing my secret. I am still responsible for my actions and inactions. But I have asked for understanding, and I have been granted that by those closest to me.
While I have to set my own house in order and find a way to move forward, I also think that I owe the other victims of Father Gibson, and others like him, an opportunity to speak up and come forward. In the Scranton Times-Tribune article, the spokesman for the Diocese of Scranton admitted to four reports by victims about Father Gibson. Until the article appeared, there was no public acknowledgment that he was a sexual predator, even though the Diocese knew about his activities. I have already spoken with one of his other victims, and I was amazed at the similarity of our stories. I am confident that there are many more than four victims, and I hope more people will come forward knowing that they are not alone and that whatever happened was not their fault. I also hope that as more people come forward, those who have protected Father Gibson and others like him will be held accountable for their actions.
This is where I want to start the conversation. I hope it will be cathartic for me, and I am hoping you will offer your thoughts as I sort all this out.