I have been corresponding with the Bishop of Scranton. The exchange has been frustrating, infuriating and absolutely exhausting. I firmly believe that words are important, that words have meaning. If you have read anything I have written in the previous 39 posts I have put in this blog, it should be of no surprise to you that I read and reread letters and emails to understand what is being said and, more importantly, how it is being said.
I had written a letter to the bishop in hopes of gaining some insight into the lack of action taken against Father Gibson. The reply that came from the bishop was most likely drafted by a subordinate for the bishop’s signature. The bishop seems to speak through proxies, as a matter of course, when dealing with people who have been victimized by one of his priests and then again by the diocese.
The premise of the reply was that I misunderstood actions and statements by the diocese in the handling of Father Gibson. The bishop in the first paragraph stated “I pray that I may be able to help clear up so much of what is troubling you.” Therein lies the rub. Bishop Martino, the only way you can clear up so much of what is troubling me is to explain to me and other victims why the Bishops of Scranton protected animals like Father Gibson.
In his letter, the Bishop used terms such as “abusive behavior”, “sexual misconduct” and “encounters with Father Gibson”. I do not know who drafted the Bishops response, but I think that they drank the diocesan Kool Aid. Allow me the courtesy of being blunt. When I was 13, I was repeatedly raped by Robert Gibson. It was not an “encounter”; it was a violent, devastating, brutal series of assaults and a complete violation of not only my body, but of my sense of trust, safety, faith and personal worth. The term “sexual misconduct” was also not accurate. It was statutory rape of a child. Your Excellency, do me and other victims of your pedophile priests the favor of not using words to make theirs actions more palpable to your tender sensibilities. Words have meaning, and the words you used to refer to his criminal behavior only serve to minimize the magnitude of his crimes and marginalize victims. Had a teacher, police officer or any other person in the community committed crimes similar to Father Gibson they would not have enjoyed the care and protection of their employer. They would have been in prison and rightly so!
Father Gibson’s case was not referred to the Vatican by either Bishop Timlin or Bishop Martino. Why this man is not a candidate for a canonical trial or excommunication is beyond me. Is the Vatican even aware of all the priests who have admitted to their bishops that they had raped and molested children?
The Bishop of Scranton’s continued support for this man is a continuation of the abuse that he inflicted years ago. Even though he is banned from ministry, he is still a Roman Catholic priest. That, in itself, is an insult to his victims and is an act of fraud committed against parishioners. He should be reported, he should go through the process. The fact that you had him away in the Vianney Renewal Center, a plush alternative to prison conveniently located out of the jurisdiction where he committed his crimes, does not excuse his behavior or mitigate the Bishop’s responsibility to take appropriate action against this man. Had the Bishops of Scranton been thinking of the safety of the children in the Diocese, they would have handed him over to the police and supported prosecution when he was initially reported. Instead, they circled the wagons, protected the criminal and continued to victimize those who are most vulnerable. I wonder how many confidentiality agreements were signed by victims as a part of an insignificant settlement.
I have agreed, in principle, to meeting with the Bishop of Scranton to discuss concerns I still have. I did make the demand that such a meeting would not be held in a diocesan office. I have no intention of going to the Bishop’s fortress of solitude. I recommended that we meet on the campus of the University of Scranton. In the typical style of an organization that is oblivious to the victims of its pedophile priests, the Bishop recommended that I meet him at the Jesuit Residence on the campus. I am loathe to point out the obvious to the Bishop, but I will in case he is reading this. Bishop Martino, I was raped in a rectory, I have no interest in meeting you in a residence for priests! I am sure you can borrow an office in the Alumni House or in one of the Administration buildings. If your staff can’t figure out how to do that, maybe you should get yourself a new staff.