A few thoughts on the Diocese of Scranton’s Annual Appeal and the Collection for the Care and Education of Priests

Rachel, who contributed the only guest post on this blog to date, made an interesting observation on the failure of the Bishop of Scranton to meet the goals for the Diocese Annual Appeal. This year, for the first time, the Diocese came up $274G short of this year’s goal of $5.3M.

Martino smallSince the Diocese usually meets the Annual Appeal goal, there is speculation on the reason for this year’s failure at attaining the $5.3M threshold of success. The Bishop was quick to point out the difficult financial times we are in as the reason for smaller pledges. Others insist that the shortfall was due to a protest that withheld funds because of the Bishops’ draconian way of doing business in the Diocese. The Bishop has raised the ire of some parishioners and other Northeast Pennsylvania residents by taking a hard line on a variety of social, religious and political issues. Bishop Martino has a reputation for raising the blood pressure of many of his detractors.  Some even may argue that the Diocese’s handling of pedophile priests and poor treatment of victims may have had an impact on the failure to achieve the donation goal.

From my vantage point down here in sunny Virginia, I see this all a little differently.  The Diocese claims that more individual donors contributed this year. While the number of donors may have increased, the dollar value of the pledges was lower than those in past years. I am not one for believing what comes out of Chancery in Scranton, but I will note that the Bishop seems to have achieved 94.9% of his goal. This feat is not too shabby considering the economic crisis gripping this country.  Had the economy not been in the sewer this year, one could reasonably assume that the Bully of Wyoming Avenue would have made the $5.3M.  If the 5.1% shortfall in this year’s Annual Drive was a protest, it was an anemic one, at best.

What I have a hard time believing is that the parishioners keep supporting this man despite his shortage of tact, diplomacy and an interesting inability to do the right thing.  While he does not come across as a “people person”, he was pretty successful in having parishioners open their checkbooks and almost fill the coffers of the church. If you examine the donations by parish, you will find parishes that greatly exceeded their goals while others barely made 24% of the mark set by the Diocese.

The people that get my blood pressure up here are the parishioners who are giving this Diocese money without a detailed accounting of where the cash is going.  The people continue to blindly give money to the holy mother church like lemmings heading over the cliff.  The bishop allegedly directed pastors to dig into parish accounts to cover the shortfall for their respective parishes and send the money to Scranton.  Take from the people to move the treasure to Scranton.  A little reverse Robin Hood action is what this looks like.  You would think that the Diocese would want the money pushed to the point where it was doing the greatest amount of good, at the parish level.  Nope, not this time.  It was time to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s.

If the people of the Diocese have a real issue with this Bishop, they should cut him off financially and isolate him in his residence.  Had this year’s annual fund missed the mark by 10%, 15%, 25% I would have to acknowledge that the people have spoken and that the Vatican needed to call Joseph Martino to some higher purpose like what they did with Cardinal Law from Boston.  At least promote him to his level of incompetence (Cardinal Martino?). Alas, it seems that the shortfall in the Annual Appeal is not statistically significant enough to call a protest.

I see the failure here belonging to the loyal opposition within the ranks of the faithful of the Diocese to withhold more money.  A failure to understand the full spectrum of expenses that these funds are expended against. A failure to back up the demands that the Bishop come to the parishes and explain his actions/decisions and offer options, hope or his condolences on issues that are relevant in the Catholic Community in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Instead he does what he normally does.  He sends a proxy or a letter.

To the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton, I congratulate you.  You have the Bishop you deserve. As long as you support him financially, you are voting with your dollars to keep him.

This all leads me to my final thoughts on the fund-raising in the Diocese of Scranton.  In the most recent Catholic Light on page 15, there is a request for donations to support the Collection for the Care and Education of Priests. The ads for this fund-raising effort show priests that the drive is designed to support in getting medical care, educational opportunities and travel opportunities. The don’t show you the dark side of how this money will be used.

The Diocese does not tell you that funds raised in this drive are also going to support pedophile priests like Robert Gibson. Father Gibson and others like him who have been reported to the Diocese for sexually deviant behaviour with children and vulnerable adults.  Actions that would have sent most lay men to prison.  These men were placed by the Diocese in facilities outside of the reach of criminal authorities that have kept them safe from having to answer for crimes over many decades. They receive care and attention, in addition to quarters far better than that of the state prison system, where they should be living. In many cases they have cars and “off campus” privileges.  You can be sure that those privileges are being abused, along with children in the area where these “Catholic Facilities” are located.  Your hard-earned dollars will go to support these predators without consequence for the crimes they committed.

Support for these rapists is one of the ways your money is used. Bill Genello will refer to this as “other expenses for the medical care of priests, a matter of privacy”. If you want your money used to help the Bishop avoid scandal by hiding his rapist priests, you can stroke your check to the fund. Be sure to write in the words “Pedophile Support Fund” on the memo line of your check.

If you want to send your Bishop a message, stop the financial support, now! The only language they understand is the sound of the money spigot being turned off. Demand that they open the books and explain where all the money is going.

Father Edward J. Shoback Defrocked!

Defrocked Scranton Priest Edward ShobackArticles appearing in Northeastern Pennsylvania newspapers over the past few days as well as an announcement on the Diocese of Scranton web site confirm that the Vatican has defrocked Father Edward J. Shoback.

Read the stories at:
The Scranton Times Tribune
The Citizens Voice
The Times Leader
Abuse Tracker (where all the coverage is documented)

Sixteen other priests are identified as credibly accused from the Diocese of Scranton.  They are listed at Bishop Accountability.com .  There are others that have been protected by the Diocese that may very well still be abusing children in parishes across Northeast Pennsylvania.

At some point the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton need to stand up and demand that the Bishop open Diocesan records and notify all the parishes that have had pedophile priests assigned of the credible allegations against these monsters.  If Bishop Martino is not willing to do this, he should resign.  The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the District Attorneys for the juristidictions touched by the Diocese of Scranton should start investigations not only into the activities of the pedophile priests that have preyed on children and vulnerable adults in the churches, rectories, summer camps and schools run by the Dioceses but into the actions of the Bishops and their minions to protect these “men”.  Those actions amount to an ongoing criminal conspiracy that put children at risk, used parishioner donations to support the men who should have been handed over to civil authority for prosecution, and covered up their activities.  They have spent millions on settlements, lawyers and public relations campaigns used to isolate victims and give the impression that there have only been a handful of allegations against a very small number of priests.  This is a lie, of course.

It is time to march on the Chancery in Scranton and let Bishop Martino know his days of protecting pedophiles are over.

Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School

A recent comment to this blog recommended that I return to Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania to speak to the faculty about my experiences.   To quote the comment:

“I think you would be welcomed at Notre Dame because you have an important story to tell. You are part of this family. You would put a human face on the abuse problem. It is so painful to read some of what you have written but it is important that the truth be told.”

ndms front with chapelLets get this clear from the start, I would not be welcomed back to Notre Dame to speak on the subject of the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of a Catholic Priest associated with the Diocese of Scranton and the school. Bishop Martino and the Diocese would never grant the school permission to offer such an invitation, even if the current school administration wanted to extend such an offer to me.

 The last thing the Diocese wants to do is to shine a light on a perpetrator that once stalked the halls of the school searching out his next victims. It would be bad for Bishop Martino, Bishop Timlin and just about all the clergy that have a connection to the school at the time that Gibson was raping children who attended the school or were members of the St. Luke’s, St. Matthew’s and Our Lady Queen of Peace Churches. (Monsignor Bendik must be cringing over his days at St Luke’s in Stroudsburg) Any publicity that would follow would surely not be good for the Diocese and would provoke a discussion that they are simply unwilling to have with teachers, administrator, parents, students, parishioners or the local population.  They would have to stipulate to the fact that they had more than one abusive priest in the school over the years and that these priests went on to abuse at other parishes and schools in the Diocese. 

It is simply not in the interest of the Diocese to tell the truth, own up to the past and do the right thing.  This would be a bad business decision.  The only thing the Diocese wants is for people to keeping pay tuition to the schools, tithing to the parishes and donating to the Bishop’s annual fund.  As I have said before in this blog, at some point it stopped being about God, doing the right thing, taking responsibility to inform the parishes of predator priests and seeking out the other victims.  It stopped being about morality and doing what Christ taught. The business model is reflective of the Catholic Hierarchy, but it is not very Christian in its practice. The terms Catholic and Christian are, at times, mutually exclusive.

I have no current association with Notre Dame High School.  I do recieve the periodic cards coinciding with significant dates in the Catholic Calendar and the typical requests for donations from Alumni.  I move the cards directly from my mailbox to the shredder and I can say, with absolute certainty, that I will never reply to a fund raising/donation drive that would benefit the school.

In regards to being part of the “Notre Dame Family”, I feel no such sentimental attachment to the place.  I do not feel the least bit nostalgic about my 5 years at the school.  To be honest, those were some of the darkest days of my life.  Why on earth would I romanticize that experience?  If anything, that “family” is pretty dysfunctional given all the secrets kept within those halls since the “70’s.

I did enjoy seeing classmates at the reunion a few years ago and I keep in contact with a couple of those classmates by email.  I have corresponded with some of my contemporaries who were at the school from 1973-1978.  Some were in my class, others were in the same year as my older brother or my three sisters. ( My youngest brother did not attend Notre Dame.)

I would consider attending another reunion if one were held.  I am not sure how my classmates would react to me after they became aware of my efforts to publicly expose Father Gibson for what he really was.   As for teachers, most of them are long gone from the school by now.  My 9th grade English teacher, Mr Jeffrey Lyons, is the current principal, his wife, Ms. Linda Lyons still teaches physical education there and  Mr. John Musyt is also still with the school in the Guidance Department.  I was able to determine where a couple of the nuns (Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) have ended up. Sister Marilyn Grosselfinger is at St Raymond’s School in East Rockaway, New York and Sister Kathleen Joy Steck is at St. John the Evangelist School in Binghamton, New York. To be honest, I was not one to form attachments to faculty for very obvious reasons. (Do not take away from this paragraph that I think any of these people knew of Father Gibson’s activities at the time.)

I have been back to the Notre Dame Campus twice since my graduation in 1978. The first time was when I went back for the reunion in 2004, the second time was the night before I went to see the Monroe County District Attorney in September 2007. All I needed to see was the chapel looming at the top of the hill and my stomach flipped. I have no desire to go up that hill again.  It would take an extraordinary invitation for me to return to that place. I have no plans to show up unannounced and uninvited to embarrass the school or cause a media event.  

 I don’t make any promises to that end with the Chancery, Our Lady Queen of Peace Church and rectory or the Cathedral in Scranton.  Those locations are fair game. (The Pocono Record wouldn’t cover the story. They declined to look into the story a couple of years ago, citing a lack of local interest since Gibson was in a facility in Missouri and I was living in Virginia. This was exceptionally shortsighted since more victims live in Northeast Pennsylvania. Such are the decisions made in a small town newspaper.)

I do not know and will probably never know who knew anything about Gibson and his “predisposition” for boys at Notre Dame.  The more I learn in talking to other victims of Gibson and people who have had similar experiences with other perps, the more I am convinced that there were people who knew what he was doing and chose to turn a blind eye and others who suspected something was not right and  failed to report what they suspected.  I would not be surprised if there were actual concerns raised.  I would also not be surprised if the Diocese  quietly kept the reports under wraps. 

After thinking about it, the school on the hill is not a place to which I see myself returning any time soon.

There is not enough traction

“The Message” is not getting out.

The SNAP Conference will be held in Washington next month so I thought I would gather my thoughts on how I see the current landscape in order to help me determine how I will spend my time at plenary sessions and breakout sessions.  In the two years (almost to the day) since  I reported Father Robert Gibson to the Diocese of Scranton as my abuser I have learned some valuable lessons and I have decided that there are things that we, as survivors of perp priests need to address if we want to get some traction and find some success in effecting change.  The point of this concept paper, manifesto, white paper, whatever you want to call it, is to offer the challenges I have identified and possible solutions for your consideration.  Be aware this might be just the ramblings of someone frustrated with the state of affairs we are in at the moment.

The major challenges I see for survivors and organizations of survivors are as follows:

1. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States, and around the world for that matter, want to keep survivors isolated, quiet and incapable of getting the message that the problem of priests committing a variety of violent, sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults still exists. Bishops will lie, cheat and conceal information that proves that predatory priests operate in their curias and that the hierarchy of the Diocese has protected them. If caught, they will simply say that they didn’t know raping/molesting children was a criminal offense.

2. The public has grown weary with the story.  After high profile cases and reports in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia and the recent findings released concerning abuses in Ireland, the public seems to have the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes to the ongoing story of predator priests.  I have even heard the phrase “post pedophile priest scandal” in relation to the new order in the church.  I must have missed the Pope declaring “Mission Accomplished!” from the back of the “Pope-Mobile”.

3.  The people carrying our message are spread thin and are in a reactive mode rather than a practive mode.  If you are driving your message only when the other side is giving you an opportunity, they are controlling the story.

4. Victims are slow to come forward.  I know this from personal experience. I waited 33 years before I was willing to go public.  I think that many victims did the same kinds of things I did, they looked on line for their perp.  They looked to see if he/she was reported, had died, had gone to jail, etc…  Many look for support from other victims and groups only to find websites with out of date contact information and broken links.  They don’t know how to tell there story so they go the church and tell it.  The church works hard to keep that story under wraps.  Victims of Sexual Abuse should not go to the Diocese. The Diocese will do what they can to protect themselves,  hide the story and lie to the victim.

5. The organizations that do exist seem to lack local organizations  to help support a cohesive plan to help victims and their families.  Coordinated efforts to spread the word, support legislation, and seek justice seem to be inadequate to compete with the resources, power and influence of our adversary, the Bishops and their supporters.

6.  We have not successfully countered the Bishops’ campaign that tells people that we are attacking the church for our own personal gain.  They have painted us as greedy and focused on destroying the Catholic Church in the United States.  It seems that our focus is on leaf-letting parishioners entering the church or writing letters to the editor when the Bishops are using public relations firms, lawyers and intimidation to get there message across. They also seem to believe their own press that the crisis is past.  “All is well, come back to church and bring your check book”.

So what are we to do?

1. Focus the message.  We need to clearly define our goals and set out to reach those goals and measure how effective we are in achieving those goals.

2.  Coordinate and energize our base.  Not only other victims, but those that are sympathetic to our message:  families, groups that are seeking reform in the Catholic Church, legislators, law enforcement, judicial officials, the media, and bloggers.

3. Develop a legislative agenda to help protect children, hold those people responsible for crimes or covering up crimes accountable in both the criminal and civil courts.  Find sympathetic lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to champion this agenda and then do the hard work necessary to get the agenda passed. Make it a crime for an organization to shield a child molester/rapist.

4.  Clearly define what we want our end state to be.  If an organization’s mission does not translate to a tangible achievable end state, it is doomed to fail. It will become a self licking ice cream cone.  It exists for the purpose of perpetuating itself.

5.  Convince the public that the first call a victim should make is to the police or the office of the district attorney.  DO NOT GO TO THE DIOCESE WITH THE REPORT. These are criminal matters for law enforcement and the justice system to deal with.  The bishops will not do the right thing when left to their own devices.  If you haven’t figured that out, you need to go to Abuse Tracker and start reading.

6.  Determine how we will measure success in the interim.  What makes us successful?  We should track:

  • number of perp priests identified
  • indicted
  • removed from ministry
  • convicted
  • number of bishops removed for hiding pedophiles
  • legislation drafted, debated, brought to a vote, passed into law
  • assistance provided to victims and their families
  • number of outreach programs developed
  • seminars conducted with teachers and church workers to help them identify behavior that is inappropriate

There are more metrics we can track, these just rolled off my brain.

7.  Identify who is  accountable to the victims.  Are the organizations that exist today to support victims effective?  If the  leaders of organizations that support victims don’t meet objectives do we have the ability to seek new leadership?  Some are volunteers and we should honor their service.  There are people who draw a salary off donations out there that should be shown the door if they are not successful.  If  lawmakers are siding with the church to deny justice to victims, their constituents should be told and hopefully those lawmakers will be shown the door during the next election cycle.

8. We must stop the practice of civil authority allowing the church to investigate allegations of criminal activity by priests.  The church is not a law enforcement agency and is not proficient in determining the circumstances of crimes.  Leave that to the police, the justice system and investigative reporters.

I see 4 major areas where I think our community should be focusing their efforts.

1. Identifying the bishops, their lawyers, public relations firms, lobbyist and supporters who are enabling the pedophiles to continue to prey on children.  Fighting to expose them, remove them and if appropriate punish them in criminal and civil courts.  They are fighting and winning because we are not fighting with the same level of resolve.  Get this straight in your head, we are fighting an adversary that will employ ruthless tactics to wear us down and defeat our efforts. These bishops have a great deal to lose in terms of power, influence, treasure and status.  They will not go down without a fight.

They will employ tactics to beat us through attrition (wear down our human and material resources until we are an ineffective force) or through disruption (attack our organizational cohesion and effective functioning so that we cannot operate as a coherent whole).  Both defeat mechanisms are designed to break our resolve to continue fighting for the truth, reform and justice.

Right now the Bishops control the battle rythm, we need to seize that initiative and hold the moral high ground.

2. Protecting children and vulnerable adults.  This is where education, awareness and a legislative agenda come into the picture.  The Bishops will only abandon their current strategy when the consequences for their actions are more than they can bear.

3. Engage groups with similar goals.  We need to partner with groups that seek reform in the church, protection of children and protection for victims of crime.

4.  Establish clear channels for victims who need assistance to find the support they need.  We should be supporting each other and identifying resources to help victims and their families deal with the social, mental, physical and legal problems that they face.  We should not be sending these people to the Bishops for assistance because the Bishops are a very big part of the problem.

A last thought and then I will wrap this one up.  If  we truly have a network, we should be able to utilize the network.  We should be able to communicate with each other without having to go through a filter.  We need to shake the cobwebs off the message boards and reestablish communications with each other.  We cannot be effective in getting any message out if we are not communicating with each other.  Organizations  needs to clean up their points of contact to make sure that victims can actually make the initial contact with the organization through a real person.  A little website clean up is appropriate for more than one victim’s rights organization.

We need to have a place for people to submit blog links and post their thoughts.  Kathy Shaw does an excellent job with the Abuse Tracker to keep all of us up to date on stories in the media, but we don’t have a consolidated blog roll for our community.  We need to leverage technology to get our message out.  You know that the Dioceses across the country are spending big money on shaping and communicating their message and they are not doing it by leaflet.  We need to blog, tweet, and really network.  We cannot be a network in name only.

We have a capable and ruthless adversary.  We are not going to be successful if we don’t leverage the resources available to us to effect change and get help for those who need it.   We cannot win if we do not come together as one.  That is the message I will carry to the SNAP Conference in August.  What message are you going to send?

Threats and intimidation

Over time, Gibson became much more controlling and aggressive.  He was less likely to “soften” me up with alcohol and much more forward when he had the opportunity to get me alone.  His initial caring words and expressions of god’s love and understanding that what we were doing was good and right and part of the way god allowed him to express his love for “his boys” turned very menacing.  The more I resisted or tried to fight him off, the more physically and emotionally abusive he became.  I think he was determined to break me.  I am not ready to get into more detail on the actual acts he committed at my expense.  In the back of my head I am afraid that the salacious details would be the equivalent of porn for perp priests.  I also don’t think at this point it is information that I can just put out there.  I am not there yet.

The threats were subtle at first.  He would tell me that no one would take the word of a child over that of a priest.  Anything that I would say would be the product of an over active imagination and disregarded.  He told me I would be severely punished for telling lies.   Any allegations made would motivate  my mother to send me away.  He always seemed to infer that he had her passive permission because priests had a special station in life.  It was his privilege and therefore no one would do anything about the situation on the outside chance that they believed me.  But, rest assured, I would not be believed.  He told me the nuns and lay teachers at the school would not do anything and the other priests would support him.  After all, they all had their “favorites” as well.    I was suspicious and afraid of anyone on the staff of the school.  Whether it was rational or not, I became convinced that people were aware of what he was doing to me and that they had no problem with it.  I would look in disbelief at the people in the schools office when he would take me off campus during the school day.

The nature of the threats changed rapidly.  Since he was a powerful and well loved pastor he could expel me and my siblings from Notre Dame and St. Matthews Elementary school without anyone challenging him. He was above reproach.  His word would be good enough to remove us all from school.   He told me that my siblings would hate me for having to attend a public school and leaving their friends behind. My parents would be humiliated,  my mother especially, since she had gone to Gibson for pastoral counseling.   More sinister threats of taking advantage of a younger sibling or of beatings began as he tried to keep me under his control.  Finally, it came down to telling me that if I spoke out and told anyone, I would disappear and never be found.  I would simply be erased and, after a short while, no one would give my absence a second thought.   I was only in my first year at the school and I would soon fade from the collective memory of those at the school.  It was clear that I was expendable.

I was completely terrorized by his words.  He knew it!  I could not believe that all of this was true, but at age 13 I had no way to know for sure that it was not the truth.  This he also knew and exploited.  What was true was that all of this seemed to be about power and control.  The fact that he got off on it seemed to be an extra benefit for him.

I’m sure he told my mother that he was acting as a mentor and offering opportunities for me to do interesting things on my own with a good male role model.  He exploited her as clearly as he had exploited me.  Much to my horror, she would allow him to take me on overnight trips, one lasting as long as a week.  He took me to the new rectory when it was completed.  It was  his own personal pedophile pleasure palace and masturbatorium.  He would talk about the rectory as a great personal accomplishment.  He took me  to New York “to see some plays” and to  Walt Disney World.  On a couple of occasions he took me off school grounds during the school day for “pastoral counseling”.  I went along, I was too frightened to put up a fight or tell someone what was happening to me.

I am curious about how long it took him to perfect this intimidation on other children.  Did this start before the seminary?  Was it something he slowly came to?  How soon after entering the seminary or being ordained did he identify his first victim?  How many victims did he have?  Did he focus on just boys or was he an equal opportunity abuser?  The Diocese of Scranton says that they had 4 reports including mine.  I think that the Diocese is so lacking in credibility that they cannot be believed. I don’t think I will ever have answers.  Those that know don’t have the stones to tell the truth.

I would like to think that I successfully broke away from his control at the beginning of my freshman year in high school  I have some doubts about that, though.  It is as likely that I was simply getting too old for his perverse tastes.  Sullen preteens turn into unmanageable, moody teenagers.   I grew over that summer and I was determined to get so active in the school that there would be no opportunity for Gibson to get me alone.  Hiding became less about being invisible and more about being out in front of the crowd, in plain site.  It made it harder for him to cut me from the herd and back under his grip.

I can only assume he moved on to someone else.  I lived with the ever present fear of him coming back for me, I would break into a cold sweat anytime he would show up at the school.  I was always off balance if I knew he was in the school building.  His presence at the school gradually became very infrequent.  I think he kept tabs on me to make sure I was not going to make trouble for him.  What was worse than the fear of him coming back for me was the guilt that comes with knowing that if he had moved on to a new target, I was responsible. I had not tried to stop him by turning him in or killing him.  Believe me, I wanted him dead in the most heinous way possible.  I agonized over that for decades. Any victim that came after me was my responsibility.   I am still haunted by it.  To date, the other victims of Gibson that I have spoken with came before me on his time line of preying on children.   I am afraid of the day when I talk to someone who was a victim of  Robert Gibson after the fall of 1974.  I don’t know how to ask for them to forgive me for not being stronger and turning the bastard in.  I don’t know that I could look them in the eye.   I could have done something, anything and they would have been spared the pain, betrayal and anguish.  Their lives would not have suffered a similar oblique as the one in my life at that point.

Intellectually I understand that this is not rational, that I was a child in a horrible situation that was out of my control.  That does not take away the guilt nor does it help me sleep at night.  Even 35 years later, I wake in the dead of the night sometimes and the thoughts are there as a reminder.  Sometimes it seems like it all happened yesterday.

My relationships with my parents and my siblings went downhill in 1974.  I became quiet and withdrawn at home.  I wanted nothing more than to wish away high school and get out of the Poconos.  College was to be my liberation.   All energy was focused to that end.  Those who knew my family probably thought this was all related to my father’s drinking.  This made sense, the truth however was much more sinister.  It was a good cover, so I used it.  It was easier to be the brooding son of an emotionally abusive alcoholic father than the sexual play thing of a pedophile priest.  Afterall,  I had been told, very convincingly, that no one would believe me and that the price to pay for telling the story would be higher than I could bear. I believed that for over three decades.   What a horrible price I have paid for keeping that secret!

First descent into hell

I knew something was wrong.  I was supposed to spend the night at the rectory.  The reason for the stay has long ago left my mind.  Instead of getting on the East Stroudsburg School District bus in front of Notre Dame that would take me to East Stroudsburg High School to allow me to transfer to the bus that would take me up state highway 402 to Hemlock Farms, I boarded the bus that would head to Brodheadsville.  Pleasant Valley School District emblazoned on the side of the bus.  It would drop me off at the Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.

Stepping off the bus, I walked across the street to church property. I approached the trailer and knocked, no answer. I went to the church but it was also locked. I looked for his car, it was not there. My initial thought was that he was detained somewhere so I would just wait. He would be back soon. I started doing my homework on the steps to the trailer. Time went by and it began getting dark. I was growing more concerned because I was not from this area. My home was 45 miles or so north of Brodheadsville. Did I have the right night? Was I supposed to be here? Where was he? Had he forgotten about me? My mother was going to be furious if she had to come all the way from Portage Lane to get me. I am sure I would pay for this all the way home and for weeks later. There was a pay phone across the street. I needed to make a call. Checking my pockets and book-bag revealed that I had no change. The 15 cent call was beyond my grasp. I dialed “0” for operator but it required the change to connect. I tried an emergency number, but you could only connect the call by having the coins slide into the coin slot. (it was 1974, and the phone technology was limited)  The phone was useless to me. It was getting darker and the only light I had was on the telephone pole. You know the kind of light fixture you see on rural roads near business or barns. Large, white and insulting to the darkness of a moonless Pennsylvania night. I was getting cold and very nervous about my situation.

Around 8:30 pm, about 5 hours after the bus dropped me off,  an older couple was driving by and saw me standing there looking agitated. They had seen me earlier but thought nothing of it. They stopped and asked me if I needed help. I told them that I was supposed to stay at the rectory and that I did not know where Father Gibson was.  They were parishioners of the church and knew Father Gibson.   They took me to their home and started making phone calls. Finally, near 9 o’clock, contact was made with Father Gibson. The gentleman who had picked me up wanted to call my parents and have them come get me. I did not want to call my mother because of the trouble it would bring. The woman decided to take me to the rectory. There was an animated conversation between the couple as she loaded me in the car for the 5 minute ride to the rectory.

When I arrived, Gibson seemed a little out of sorts. He had glazed eyes and was not really finishing his sentences. I knew this look. My father was an alcoholic. My mind began normalizing all that was happening. Reinforcing that all men of a certain age dove into a bottle at the end of the work day (or before their work day, during their work day or instead of their workday). I could handle it. I would just be quiet, go to bed and let him sleep it off. At least I was inside and had a small single bed in a tiny room in the trailer to hide in. I was relieved that I would not have to tell my mother anything about the events of the evening. He started by offering me a drink.  He had juice, soda and iced tea.  I opted for the juice.  I noticed that it tasted a little strange but thought nothing of it because it was not the brand my mother would buy.  I really wanted to go to bed but he was pretty insistent on talking about what had happened and watching TV.  He said he had loss track of time and how sorry he was.  He kept asking me to not tell anyone.  That was the first time he made that request.  There were many more to follow.  He offered me more juice.  I accepted.  I was starting to feel a little odd.  I rationalized that it was a rough night and that I was tired.  I finished the juice.   He was quick to refill the glass.  I really just wanted to go to bed.  I was suddenly very tired.  “Here, this will help you sleep” .  I drank about half the glass and then things went foggy. 

I woke up in the small room.  My clothes had been removed.  I was somewhat aware of my surroundings, but everything was a little out of sorts.  I could hear him walking around the trailer.  I heard him come into the room and I felt his weight on the bed as he began to rub my back.  I was not able to move and at first the contact was comforting.  I thought I just was coming down with a bug.  Slowly it dawned on me that he was also undressed. His hands ranged over me  and I knew that this was not what I wanted.  I could not move, I could not make any noise.  I could tell that there was something really wrong about all this.  He whispered to me that I would be better in the morning and that he would take care of me.  He rolled me over on my back and I could tell that he was erect.  I did not understand all of what was happening at that moment. He masturbated over me.  At some point I passed out again. 

The next morning I woke up in my underwear on the bed.  The sheets were different.  I showered, dressed and wondered what the hell had happened the night before.  Did I dream all of it?  He acted completely normal, offering to stop at the bakery on the way to the school.  As I left the trailer I noticed two empty bottles of Vodka on the kitchen counter.  I remember getting into his green car (I think it was an Oldsmobile).  He was very chatty, I was completely the opposite.  Did I imagine everything?  Looking back, to a naive 13 year old who had not discovered much about sex at that point, my memories far exceeded my knowledge of masturbation at the time. 

He pulled into the parking lot at school and wished me a good day.  As if nothing was out of the ordinary.  He told me to go in, he would follow in a few minutes, he had some papers to look over in his car.  I walked into school in a daze, I was completely off balance.   

That was the first descent into hell for me.  It would not be the last.  On that morning my innocence and my soul started to be destroyed.  Everything changed, nothing was ever going to be the same again.