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.”
Lets 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.