What I Have Learned in a Year of Blogging

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.

George Carlin

It is October and I realized the other day that I have been doing this blog for almost a year.  I posted for the first time on 14 October 2008.  Since then I have published over 90 posts, permitted over 100 comments and, to be honest, disallowed about 2 dozen others (not including the normal spam).

A year has passed and I am trying to figure out if I have accomplished any of the things I have set out to do.  There is a line in the  song  “No Good Deed” from the musical Wicked where Elphaba is questioning whether she was “seeking good or just seeking attention”. I am beginning to understand that question more every time I start working on a post or reading another blog about clergy abuse.

I have been sorting through the things I have discovered since I started this blog.  Many are probably self evident, others were a little surprising.  Where to begin?

  • Faith is not a part of my life.  I do not pray in the traditional sense.  Really, I just don’t buy into the process.
  • I do not believe in God in the traditional Catholic or Christian construct. I do not believe in heaven or hell or in a benevolent god. The truth revealed to me by the actions and crimes of Father Gibson as well as the actions of diocesan officials who have gone to great lengths to hide the crimes of many priests was that the “faith” they promoted was as contrived, calculated and deceptive as their defense of the priests who violated the most devout for their own perverse pleasure. I have to admit, I have not been able to reconcile my personal confusion with survivors who are still devout Catholics, Baptists, Jews…   I don’t understand.
  • People knew.  My contemporaries knew he was odd and that something was not right.  Parents knew something was wrong, he was moved at one parish after only 6 months.  The other priests knew, one walked in on him.  Nothing was done.  He had help keeping his secret, I was alone with mine.
  • People who should have protected me and the others failed us as badly as he abused us.
  • The judicial system and state legislatures are deferential to the church.   They are predisposed to allowing the Catholic church to regulate itself at great peril to children and vulnerable adults.
  • The Catholic Church will do anything, expend funds and resources, deceive, lie and attack anyone in an effort to downplay the fact that they are still hiding the abuse that has been at an epidemic level for decades.  They will do the most unchristian and evil things in order to discredit anyone that comes forward with credible allegations.  You don’t have to go any further than your local news blog or Abuse Tracker to get a taste of the church’s battle against the truth.  From the Diocese of Bridgeport going all the way to the Supreme Court to fight an order to make public the details of abuse to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (and Cardinal Mahoney) denying responsibility for hundreds of cases of criminal sexual activity by their priests, the evidence is presented on a daily basis  documenting the Catholic Hierarchy’s complicity in perpetuating the abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
  • The Catholic Church is a huge multinational business, run for a purpose.  It has a goal to collect money, to perpetuate itself and to avoid scandal. They want to attract the “faithful” to fill the seats for the Sunday morning magic show in order to keep the collection plate filled.  This will allow the monsignors, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope to continue living in opulent excess.  It has long ago stopped being about god, charity, faith and truth.
  • The Dioceses in the United States will work with each other and through orders like the Servants of the Paraclete to move pedophiles out of a diocese in order to protect the church.  They will send predators to other parishes in other states or countries to hide them from prosecution.  They are willing to put children at risk to avoid scandal.
  • The church has convinced parishioners that all survivors want to do is collect large awards in civil actions.  They have successfully used their influence to paint us as the “bad guys”.  They are actively revisiting the abuse on us to keep the money rolling in.
  • The church’s representatives are so delusional, they are almost comically incompetent.  And no one in the mainstream media, law enforcement or government will hold them accountable for that incompetence.
  • Parishioners will blindly follow their bishops in spite of overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing.

As far as this blog is concerned, I am amazed that people read any of this.  I have been surprised by some of the people that have read my posts and commented or contacted me. I have spoken to people I have not seen since my high school graduation.  I have corresponded with college and high school friends and I have found that they don’t judge me.  In communication with people I knew in high school, they all have stories that seem to piece together a picture of a priest who was out of control.  Looking back on that puzzle taking shape, this man was a prolific abuser.  Others, both male and female, have stories that involve other priests being physically or sexually abusive.

Even more surprising is the lack of feedback from people that I thought would respond to  my blog.  I know I fumbled the delivery of the news of what happened to me all those years ago to my family and friends.  I honestly have no idea if my siblings or my parents read this blog. If they do, the conversation, if there is one, takes place without me.

There are days when hundreds of people read what I have written.  Some posts see a lot of traffic, some are barely noticed.  Usually, I am surprised by the posts that get picked up by other bloggers.  Then there are days when 30 visitors come through.  I can tell how people come to find this blog (although I cannot see who is coming in).  Sometimes I will see an increase in traffic even though I have not posted anything new. It is a mystery to me. I do admit to editing, modifying and adding to posts once they are up.  In the case of this post, I accidentally published a few days before I wanted to let it go out into the blogosphere.  I apologize to anyone who read my disjointed efforts at the initial draft that made it online.

I know people “google” Father Gibson and find this blog (I see how people are referred).  I wonder how many of those people were doing so for the same reason I once googled his name.  My guess is that there are more victims out there who have found my blog and are still grappling with their own great terrible secret.  If you are in this category, you are not alone.  If you want to talk or get information on organizations that can help you, contact me and I will do whatever I can to assist.  I will respect your privacy.

One of the more surprising revelations has been my interactions with other survivors.  I am amazed at the bond I have felt with other survivors.  Before attending the SNAP Conference this past August, my contact with other survivors had been limited to one SNAP meeting in Northern Virginia, several phone calls and a few emails with a few bloggers. There are people out there that I have never met in person that I feel I have known all my life. Entry into this club comes with an absolutely vulgar initiation. But, membership comes with unfailing support from people with similar experiences. Perhaps I now understand the strength my father has gained as a result of the time he has spent with other friends of Bill.

Finally, I continued to be frustrated by people I know are genuinely offering me a lifeline.  But, I have reached my limit of devout Catholics who comment on this and other blogs that survivors need to come back to the mother church to find peace.  The same people that support their local pedophile expect me to see the error of my way and return to be forgiven by God.  I have been told by people, some close to me, that I need to put all this behind me and come back.  I have been told that I need to make sure I do not let what happened to me drive me. Funny, for over 30 years I kept the great terrible secret and it ate me alive. It damaged every relationship I have ever had and drove me to some very destructive behavior.   I cannot put that genie back in the bottle, nor do I want to.   To them I would like to respectfully say “No Thank You”.  Please don’t refer me to your parish priest.  If all you have to offer me is your invitation to come back to the church, resist the urge to offer the invitation.  I am not obsessed with what has happened, I am working through the damage caused by the acts of a monster who is still supported by an organization that has forgotten the basis of the religion they claim is the one true faith.  I simply believe that there is no such thing as one true faith.  Between my experiences as a child and my experiences in the military,  I have seen enough  absolutely evil things done in the name of religion to convince me that devotion and faith are easy excuses for violence and intolerance.  I have no use for religion.

I strongly support the passage of window legislation in every state to allow survivors to force an accounting for the horrible acts that have been committed and covered up.  I think that until the church is forced to pay a price it cannot bear for hiding pedophiles, they will not change the way they do business.  I want to see the end of allowing any religious organization the power to  “handle matters on their own”.  To allow for any religion to impose its own law or “solution” is counter to all I believe in.  I swore an oath to protect and serve the Constitution and I served my country for over 23 years.  I feel that any law enforcement or judicial officer who allows the church to deal with a pedophile hiding behind their clerical robes has failed in their duty to protect the public.

The Church has spent millions on lobbyists and public relations firms to prevent legislation from being passed that will hold them accountable to victims.  If they spent a fraction of that providing services for survivors, vetting seminarians and taking reports of criminal behavior seriously, there would be a much smaller universe of survivors.  The only people who have consistently benefitted from the war the church has started and continues to fight are the trial lawyers.

I do not know what is coming my way in the next year.  The song from Wicked is stuck in my head, reminding me that no good deed goes unpunished, no act of charity goes unresented…

Let me know what you are thinking.


12 thoughts on “What I Have Learned in a Year of Blogging”

  1. No, you do not have to go back to the “Church” to find peace. NO, YOU DON’T. No one has to do anything that one does not want to do. God doesn’t fit in a Church, in a Miter or a book. He doesn’t fit into a bottle, or a beer, or a pill or needle. He doesn’t fit into anything—but your heart. And in the end, that’s all you will ever need.

  2. Mike:

    You have nailed it.

    What do you do with a church that is a cult and people who are religiously addicted and spiritually codependent?

    I think it is best to run like hell and watch the collapse from a distance.

  3. Michael, it is hard for me to find words as your words are so powerful. It is still upsetting to me. It is hard for me to understand such evil. I was so innocent and had such an idealized view of the Church. I have come to realize how lucky I was and how protected I was in high school. I was sheltered but a lot of kids didn’t talk to me much so I didn’t know a lot about what was going on. I was lucky in that I had so many great teachers. In truth, Father Gibson, was pretty much the only one who was somewhat sarcastic and wanted nothing to do with me. (Looking back I was lucky, I now realize.) I still remember once that Sister Elizabeth (our guidance counselor) told me that I was better than some of the priests. At the time I wondered if Father Gibson was snotty to her too. Isn’t it odd how one remembers insignificant little things? It has been a learning experience to follow your blog but it has brought a sad wisdom. I feel angry at what was stolen from you. Your voice is important and people need to hear it. I feel bad that I could not go back and protect you. Our paths must have crossed but I was unknowing.

    Wishing you blessings and peace – Mark

  4. Hi Mike. I’ve come back to check out your blog from time to time and I think, ironically enough, that it is you who is doing the Lord’s work. I am a collapsed Catholic, really beyond help, though I have a grudging respect for the idea of religion and an appreciation for what a community could be and the good it can achieve. Unfortunately, I have also concluded that the extreme hierarchy of the Church is what has perpetuated abuse. Priests are but the overseers of the serfdom of Christianity and Bishops are but the landlords. Vatican II tried to erase some of this, but centuries of behavior are not easy to unwind. Truth is that power provides an opportunity for abuse, and a group of people who are in power and are routinely denied normal sexual outlets are going to be particularly dangerous. In short, the abuse is endemic to the structure of the Church. It’s never going to stop, and those whose families have been in the Church the longest are the most vulnerable. I’m convinced that’s why there’s so much of this behavior, particularly, in Scranton, where the influence of other institutions is pretty limited. Education of a better quality would help, but it’s unlikely.

    I wish you comfort if not peace. Fight the good fight, get the word out. The only defense here is self-preservation.

  5. I am sick of the USCCB bullying our political leaders. Considering how abusive priests have been protected from prosecution, no bishop should be allowed to act as or direct our country’s moral compass. IT IS TIME FOR THE U. S. CATHOLIC CHURCH TO LOSE IT’S TAX-EXEMPT STATUS. I refer to the site: NoBeliefs.com – Saturday 21 November 2009 and a quote from an artical by: Connie Schultz, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

    “My concern echoes that of Rep. Lynne Woolsey, D-Calif., who wrote in Politico: “The IRS is less restrictive about church involvement in efforts to influence legislation than it is about involvement in campaigns and elections. Given the political behavior of USCCB in this case, maybe it shouldn’t be.”
    The IRS’ “Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations” clearly states that tax-exempt organizations may not lobby:
    “In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for … (tax-exempt) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). An … organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.”
    If pressuring members of Congress and issuing public statements boasting about it don’t qualify as “too much lobbying,” then this columnist merely is dabbling in opinion writing and we should call it a hobby.

  6. Suppo,
    I am so sorry for you and all the other victims who had to endure this abuse. I feel ashamed to call myself a Catholic.

    Very Respectfully,

    John T. Forton, SHC USN-RET
    AD-41 plankowner.

  7. I am grateful for your bravery and honesty, though of course deeply saddened by the facts. My parish (St. Matthew E.S.), my kids’ school (NDHS), and my diocese (Scranton) can only be strengthened by the spotlight you courageously bear.

    Although my modest contributions help keep the diocese in operation, I do not begrudge anyone seeking compensation when such wrongs have been allowed to occur or recur. If throughout the country even the most misguided and self-serving church bureaucrats come to fear the bad P.R. and financial cost of inaction or coverups, necessary pruning will become the norm, and the unsullied good work the church claims as its mission will be more likely to be seen.

    And I agree, that despite my own choice to remain faithful, I would have no place weighing in on your choice. I am sorry that my church and my diocese have done you such injustice.

    Michael P. Doherty

    1. Who asked for compensation? Where in this entire collection of posts or in any other media that I have discussed this grand conspiracy have I asked for a dime? Please show me…

      I want the truth, I want the people who have protected the 26+ Catholic priests in the Diocese of Scranton who have committed sex crimes against children or vulnerable adults to be exposed and fired. I want justice. That would be something of which your diocese has no concept.

      Unfortunately, the people that preach love, truth and penance do not practice what they spew.

  8. Michael, I stumbled onto your site. I was born in Scranton and grew up in the Poconos and knew a couple of the Priests listed here. I don’t recall Fr. Gibson – I wish you didn’t either. After attending a Catholic School 1 – 12 grades, and being from a strict Catholic Family, I refer to myself as a “recovering Catholic”. Partly because I don’t buy the things I learned, mostly because I knew priests who abused kids and “The Church” hid them and made the kids seem like they were the liars. I wasn’t one of the abused and I don’t even know if I know any of the kids who were abused. I know you won’t buy this, but I do pray for your peace of mind and heart. I am so terribly sorry this befell you. I hope things get better for you and wish you all best.

  9. Michael,
    I came to your blog because I was looking for info on Fr Gannon. After I read your beautiful words about him, and how my own experience with him was similar to yours, it was clear that I was missing something that was inferred in your remarks about him.
    I went on to read your entire blog postings. I was saddened to take in your beyond painful experience. I have felt some of the same feelings, but not from a priest or clergy. I am glad that we both had Fr. Gannon in our lives at the time we needed him. I had high walls that he broke down to reach me. I thank God for him everyday since 1976. I wish you the kind of peace that surpasses all understanding. Fr Gannon would have wanted for us.
    Mike G.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s