I received a letter in the mail not long ago from the “2009 Annual Campaign” for Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The campaign has a theme, “Celebrating Today… Preparing for Tomorrow”. As with all fundraisers, the letter came with a glossy brochure full of information on projects to be accomplished, scholarship assistance programs in need of support and the required breakdown of the recognition levels that accompany donations. For only $10,000 you can have your name on the Cornerstone Society list! (Act now!)
I understand that the school has requirements that exceed the money collected in tuition. On the one hand, there are kids that need support to attend school and new computers always seem to be in short supply. On the other hand, this was the place where I was singled out to be raped by my 8th grade religion teacher, Father Robert Gibson. I was roughed up by the same priest in the chapel of this school and the nun that walked in on that event simply walked away. This was the school where other students were targeted by other priests, either on the grounds or at events such as school retreats to the Fatima Center. The documentation on the priests involved is pretty extensive.
In case you were wondering who the priests were, they are Father Robert Gibson, Father Peter Crynes (at the Fatima Retreat Center) and Father Christopher Clay. Those are the three priest who have been documented with histories of abuse and a connection to the school. In the case of Peter Crynes, a reader who posted comments to this blog stated he was assaulted by Father Crynes at the Fatima Center. Most recently, another priest who did some substitute teaching at Notre Dame Elementary School was charged with having child pornography on his computer. Father Robert Timchak is awaiting adjudication of his case in Pike County. You can search for other predator, pedophile priests at Bishop Accountability.
My dilemma is this. do I simply shred the information on the fundraising campaign along with the request from Catholic Charities in Wilmington (How the hell did I get on that mailing list?) and be done with it? Or do I write a letter explaining my reasons for not taking part in the fundraiser for the school?
I think it all comes down to one thing. The Diocese has not been forthcoming with information on the predators it has long protected. The Diocese and the parishes involved with the school have not actively sought out victims and tried to minister to there needs. There has been no meaningful public acknowledgement of the damage done and the families torn apart. There has been no acknowledgement of the faith destroyed and the trust lost. There are, most likely, more of these monsters who are finding refuge in the secretive workings of the Chancery. Until the Diocese of Scranton, the Catholic Church in the United States and the Holy See accept their responsibility and are held accountable for their role in the victimization of children and vulnerable adults, donors should decline any request for donations to any institution that is part of the Roman Catholic system.
Cut off the funding and the hierarchy will have to face the fact that they have forgotten their mission and have focused and all the earthly trappings that go with power, position and privilege in the Catholic Church. If reforms are not implemented at all levels, the secrecy and the abuse that thrives inside that secrecy will continue.
If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to send your donation dollars, I recommend your local food bank.