Don’t Feed the Troll (and other lessons I have to learn all over again)

I had forgotten a few of the basics in the last few weeks when it comes to dealing with adversarial comments. The rules are pretty simple and they should have been learned early on. Unfortunately, I find myself in the position where I need to go back and learn them over again.

1. Don’t feed the troll. Don’t bait an internet interloper into a conversation that is not worth your time in the first place. There are those on-line who would like nothing more than the opportunity to snipe at you personally as part of their own smug campaign to paint you as a fool. Their basic argument is often without merit or based on personal attack. They can attempt to claim the moral high ground if you forget yourself for a moment and say something that they can use against you. In my case, the troll is an operative for an organization that is not what it seems to be.

2. “Put down the duckie”. When it comes to moving yourself forward the best advise I have seen to date on overcoming obstacles to allow you the ability to reach your goals comes from Sesame Street: (It’s 5 minutes out of your life, go ahead and watch)

3. No one can insult you without your permission. If someone comes after you with the express purpose of getting your “Irish” up, remember they can’t succeed unless you allow yourself to get pissed off. This may be a variation on “Don’t feed the troll”.

4. Don’t accept a “No” from someone who is not empowered to tell you “Yes”. If you want the man/woman at the top to answer your question, ask the man/woman at the top the question or make your request directly to them and not to some underling or proxy who is there to be an obstacle to you in the first place.

5. If you are going through hell, keep going (Winston Churchill). For many of us, the trouble is that we have stopped along the way. Dr. Seuss called the place we stop, The “Useless Place” (Oh,The Places You’ll Go). My advise, keep moving.  I have found it useful to drop some of the baggage I have been carrying along the way.  It is a lot easier to move forward without all the troubles and stresses (real and imagined) weighing heavy on you shoulders

6. History is written by the winner. If you want the abuse committed by Catholic Clergy relegated to the ash pile of history, let the Roman Catholic Hierarchy win. If you want a different outcome, stand up, form up and fight.

7. Finally, to quote the Dixie Chicks:

” I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should”

Enough said, for now.

Actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica II

I have completed my defection request correspondence and mailed it off to the Diocese of Brooklyn on my way into the office this morning.  I suspect it will hit Prospect Park West sometime on Monday or Tuesday.  I was sure to include a copy of my baptismal certificate to help the research process along, you know how these bureaucracies can grind on when all the source documentation is not readily available. 

I also provided a courtesy copy of  my defection request to the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the Diocese of Scranton.  On the outside chance the Diocese of Brooklyn may have some questions I don’t want the folks on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton to be surprised when an inquiry comes in about Father Gibson and his taste for sexually assaulting little boys. 

I am giving it a couple of weeks for an initial response.  If I hear nothing, I will resubmit via registered mail. 

The clock is running.

My next letter writing campaign will be to the US Attorney for Pennsylvania requesting an investigation into the long-term criminal conspiracy to cover up sexual crimes and obstruct justice by the Diocese of Scranton and the Bishops that have guided that curia.

Actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica

I have come to the conclusion that I have very few options in what I can and cannot do in dealing with the Roman Catholic Church.  So I am going to work on the things I can do.  First and foremost, I need to make sure that the boys in Rome are not counting me among the faithful. 

It seems that the Roman Catholic Church counts you as a member if you have been baptized.  As I was dunked into the batismal fount of the holy mother church as an infant (without my consent) I am still on the rolls for counting purposes.  It is a good scheme, claim big numbers of members because most who leave never bother to tell the church to pack sand. Take a look at church attendance today and see how many people are sitting in the pews, that would be a significantly smaller number.

I am sure that my contribution to the statistics is still going strong in the ledgers of the Diocese of Brooklyn, even though I have not resided in Brooklyn since I was 12.  My time in the Diocese of Scranton, the offending diocese that supported Robert J. Gibson and left me and others vulnerable to attack, does not factor in.  It seems that the only way I can terminate my association with the RCC is to go through the process of “Defection”.  I am going to officially quit.  Reduce the worldwide population of Roman Catholics by 1.  Not a big dent in the hugely inflated number of American Catholics, but an important removal for my own personal growth.

I would prefer to be excommunicated. It would be pretty wild to be in the same club as Galileo Galilei! But, I digress…

There are large numbers of  lapsed Catholics who have left the RCC for other faiths.  Some decided the Sunday Morning Magic Show was nothing more than (incense) smoke and mirrors that came with an inedible snack and a requirement to sit through a ridiculous monologue, that wasn’t funny, about life from a man who generally knew very little about life (or was living a double life).  Others like me, were subjected to horrible violations compounded by an uncaring, co-conspirator of an institution that was only focused on minimizing scandal, silencing those calling for justice and keeping the money rolling in to support the opulent lifestyles of the Bishops who condoned the sexual crimes committed by subordinates.  

Defection seems to be the answer. In order to “defect” you must submit your stated intention to leave the church to the diocese in which you were initially baptised. In May I requested a duplicate copy of my batismal certificate from the church where that event took place.  I have researched the process and I am going to fire off the letter to the fiefdom of Bishop “Nicky the Don” DiMarzio in Brooklyn and let them know I am done with all of it. 

I am fully aware that this leaves me out of having a Catholic funeral, no last rites, no sacraments of any kind from the church.  But seeing as this church has already denied me protection from predators, been an impediment to  justice and cannot seem to tell the truth about the sexual crime crisis within it’s doors, I do not see the loss of sacraments as a downside.  On the rare occasions where I have been in a church over the last few years, I stay respectfully silent and I do not approach the altar for any reason.  Really, I am not doing anything different from what I was doing already.  I am just formalizing the process.  It is an active form of leaving, not a passive form. 

This blog post will serve as a notice that I am done with the Catholic Church officially.  I make this decision of my own free will without any undo influence from any other source.  I do not want any kind of RCC intervention in any aspect of my life and eventual death.  I do not want last rites, an RCC funeral mass, any kind of prayer service or burial in a Catholic cemetery. I want no indication in my life or death that I was, in any way, a practicing Catholic.  I don’t know any other way to make a more public pronouncement. 

I will let you know how this works out.  At least I will let you know the kind of response I get.  I am hoping this service will be free of charge!

Wandering off the reservation

I am sorting through a lot of comments, a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls?  (How did my number get so widely distributed?)

Bottom line.  I am not wandering off the reservation from the topic at hand.  If you want to weave the birth control and abortion discussions into this conversations, I will not be going there and the comments will not be here.   

I am doing this to stay on topic. 

If you have a blog on the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Church and it does not appear in my left rail navigation (<<<<<  look over there and then scroll down just a bit).  Send me a link and I will put it up.

Pandora’s Box

It seems that my last post opened Pandora’s Box.  What I thought was going to be an expression of the reasons for my exit from SNAP turned into a flash point for people for and against the way SNAP operates.  I have received more email on both sides of this discussion than I expected.  It is running about 50/50 in support or opposition.  There are also the occasional nasty comments that seem to be focused on questioning the marital status of my parents at the time of my birth and the odd threat of retaliation for my “insensitive”  treatment of the leadership at SNAP.

With all due respect to those who have nothing but insults to throw,   Knock it off!

If you would like to have an open conversation about what I wrote, I am all in.  If you want to start demanding to know the religious affiliation of individuals in the organization, give it a rest.  I will not post any comments that attack the faith of individuals associated with SNAP at any level of that organization.  Everyone has the right to make decisions that are correct for them as individuals.  Whether or not a person remains a Catholic, converts to another faith or denomination or chooses to simply leave “organized” religion behind is a personal choice.

As I stated in my previous post, I don’t think it matters who is funding SNAP or how it was organized 22 years ago.  I believe that current methods, tactics and tools of the organization are not getting the job done.  I intended to draw a comparison between SNAP and the RCC in how they conducted business.

From my point of view, SNAP is engaged in a struggle with the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  While they are pursuing a course of action that I think is shortsighted, they are still not the bad guys.  That distinction is the sole domain of the hierarchy of the RCC and their apologists who are still denying that the church allowed the abuse of children and vulnerable adults to go on for decades.   I part company with SNAP when it comes to how I think we should collectively, as a community of survivors, engage our adversary.

I also don’t think that SNAP is the sum total of the survivor community.  The amount of email that came in more than backs up that thought.

Based on the feedback I received in the comments and emails that came in yesterday and today, it is clear that I hurt some feelings and possibly insulted other survivors.  That was not my intent.  I apologize to those who feel I have wrongly characterized their efforts on behalf of the survivor community.  I have reread my most recent post and, with the exception of some typos and misspellings that I have corrected, I stand by what I have written.

If you are one of the people that contacted me by email, rest assured I will not publish what you expressed in that correspondence without your permission.  If you sent your thoughts in a comment to this blog, they are fair game.  If you sent something that I saw as inappropriate or threatening, I will not publish it in this forum.  This is my blog and I will determine the content.  I am more than willing to publish both sides of this discussion as long as it is a civil discussion.

Time to get our collective eye on the ball.

Parting Company with SNAP

Update:  If you are coming into this blog post from click here to see my response to Mr. Pierre’s use of my post to support his attack on SNAP.

I began writing this post over a month ago. It was put aside as my attention went to other, more important events in my life. But now I have a moment, so I thought I would finish my thought process and assess my relationship with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

I sent a note to the National Leadership of SNAP to request that my name be removed from their website as the Point of Contact for the Southeastern Virginia area. In effect, I was removing myself from SNAP because I no longer think that the organization speaks for me as a survivor. This is a decision I made after a great deal of thought and it was not easy for me. But I have decided that for me, personally, I am more comfortable being on the outside of the organization than within. I have too many questions and I have some concerns about leadership, vision, and technology as well as the tone of the conversation between the leadership of the organization and its members.

SNAP is not a network, as the name of the organization would lead you to believe. In the time that I have interfaced with the organization (I reported my abuse in 2007 and started searching the web for organizations of people like myself), I have been frustrated by the lack of communications with other members. My perceptions have been that in order to communicate within the organization, all conversations seem to flow through the National Director. Most of my experience with the National Director seems to surround him squashing any ideas or initiatives that did not originate with the National Leadership. The organization is not networked to facilitate communication between survivors, it does not make use of the various forms of social media to bring an important story to a larger audience. Instead, SNAP seems to be focused on handing out leaflets outside of churches, writing letters to editors and many other methods of discourse that are not as effective today in the digital age as they may have been 22 years ago when SNAP was born.

I find the tactic of holding short notice press events that seem to be focused on promoting the National Director at the expense of survivors with ties to the community where the hit and run event takes place to be pretty odd. I also think that holding vigils and protests that more resemble prayer meetings than actual protests is ineffective. It almost seems that the Catholic Church has a hand in the organization. I am beginning to believe some in leadership positions in the organization may be trying to keep the survivors separate and without an effective way to communicate. Funny, that is precisely what the Catholic church does to victims.

Last spring, when I promoted a letter writing campaign to the Pope organized by an Irish activist, the National Director made a point to email me to tell me that writing letters to church leaders was ineffective. A few weeks later I see that the National Director, in contradiction to his own admonishment, had a letter to the Pope published for all the world to see. The message I take from all this is that any effort by survivors outside of the organization is frowned upon, but when the National Director pens a letter, it is newsworthy. Mr Clohessy was quick to express his concern that the Irish letter writing campaign was a waste of time. So what? If it makes people feel like they are participating in getting the word out, especially to the boys in Rome, that they are not going to sit by and allow business as usual from the bishops, I think it is a good thing. Mr. Clohessy knew better than all of us and recommended that others not participate in letter writing.

A SNAP event I did attend was a vigil in front of the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C..   Billed as a show of solidarity with the victims in Ireland, we stood outside of the embassy with candles while a Catholic Folk group from Maryland played spiritual songs. The embassy was dark, no media was in attendance and only passing motorist and the law enforcement officials that safeguard foreign embassies watched from a respectful distance. We should have been in front of the Vatican Embassy, only a short distance away, expressing our continued outrage very loudly at the Holy See’s inaction.

Although the technology is available, the SNAP website does not promote the blogs of people, many of whom are survivors, that regularly discuss the challenges of survivors, pass information to survivors or provide information on predator priests and others involved with the ongoing cover-up of the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church. The discussion boards are old and outdated and the list of points of contact is not updated on a regular basis. (despite my request to be removed from the listing, my name still appears). The website, for the most part has become a cob-website.

There is some buzz out there about the origins of the organization. Was it a formed by the church itself? I don’t think that really matters. Is it funded by lawyers? Is it funded by the Catholic Church? Good questions! We don’t really know because financial records for this non-profit are not available for review.  But, I am not sure if the source of funding is really relevant. When it comes right down to it, this organization has the potential for doing so much more for survivors and to force a public discussion that could lead to real change and progress in the development of laws that will force organizations to safeguard children and vulnerable adults. It could work with other like organizations to try to open a dialogue or force a change in the Catholic Church. It has the potential to force the truth out in the open. Instead it seems to have become stagnant.

The other complaint I have concerns SNAP’s lack of information for local points of contact or leaders. When I volunteered to be the SNAP point of contact in Southeastern Virginia, I was promised a binder of information on the organization, information on what was expected of local leaders and a listing a resources that I could pass along to survivors in my area. That never materialized. I did have limited contact with the leaders in Northern Virginia, but not a lot of support from the National folks. I was invited to attend a 4 hour leaders training in Ohio recently. That would have been a 12 hour trip to attend 4 hours of training.  SNAP needs to train local leaders, especially in areas that do not have active chapters, allow the organization to grow and to allow for effective communications with survivors.

After thinking about the organization and the way they conduct business I am increasingly uneasy with what I see as a disconnect between the organization’s mission and their methods. I would like to see a change, maybe one or two fresh faces on the national scene. (That does not equate to removing existing leaders). I would like to see an overhaul of the way technology and social media is used as a tool. I want to see this organization actually network survivors. If the national leadership would embrace such a change I will return, volunteer again and do my part to keep the network going.

For now, I will continue to blog my ideas and talk to the survivors that write to me after they find me on-line. I welcome a discussion on SNAP, I just won’t take dictation from the organization.