There has been a flurry of emails in the past couple of weeks from some of my classmates at Notre Dame. My blog was discovered by a friend from NDHS class of ’78 and she has been spreading the word. I alluded to her email a few posts ago. She thought that she may have been the last to know about the events that were taking place under our noses at the school on the hill in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania all those years ago. Despite having gone public with the information in 2008, some 30 years after my departure from the tarnished halls of Notre Dame, there are people who are surprised to learn about what was happening during the 1970’s at the school and in the parishes that provided the student population.
I, for one, have no nostalgic love for my old school. What to some may be the location of academic and athletic milestones and accomplishments was for me a reminder of treachery, abuse, lies and deception. When I went to Stroudsburg in 2008 to speak with an Assistant District Attorney for Monroe County about Gibson, I arrived in town early enough to drive by my alma mater. As I came up the hill, the familiar shape of the school chapel began came into view and my stomach flipped. It had been one of the few times since my graduation in 1978 that I had been up there. Unlike some of my classmates, the only fond memory I have of the building was leaving it for the final time after graduation. I lost my yearbook a while ago, no doubt on one of my many Navy moves over the years.
I do have good memories of classmates and friends in the classes that surrounded my graduating class. Having been in a family that had 5 of 6 children in NDHS at one point I knew a lot of people, at least as acquaintances. Granted, the school only had an enrollment of about 250+ students in grades 7 – 12 while I was there. Until recently, I was unaware that some of those friends and acquaintances were keeping a similar great terrible secret to my own. While the Diocese of Scranton will admit to only 4 Gibson victims, my list keeps growing with 2 more in recent weeks telling me that they were targeted. I now know that there are multiple survivors in the NDHS alumni community.
People are telling me that they had long wondered about Gibson’s mannerisms and arrogance. One in particular indicated that his name often came to mind when they read an online story from the Pocono Record’s website about a priest being credibly accused or arrested. And, for the record, I did talk to the Pocono Record on a few occasions after the story broke in the Scranton Times Tribune in September of 2008. They declined to run a story because both Gibson and I no longer lived in the area. That shortsighted editorial decision neglected to take into account that more of his victims were, indeed, still living in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
What I do see from behind the dashboard of this blog is a renewed interest in Gibson. I am seeing a significant increase in the number of search engine queries for his name and either a camp, school or parish he was either assigned to or associated with included in the search. I am seeing referrals from Facebook (I do not have an account for a number of personal and professional reasons) and other sites. I am also getting emails, some of them are supportive, others are acknowledgements of what happened to other people all those years ago. No one is really surprised by the predator, but there is shock at the revelation of what was really happening all those years ago.
With the news coming out of a Grand Jury Room in Philadelphia about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia protecting pedophile priests and trying to cover up their crimes, I suspect that there may be some traction for legislation in Harrisburg designed to allow survivors to seek justice and determine how the various dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania protected priests, perhaps hundreds of them, over the years. I think it would be great if the Notre Dame Alumni community supported that effort and their classmates and friends who are now trying to get to the truth. You may be surprised by who has been keeping a great terrible secret.