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.
3 thoughts on “NDHS Class of ’78”
I continue to be touched by your witness, Michael. I hope that you can help others who have been wounded as you were. It is still so hard for me to understand how someone could be so evil to an innocent child. I remembered in school how at times I was bothered by Gibson’s antipathy towards me and now I realize how truly fortune I was that the man had no use for me. I kept a journal for a couple of years and will share with you some of what I wrote 3 months after I graduated. “And Father Gibson, does he really feel like he acts toward me. His sarcasm just eats at me like a sore and I always resented it because he treated me like I was below everyone else. If only I knew how he really felt. The talk I was going to have with him, going to, but never did. Oh why couldn’t he have just taken that little time and talk. I really wanted to so much, if only he had cared.” How sad that I actually was looking for approval from this man. He said that he wanted to talk to everyone in our class before graduation but he never got to me. I kind of wanted to ask him why he treated me the way he did and tell him off. Good Lord, what could I have said to this man that would have made any difference? He was a sick, disturbed man. Now it is amazing to me that they didn’t send the guy packing long before they did. He wounded so many people.
Michael, very hard to read about this. I hope you’ve performed a superhuman feat of alchemy to line the cloud in your life with gold. Most of what I knew when at ND and St. Matt’s was positive, so I count my lucky stars. Stay strong.
I will pass your regards on to my younger siblings, forgive me for editing their names out of you comment.
Alchemy, not really, but I have been able to help some people get in touch with people who can help. Maybe the fact that the truth is coming out and that I do not have to carry this baggage alone is a positive. I would like to see legislative changes that protect children and vulnerable adults. I would like to have the opportunity to force the Diocese to come forward and admit their role in covering for Gibson and many others like him. The Catholic church puts a higher premium on funding streams than telling the truth.