It has been an interesting 31 days. I still have not processed it all. I don’t know how to process some of it. I have been told to try to look at these things in the context of “the glass being half full”. What I have found in looking through my own personal lens at all that has happened since May 25th, is that the glass is broken.
In May, Robert Gibson, the Catholic priest who raped me while I was an 8th grade student at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, died. True to form, I was informed of his passing by a source close to the Gibson family and not by the Diocesan official who had promised to inform me of his inevitable death.
To be honest, I was numb. I was neither happy nor sad that he had died, I was not angry at not having had a chance to confront him while he lived. Many of the people who emailed me after I blogged about his passing were quick to offer their thoughts on the man who had committed criminal acts (this was not just abuse) against many, and had betrayed us all. There was another shocking revelation about him that came with the news of his death that should not have surprised me, but it did. Another of his victims shared his story with me as the news of his passing got out. I don’t feel like I should be celebrating the end of a life, no matter how malevolently lived. In his addled later years, I am told he was a shell, a soul lost to dementia. I don’t think I should take any solace in his condition at the conclusion of his life. With the onset of that condition also came the death of truth for me and many others. There was no last moment apology from a dying man, no admission to his crimes, no sense of his prolificity when it came to the number of children he raped, sodomized, tortured or beat while he was being “naughty” during the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. There was no accounting.
Many have told me he is going to get his in the next life. I don’t believe there is a next life and I don’t believe in hell. Gibson escaped this life and atonement for his crimes with the aid of the Diocese of Scranton, the Catholic Church and a network of Roman Collar Crime supporters who probably all breathed a collective sigh of relief as he breathed his last shallow, labored breath.
While this was all going on, the jury in Philadelphia was deliberating the fate of two priests, one accused of molesting a child, the other of covering up crimes and endangering children. As the jury deliberations dragged on, I could not help but wonder if there was a juror who could have been refusing to convict on religious grounds. Perhaps the church had gotten to someone on the jury with threats or payments. Based on my dealings with the church, I saw this as very possible because I do not differentiate between organized crime and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The jury did convict Monsignor Lynn, finally, on only one count of endangering a child. The jury deadlocked on the priest on trial for molesting a child. That was a start, albeit a very poor one.
Monsignor Lynn used the defense of superior orders or the “Nuremberg” defense. It was really Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua who should have been on trial and he “conveniently” died the day after a judge ruled him competent to testify in Lynn’s trial. With Lynn’s conviction we have a lieutenant going to prison while the generals are untouched. While I welcome the conviction as a first step, it is by no means a leap and I do not see it as a major turning point in the struggle to force the hierarchy of the church to come clean on the conspiracy of silence and the further victimization of children and vulnerable adults. I will feel a little better when I see someone in purple or red vestments being led away in handcuffs to serve a long-term behind bars for their crimes.
And then there was Jerry Sandusky’s trial. The defense here was that the victims were seeking monetary awards. They were greedy and willing to bring this kind man down. Sure he was a little overly affectionate, so what if he liked sharing showers with young boys. Luckily the jury saw through that and convicted on almost all counts of the indictment. He will appeal; we will go through all this again. He will put the victims through the scrutiny and the attacks that should rightfully be aimed at him. Just when you thought you heard it all, his stepson came forward and identified himself as one of the victims. I am not surprised.
The true test will be when the Penn State officials who covered up the reported incidents that allowed for other children to be placed in danger of rape and abuse. When I see a Pennsylvania jury convict based on strong evidence I will start to believe that a change is coming.
There are bills that have been stuck in the judiciary committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that are moving, at a glacial pace, towards the floor for a vote. Held up in the Judiciary committee by the imperial chairman Ron Marsico for a long time,the bills finally moved on to another committee because of the intense pressure of the two trials going on in the Commonwealth. Finally, Marsico’s political peril overcame his loyalty to the Catholic Hierarchy. If those bills pass and the governor of Pennsylvania signs them into law, I will start to believe.
In the meantime, I watch the Catholic faithful announce that justice and honor have been satisfied. They mimic the voices from the pulpit that claim the scandal is past and that we must look forward. We must turn a blind eye to the past and to the victims for whom justice and honor have not been satisfied and truth has been denied. We must look to the future and protect the mother church! (Sarcasm intended)
This is not over. The church’s hierarchy has not paid a vulgar price for its vulgar complicity and parishioners’ complacency. It has not learned its lesson and the faithful have not seized power from those who have abused it for centuries. It is business as usual. It is all about power, prestige and keeping butts in the seats for the Sunday morning magic show and keeping the revenue stream flowing. I have such low expectations for the Catholic Church. I have set the bar ridiculously low for the church and marveled at how they continue to fall short.
Nothing has changed, yet…