A letter from the VAC at the Diocese of Scranton: Independent Survivor Compensation Program

Author’s note: This is my second attempt at this post. I have tempered my approach, but my outrage has not abated.

A half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie. A lie, you can detect at some stage, but half a truth is sure to mislead you for long.”
Anurag Shourie

I have had two restless nights since the letter arrived in my mailbox. My blood runs a little cold when I see the Diocese of Scranton address in the top left corner of an envelope. This missive was from the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) for the Diocese announcing the Independent Survivor Compensation Program (ISCP). I will let you read my letter. I have redacted my contact information. I have enough virulent church apologists blowing up my email, I will not enable them to contact me at my home.

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I have had some responses from others I have shared this letter with, other members of Robert Gibson’s “Lost Boys.” It seems, without my prompting, they are equally outraged by the message and tone.

I am sure Mary Beth Pacuska, the VAC, was very proud of her work. But then again, she is charged with taking information on victims and aiding the bishop in turning that information into a plan of action to silence, discredit and demean survivors who have dared to stand up to the prelate on Wyoming Avenue. I would recommend a title change that allows you to keep your “VAC” acronym. From this side of the conversation, “Victims Adversary Coordinator” sounds more apropos. Let me know Mary Beth, I am dying to get your opinion (sarcasm intended).

Shall we go through the letter? She starts to auger into the earth with her first paragraph of introduction. “I am privileged to work with victims of sexual abuse suffered as a minor.” You have got to be kidding me!? “Privileged?” From my point of view, it would have been my great privilege to never have had a cause to contact that office in the first place. Work with us? That is laughable. Although I initially spoke with Joan Holmes when she occupied that chair in 2007, it is my experience that the office of the VAC is there to protect the bishop and his minions. Interest in the well being of the victim/survivor has proven to be nothing more than a diocesan sham.

The next two paragraphs of the communication are propaganda. Propaganda wasted on an audience that sees through the fiction of Diocesan action touted because they have suffered not only the original crimes committed against them but through the mishandling, bungling and straight-up attacks by the diocese. Spare us the bullshit Ms. Pacuska, we are not buying it, and you look all the more of a diocesan pawn for it.

Finally, in the fourth paragraph, she gets to the point of the epistle.  She announces the ISCP, provides no details at all about the program and punts the problem to the administrators of the Diocesan fund intended to placate survivors like me. The best part of all of this is the nugget in the second to last paragraph of this pathetic piece of prose. “Please be assured that this program is independent of the Diocese, completely voluntary and confidential, and will be handled with respect and in a pastoral manner.” The program is not independent of the Diocese because the diocese is funding it. (Maybe I should say that the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton are financing it. That is much more accurate.) The Diocese, knowing the true scope of the problem and the estimated number of survivors/victims they have covered up for decades, is trying to get off on the cheap.

The program is “completely voluntary and confidential.” Sure it is! What I read here is a requirement for a confidentiality agreement. Or, more simply put, no transparency or accountability for the actions of bishops or priests who actively covered the sex crimes committed against children. She says the program will be handled with “respect and in a pastoral manner?” Personally, I don’t think the Chancery for the Diocese of Scranton knows the meaning of the word “respect.” Pastoral manner, that thought is ridiculous! If the lies and deceit offered to me by this diocese since I reported what Robert Gibson to me when I was 13 years old at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg reveals the measure of their “pastoral manner” I am better off without it.  If you wish to know what I want, click this link, I have spelled it out for you.

I have a recommendation for the VAC. Mary Beth, are you listening? Just tell us the facts devoid of all the propaganda and flowery support. Save the half-truths and platitudes for your parishioners. They are still swallowing what you and your bishop are offering.

4 thoughts on “A letter from the VAC at the Diocese of Scranton: Independent Survivor Compensation Program”

  1. Michael,

    First, let me say how sorry I am that you are going through all of this and receiving this kind of response from the Diocese of Scranton. When I first read the letter, I was appalled at how cold it was, but in reality it shouldn’t have surprised me or you. You’ve been down this road before with these people. You are expecting too much from the Diocese of Scranton. Let me offer my few words, for what they are worth.

    I reread the letter from the VAC several times. This is a corporate, legalistic letter with no shred of empathy. They are obviously acting on the advice of their lawyers (who we, the laity are paying for) and attempting to mitigate monetary damage with the inception of the ISCP. As you noted, it’s simply a regurgitation of the legal paragraphs taken directly from the Diocesan website tab for “Victim Assistance.” All this office does is take in and note the facts and then refer the person to other agencies so that the victim is distanced from the hierarchy. As she ironically put it, “this program (ISCP) is independent of the Diocese.”

    As far as I can determine, through Google and the Catholic Light, the person listed as the current VAC has an MSN degree. She resigned her job as administrator of the practical nursing program at the Wilkes-Barre CTC (local Vo-Tech) effective August 1, 2018. Her name next appeared in the August 16, 2018 issue of the Catholic Light as the Victim Assistance Coordinator with no introduction or listing of her qualifications there. So, she’s been on the job for 5 months. It is not clear that she has any idea of the history of what has happened to you and other victims or knows about the shuttling of priests from one parish to another or from state to state. She is merely the firewall in front of the bishop and his administrators.

    Michael, I read the list that you compiled about what you want and I’m afraid it’s not going to happen. The bishops want to throw money at the problem and hope that it goes away. They will not take responsibility for their actions. And I have found out over the past five months that parishioners and priests believe that all these “innocent and holy” priests are being accused and gotten rid of because of just one phone call (zero tolerance policy) from some aggrieved person and that they (the priests) receive no trial or hearing. These same people refuse to read the 40th Grand Jury report. They continue to invite these priests into their homes even though they know that they were credibly accused. So you can see that the parishioners believe that it’s just people trying to get money and a payday from the diocese.

    Michael, I think that what you wrote, “And, more than anything else, I want to be done with this. I want to put this down and go back to a quiet life” is what you may have to do. I think that you, as the adult, need to finally bury Gibson once and for all for the sake of that 13-year-old. Then you will be able to heal that young man with the help of your friends and good partner.

    For my part in all this, I pray for you and I sincerely believe that God will help you. Try to turn to Him and ask for healing. I intercede for you and believe that He will heal you in a way that no money or apology can. God Bless you, Michael.

    1. You almost had it. You were so close and then you slipped into singing “Let it go!”

      The VAC is a cog in the machine. Her curriculum vitae is of no consequence to me. She is a faceless collector of information, like her predecessors, and is in no way assisting victims. She is assisting the bishop. She is not the firewall between the survivors and the bishop, people like you are.

      If you think I am not aware that I am not going to get what I want, you haven’t been paying attention. I have no expectations that Bishop Bambera, the Catholic Church, “innocent and holy priests” and parishioners are capable of doing the right thing. I am never disappointed in how badly they behave collectively and individually.

      Please go through my blog and find an instance where I have sought a cash payment. If you find it, I will shut this blog down tonight.

      Gibson is buried. Would you like to know where? Don’t worry, I will not disturb his grave. As for Michael at 13, we have already come to terms. I want there to be no more “Michaels”.

      Allowing the Bishops to get away with this may placate the innocent and holy priests” for now but it will change nothing. Abuse will continue to thrive in an environment of secrecy.

      What you did have right is that the church is a multinational corporation that is looking out for its interests, above all other considerations. That includes the teachings in their scriptures.

      I don’t buy into the mythology, I have seen the man behind the curtain and, sadly, he is just a man. Don’t waste time
      praying for me, nobody is listening.

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