An Update on the Status of Survivor Funds in PA

I have heard from a few of you concerning the amount of time it is taking to get an offer from the various funds set up by the Dioceses in Pennsylvania for childhood survivors of sexual crimes by priests.  I have heard there is a backlog with the administrators, an article, Pennsylvania dioceses offer $84M to 564 clergy abuse victims by Michael Rubinkam, on the Associated Press website from December 26, 2019, backs up what I had heard.  (Click on the first link to read the article.)

Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally that’s sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims, according to an Associated Press review.

The average payout reported to date is over $148,000 for the seven dioceses that have released information.

I recommend a read of the article.  I believe that the Dioceses are displaying an amount of hubris that is entirely inappropriate.  They are reveling in getting away with the rape of children and the coordinated coverup of those crimes over decades.   Everyone one of the Bishops in Pennsylvania should hang their heads in shame.  While these payments will give relief to some of the victims, they do not forgive the crimes. No amount of money will assuage the torment of those who were targetted, first by the predator, and then by the institution that should have protected them in the first place.

When Life Gives You Demons

It has been six months since my last post.   Much has happened for me, but nothing has changed as far as the Diocese of Scranton is concerned.  Everything remains a risk calculation for the boys on Wyoming Avenue.  We are no closer to the truth, no closer to the Bishop taking responsibility for his actions, not anywhere near an honest act of contrition. And now Bishop Bambera is under consideration for appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, another corrupt bastion of Catholicism.  Yes, sports fans, Bambi is perhaps in line for a red zucchetto.

The bishop is calculating the victory lap he thinks he will take when the accountants come back with the final tally from the Individual Survivors Compensation Program (ISCP).  It will be a ledger of payments, pennies on the dollar, intended to make survivors go away.  There is no actual admission of wrongdoing, no real penance.  It is a business transaction.

One of the downsides of having this blog is the email from “ordinary Catholics” who are pissed at me for having the audacity to call out the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for the coverup of decades, perhaps centuries, of sex crimes committed by priests against children.  The most recent, received last week, comes from a man who initially sent me an email insisting that I call him.  He included a phone number with a southeastern Pennsylvania area code.  (Note to potential email correspondents to this blog, saying you “would like to speak to me,” and providing a phone number is not going to get me dialing my phone.)  No context, no explanation, just an expectation that I will drop what I am doing and dial the number.  On the outside chance that the email could be from a survivor, I responded.  My experience also shows that other survivors who are unsure how to start “the conversation” will make the same request, provide a number and ask me to contact them or request that I provide my digits.  The sole reason I respond to any of these emails is the possibility that the originator is a fellow survivor.

After more than a dozen years working on this blog, it is easy to spot a militant “protectors of the faith” in a follow on email.  Often they are trying to ambush me into a lecture.  Sometimes, if I politely decline, it gets more aggressive with accusations that I hate the church, I am making up stories, or I am tarnishing the reputations of “godly” men.  You get the picture. 

Last week I saw a spike in visits to the blog.  Because I have not posted since last June, I was surprised to get an email from WordPress telling me that my stats were booming.  The next day brought an email request for my phone number.  I thought it odd and stated so in my reply when I asked for the reason he wanted to speak to me and for an introduction.

His reply began with a quote from my blog:

The Catholic Church is a huge multinational business, run for a purpose.  It has a goal to collect money, to perpetuate itself and to avoid scandal. They want to attract the “faithful” to fill the seats for the Sunday morning magic show in order to keep the collection plate filled.  This will allow the monsignors, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope to continue living in opulent excess.  It has long ago stopped being about god, charity, faith and truth.”

My first thought was, “here we go!”

The second paragraph was: (my comments in bold italics)

“I am an ordinary Catholic living near Allentown, PA. (So?) I have been in Scranton several times. (as if this lends geographic credibility to what is to follow)  I read your history on the blog “Off My Knees” about the abuse you suffered by a Catholic priest online (thanks for the page views?!). You stated that you no longer consider yourself a Catholic (I don’t), and you don’t believe in God in the traditional Catholic of Christian construct (Yup, I said that too)(And then we get to it…) I want to talk to you about why you don’t want to belong to the Church, your attacks and hatred of the Church,  and why I believe the Church is being (sic) unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like you.”

I am curious, why is my desire to have no relationship with the Catholic Church any of your business, Mr. “Ordinary Catholic living near Allentown?”  My criticism is directed at the hierarchy of the church for reasons that are well documented.    My hatred of the church?  You lept to that conclusion all on your own.  Show me where I ever said I hated the church.  Hate is a powerful emotion, but it not the opposite of love.  The opposite of both love and hate is indifference.  I am indifferent to any institution that has a culture where prominent leaders rape children, their higher-ups cover up the rapes and encourage followers to enable those crimes through collections, tithing, and donations.  My question to you, Mr. Ordinary Catholic, is why aren’t you?

I  don’t care (there is that pesky indifference again) if you believe the church is being unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like me.  Imagine how unfairly treated the victims of sexual crimes committed by priests and covered up by the hierarchy of the church feel.

On the outside chance that this was a Festivusairing of grievances” from Whitehall, PA. I would suggest that you now move on to the “feats of strength” activities.

Merry Christmas and an Excellent Festivus to us all!

 

Allocution

It is done.  I have spent hours filling out the ISCP questionnaire from the Diocese of Scranton.  Despite the documentation already provided and the written acknowledgment from the Chancery,  I had to answer the following questions:

  • Where did the abuse occur? I provided a list.
  • Age when first sexually abused? Thirteen
michael-teen1
Michael at 13
  • When did the abuse occur?
  • On approximately how many occasions were you sexually abused?  
  • To the best of your ability, describe the nature of the sexual abuse
  • Did you receive a prior Financial Settlement from the Diocese? 
  • Do you currently have a civil lawsuit against the Diocese? 
  • Did anyone witness the abuse or circumstances surrounding the abuse?
  • To the best of your ability, please describe the impact (emotional, spiritual, financial, etc.) you believe the abuse had on you:
Father Robert J. Gibson
Robert Gibson

This questionnaire is flawed.  It is focused on a specific parish.  I had to color outside of the lines because Robert Gibson was not my parish priest.  He was my 8th-grade religion teacher at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  Gibson was a faculty advisor for the play done by the junior high school that year.  He was the priest advising my mother with her marital difficulties.  There was no alternative to the parish question.  So I inserted the school information.  I imagine some survivors would need to put the Fatima Retreat Center or one of the camps run by the Diocese in the past. I described his cars, the temporary rectory at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Brodheadsville he occupied while the ridiculously large permanent rectory was under construction in 1974.  I described the threats, the abuse, the physical violence.  Nine pages, single-spaced, recounting the repeated manipulations, being taken across state lines and the amount of booze he would consume to get his courage up.  Fortunately, at times, the alcohol would only allow his courage to get up.

 

It took me months to get this all down in a Word file.  For months I felt like I was getting pulled through the keyhole.  This questionnaire was designed to make survivors relive sexual abuse again.  They probably intended it to make survivors give up in frustration.  I know I walked away from it on more than one occasion. Now that I am done with this and my team in Harrisburg is editing and formatting and adding potentially hundreds of pages of documents, emails, and blog posts.

The Diocese is not required to fill out any paperwork of which I am aware.  The Bishops will not have consequences to deal with, no matter what offer comes my way from Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros, the “independent administrators of the ISCP.”  After all, the money will come either directly or indirectly from the parishioners in the Diocese of Scranton.  If you are buying Bishop Bambera’s particular flavor of  B.S., the money will come from donations to pay survivors off.  I guess the taste doesn’t matter, it is still just B.S.  There are things I want to know.  I know I will not get the truth from Bishop Bambera and the Diocese of Scranton.  As a Catholic prelate, Joseph Bambera is incapable of telling the truth.

So here are my questions for the bishop and Diocese of Scranton:

  • Why was protecting Robert Gibson or any of the other priests who enjoyed the protection of the Diocese more important than children?
  • What gives the Bishop and his minions the right to circumvent the law and endanger the most innocent of your parishioners?
  • How much of the parishioner’s money have you spent over the years to:
    • Buy the silence of victims and their families
    • Pay lawyers to intimidate, demean and silence victims
    • Pay lobbyist to derail legislation designed to protect children and vulnerable adults and hold predators and the institutions that protect them
    • Pay child support for children fathered by priests (the next crisis in the wings)
    • Pay for abortions for women impregnated by priests
    • Buy silence to prevent the release of information about priests arrested in prostitution stings or to silence gay lovers

These are questions that will not be answered.  Well, at least in the short term.  The only people required to allocute are the survivors or the families of the victims that are no longer with us.  There is really no justice in this process.  When it comes right down to it, everyone loses except the bishops and their henchmen.

There may be some hope still.  The Church Militant is forming an “Action Arm” to go after the criminal and immoral action of the bishops.  Their goal:

Church Militant is happy to announce — excited to announce — the launch of what we are calling the Church Militant Action Arm, a broad-based effort to get the goods on these rotten men through secret investigations where we turn over what we unearth to law enforcement and help police and prosecutors get these Judases out of office.

The goal is to provide absolute anonymity for whistleblowers in dioceses all over the country who are sick to death of participating in all this evil.

Click on the link and watch the video.  If you are a Chancery employee or anyone with information, get in touch with these people  I may have to throw some money at this effort!

While I tend to avoid conservative Catholics because of the vitriol they have thrown my way for the past dozen years, I find this concept to be intriguing.  I am all for exposing the men in the red and purple vestments for what they indeed are, Roman Collar Criminals.

For now, I will wait for the folks in Washington managing the ISCP to get back to me.  As with anything concerning the Diocese of Scranton, I will assume the worst and watch as they get away unscathed.

 

 

 

This week’s reading. Follow the money!

I took today off to finish drafting my ISCP package.  With any luck, I will have it off my plate by the end of the weekend.  I will go through that mess with you all as soon as it is emailed to go through a review for legal sufficiency.

But for now, I have a couple of links for you to read through.  It seems that the church is spending a lot of parishioner money to prevent people from holding institutions accountable that have protected pedophiles in the past.  And now they have to come clean that they are using parishioner donations (feigning shock) to do the dirty work at which they excel.

From NBC News:

Catholic Church spent $10 million on lobbyists in fight to stymie priest sex abuse suits

From the Washington Post:

 

Church_Abuse-Lawsuit_92405-296e2
Michael J. Bransfield, former Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virgnia (Scott McCloskey/Intelligencer/AP)

 

W.Va. bishop gave powerful cardinals and other priests $350,000 in cash gifts before his ouster, church records show

My question is for those of you that still support the “Catholic Church”, is this how you want your money spent?  I am sure you were probably thinking along the lines of “good works” or “charitable purposes”.  I am sure the bishops are thinking along the lines of keeping the cash flow coming in, morals be damned.  Lets  face it, you are supporting Roman Collar Crime.

Just a reminder, the Catholic Church does not pay taxes.  Your tax dollars also support these con artists.

The Church says it’s Over (*Wink*)

The hits keep coming!  Here are a few more links that may be of interest:

A link from the blog Catholics4Change: 

  5 Michigan priests charged with 21 counts of criminal sexual abuse

From the Catholic News Agency:

Indian police investigate claim against Cardinal Gracias of failure to report abuse

One of the Cardinals the Pope was counting on to work the issue. Shocking, right?  No, just another example of why the hierarchy of the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to police itself.

And finally, from WNEP in Scranton, PA: (this one really pisses me off)

Seeking Compensation After Abuse Allegations in Scranton Diocese

(If you need a link to the documents required for the ISCP just click here. I have the links for the documents at the bottom of that post. )

I am going to be working on my submission to the Individual Survivor’s Compensation Scam for the next few days/weeks.  I had hoped I would have been able to get the truth out of the “Lavender Mafia” chapter in Scranton, but I guess I will have to settle for submitting a questionnaire to see if I am worthy.  But first, I need to collect my thoughts and sort this in my head while I am visiting the Georgia Low Country.
I can’t help but wonder, maybe we should take matters into our own hands, and take our biblical justice out on the Roman Collar Criminals?

Required Reading for May

I want to go a month without having enough material to put out a post like this.   I don’t think I am going to get my wish.  Don’t worry, I am used to not getting my desire. I am tilting at the Roman Catholic Windmill.  I am Don Quixote, and I am just too stupid or headstrong to give up the dream of getting some justice from the Roman Collar Criminals.

Here is your monthly dose of the Catholic Church misbehaving:

Marching orders kept Buffalo cops from arresting child-molesting priests

Native American victims of sex abuse at Catholic boarding schools fight for justice

Poland’s church sex abuse scandal becomes political

In court, Roxborough woman recounts alleged rape by priest also charged with making sex tapes

Missing and incomplete sex-abuse files spark Dallas police raid of Catholic diocese, storage facility

New Jersey law gives victims right to sue to age 55, allows two-year window on sex abuse lawsuits

Philly Archdiocese Breaks Promises

Does A New Law Give NJ Sex Abuse Victims Enough Time?

My priest was an accused abuser: The Catholic sexual abuse story gets personal

THE COST OF ABUSE | Attorneys find no shortage of clients amid clergy sexual abuse reports

Abuse Survivors, the New Lepers

  • a person who is avoided or rejected by others for moral or social reasons.

Let’s just put this out there.  Abuse survivors are the new lepers to the “Catholic faithful.”

Recently, a Facebook Post reply from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference to a comment left by  Carolyn Fortney showed that organization’s disdain for the universe of survivors.   Here is the screenshot of the now deleted post:

PCC FB stupidity
Carolyn Fortney’s screen grab

After removal of the pathetic reply above, the PCC issued the following apology/retraction/backtracking attempt:

Screenshot_2019-05-19 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference - Home
PCC failed attempt at damage control

If you don’t know about the Fortneys, I strongly encourage you to check out their website and follow them on Facebook at Fortney Family on the Move for Justice.  Of nine siblings in the Fortney family, five were abused by a Catholic Priest.  These brave women came forward and have lent their voices to advocate for change and justice.  They do not deserve the disrespect leveled at them by the PCC.

Screenshot_2019-05-19 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference » Contact
Screen grab from the PCC website

I will assume that the FB reply came from Al Gnoza, the “Communications Director.”  I wonder if he is the one with whom the PCC leadership is “addressing the matter” with?

Before I go any further, I will recommend to Mr. Eric Failing that he fill the Department on Social Concerns Director vacancy soon. You really need someone with some people skills in your organization.  Just a thought!

As for Al Gnoza, a former newscaster dismissed for cause from ABC27, an ABC affiliate in Harrisburg in 2014 for making inappropriate comments.  After a few years at the CBS affiliate in town, he left in 2018 to take his current job with the PCC.  He has a track record of not knowing when to keep his mouth shut.  I am hoping the disciplinary action taken includes Mr. Gnoza packing up and going elsewhere.

As the voice of the PCC, Mr. Gnoza has made it clear that he has disdain for survivors and their families.  That disdain is clearly the position of the PCC as long as they keep this man in their employ as the Communications Director.  This organization, just like the Catholic League, wants survivors to go away, to be silent and to stop calling to task the hierarchy of the church and its minions in the Insurance Lobby, the office of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

You can read more about the Facebook exchange in an article in The Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil, updated: May15, 2019. Pa. Catholic Conference to clergy sex abuse survivor: ‘Why do you have to troll here?’

This feeling is not limited to organizations lobbying for the church.  It is strongly felt by the “faithful” who also want us to go away.  They often complain that we are just looking to make a few bucks off the church.  That money comes from parishioners.  They have been told, and they believe that services to seniors, young children, and social programs are being impacted to pay off the survivors. They have made us the villains.

Dioceses have conducted services for forgiveness and atonement, but they do not invite survivors and their families.  They bar entry to churches for those who add vocal support for survivors. We are the problem in their eyes.  In my own case, I offered suggestions and support to my alma mater, the University of Scranton’s Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation & Hope. It was made clear in a brief letter from the president of the University and a more polite email from the chair of the Task Force that my offer was not welcome. A clear indicator that I am no longer considered to be part of the University of Scranton community.

Forgive me if I have no sympathy for the PCC, the Catholic Church, or for “the Catholic Faithful” who continue to try to isolate and marginalize survivors.  Just a reminder, folks.  We were the victims of crimes committed by priests and other religious.  Those perps had the support and protection of the hierarchy of the church.  The church continues to benefit from the comfort of organizations like the Catholic League and the PCC who are all about telling you that we, the survivors of the abuse, are the reason that things are wrong in the church.  They say that we are going to bankrupt the church.  I have news for you, they are already morally bankrupt.

UPDATE – 20 May 2019

The spineless leadership of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has removed the apology to Carolyn Fortney and other survivors on their Facebook page.  Isn’t it just like a Catholic organization to hide evidence of a problem and act like it never existed?