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 victimsby 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.
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 Festivus “airing 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!
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.
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.
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:
After removal of the pathetic reply above, the PCC issued the following apology/retraction/backtracking attempt:
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.
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.
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?
There are only a few days left until the Diocese of Scranton releases the information on the Bishop’s Victims Compensation Fund. I am confident that Bishop Bambera will over-promise and under-deliver to victims and their families. If you plan to make a claim against the Diocese of Scranton, watch their news release page for information. I expect the lies and blame deflection will flow from Bill Genello’s office as soon as the details of the “Independent Survivors Compensation Program” ooze out of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.
Look for requirements that will disqualify as many people with credible accusations as possible. If you were raped/molested/harmed by a priest in a religious order teaching in a Diocesan school, you might be out of luck. The Bishop will probably flick that booger towards the religious order and ignore that the crimes were committed within his curia. As in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, they will probably offer you the services of an attorney to help you navigate the rules of the fund. Please be aware, that the attorney being paid by the Diocese will not have your best interests at heart. If the Diocese is paying the bills, the lawyer is working for the Bishop and not for you. I strongly recommend that you get your own legal representation, working for your interests and yours alone.
The best bet in Pennsylvania is to enact legislation that opens a civil litigation window, sweeps aside the need for confidentiality agreements, and forces institutions like the Catholic Church to comply with laws protecting children and vulnerable adults. All victims should have the right to bring a claim in front of a judge. The format of the compensation funds is stacked to favor the Dioceses.
I have been reading some articles linked from sites like Catholics4Change.org or sent in from readers of this blog (thanks Barb!). I am going to offer you some links to spike your outrage or just leave you shaking your head at the myopic idiocy of Church leaders.
The Cardinals and the Bishops are ending 2018 full of deceit. I hold out little hope for change when the clock strikes midnight tonight, and we charge headlong into 2019. Over the last ten years writing on this blog, I have always been in awe of the Church Hierarchy’s ability to be unfeeling, uncaring, unchristian buffoons. I don’t think they will disappoint in their stupidity in the new year.
BISHOP BAMBERA SHOULD RESIGN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT!
I saw a couple of quotes by Elie Wiesel that are relevant to the discussion on the continuing sex abuse crisis and the inability of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to do the right thing.
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
I think I could say this until I am blue in the face. Abuse thrives in an atmosphere of secrecy. If you are silently standing on the sidelines waiting for the “Church” to do the right thing, you are complicit in the cover-up of sex crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults. If you continue to tithe to the church, fill the collection plate and fund the diocese, you are lending material support to leadership that is actively campaigning to prevent justice for victims of abuse. If you are not challenging your bishop, your pastor or your parish council about the damage inflicted, for decades, upon the most devout and vulnerable families of the church you are silently in solidarity with the people who have allowed these crimes to be covered up.
What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
I have heard all the excuses. People are supporting their own parish, not the bishops. That is really not the case, and if that is your position, you are lying to yourself. Change can come from within. If that is the case, why hasn’t it happened? We don’t have that problem in our church! Are you sure about that? Isn’t the “church” more significant than just your parish backyard?
An editorial by the National Catholic Reporter released on 9 November is worth the read. You can find it here:
It is also the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years War between France and England. It was an English victory despite the overwhelming numerical superiority of the French forces that engaged a tired English army. A turning point in the war, Agincourt represented the beginning of a series of English victories. That moment in history was captured in Shakespeare’s play, Henry V.
Where am I going with this little Cliff Clavin moment today? Within the play, Henry V, King Harry gives a rousing speech to motivate his beleaguered army in the face of overwhelming odds against the French that day. I see parallels to the struggle of survivors of clerical sex abuse against overwhelming odds with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and it’s apologists and supporters. The likes of Senator Joe Scarnati and Catholic League President Bill Donohue come to mind.
While we survivors are vastly outnumbered, and the Catholic Lobby can spend obscene amounts of cash to curry favor (that they do not deserve at any price) with politicians, we can find some comfort in King Harry’s speech to his rag-tag army in the field.
Words have meaning. They can inspire, they can dissuade. For me, this passage from King Harry is my motivational. It helps me to stay engaged in the struggle to force the Catholic Church to admit the truth they adamantly deny.
KING: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more. By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse; We would not die in that man’s company That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters (the Bard will forgive me) need to stay the course and finish this fight. I will ask you once again, are you with me? Are your hearts in the trim?
Take it, brave York. Now, soldiers, march away:
And how thou pleasest, God, dispose the day!