Indifference

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:

Open letter to the US Catholic bishops: It’s over

If you are not standing up now and demanding that the bishops be held accountable and responsible, what is it going to take?  Or are you siding with the Bishops?

 

 

St. Crispin’s Day

Today, 25 October, is the Feast of St Crispin.

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!

This week’s required reading…

Here is the latest group of articles I am recommending as your reading for the week:

How a Catholic sex abuse report in Pennsylvania echoed around the U.S.

D.C. attorney general opens inquiry into sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Washington

Bill White: PA Senate’s inaction on child sex abuse bill was cowardly

Want to make it up to church abuse survivors, Sen. Scarnati? Come back to Harrisburg now | Editorial

The Catholic Church owns the Pa. Capitol. Abuse victims saw that Wednesday night. | Maria Panaritis

The Pennsylvania Senate’s failure to offer remedy to child sexual abuse victims was an utter disgrace

Virginia investigates Catholic Church: ” We have heard from Victims” 

 

It looks like there is traction, we just don’t seem to be going anywhere.

#mysurvivorfrustration

#wherearethey

#ourhouse

Dare to do right…

“DARE TO DO RIGHT AND TRUST THE CONSEQUENCES TO INFINITE WISDOM”

James G. Blaine

Those words are carved into a stone bench facing the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.  It makes me wonder if the people who work there, allegedly in the service of the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, bother to read what is in front of them every day.

James G. Blaine was a native of Western Pennsylvania, he served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Maine, eventually becoming Speaker of the House,  then a U.S. Senator.  He served twice as Secretary of State. He was the Republican candidate for President in 1884, narrowly losing to Grover Cleveland.  I guess the era of great Republican Statesmen of Pennsylvania is more than a century passed.

Just a week ago, The President pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate, Joseph B. Scarnati III, refused to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate that would have allowed survivors of childhood sexual assault a window of opportunity to bring a civil action against the perpetrators of those crimes and the institutions that protected those perpetrators.  This was done when it seemed that a growing wave of support would tip the scales in favor of establishing a two-year window.

A quick look at Senator Scarnati’s official Senate website is revealing.  The first problem I see is that he lists his occupation as “State Senator.”  Senator Scarnati is a professional politician. He is beholden, not to his constituency, but to the patrons of his next campaign.  He is up for reelection in 2020.  Of those patrons, I am willing to bet the insurance industry and the Catholic Lobby are exerting some influence.

His web page also announces that he is a member, along with his wife Amy and their five children, of St. Tobias Catholic Church in Brockway, Pennsylvania.  This is all making sense now.  He seems to be predisposed to support the institution that protects pedophile priests.  Perhaps the Senator is in the cozy pocket of Bishop Persico of the Diocese of Erie and the other prelates within the Commonwealth. Maybe he doesn’t understand the damage done by predators and compounded by the institutions that protect those monsters.  Perhaps he did not learn his catechism regarding the need for forgiveness, penance, and restitution.  I have said this a hundred times; until the Catholic Church pays a vulgar price for a perverted institutional culture, there is no way to correct that culture and ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. That price may come in the removal of leading church officials who are embroiled in the abuse of children or the protection of those who did the abusing.  It may occur in the loss of the faithful and loss of revenue.  It may come with a significant financial hit to pay restitution to survivors.

A significant corporate cultural shift is required to right the ship.  Senator Scarnati’s actions, or more correctly, inactions lend tacit approval to a clergy culture that promotes deity like status to priests, puts the church above the law, encourages secrecy and puts children at risk.   Abuse thrives in a culture of secrecy. 

I am curious how the President pro tempore, when presented with overwhelming evidence of individual and institutional wrongdoing, can stand on the side of the institution that allowed children to be sexually abused, molested and raped and covered up the evidence of those crimes.   He is aligning himself with pedophiles, rapists, and narcissists more concerned about protecting the  treasure of the church from scandal than doing the right thing.  The right thing is to protect the children of the Commonwealth.  The real treasure of the church is the children.  Bishops who are more concerned about maintaining the wealth of the church have no business being the shepherds of their flocks.  Senator Scarnati is protecting the wrong people.

The friend of my enemy is my enemy. The defender of a pedophile is the defender of evil. That person has no moral authority to lord over the Senate Chamber in Harrisburg.  Let’s call it like it is.  Senator Scarnati is a coward for not allowing the bill to go to the floor for a vote.

Senator Scarnati is more concerned with advancing his political career than in supporting the prevention of sex crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults.  I am sure that his wife, Amy, and his children as well as all the parishioners at St. Tobias are so very proud of the fact that Joe will stand up for the wrong side. For those parishioners, I would like to ask a question.  Which one of your children are you willing to sacrifice to a predator who will be protected by the institution with whom he/she is associated?

What happens when you put politicians, priests, attorneys, and insurance executives together in Harrisburg?  NOTHING!

Is anyone out there listening?

#wherearethey #ourhouse

Pennsylvania Senate votes this week

A vote on window legislation that will allow victims of sexual abuse when they were children to pursue justice that has been denied to them by a statute of limitations that protects predators.  The Republicans in the Senate are seeking a course of action that will protect institutions, like the Catholic Church, who have been complicit in the protection of pedophiles in order to avoid scandal and protect the church. Innocent child victims be damned.

Four separate Grand Jury Reports have concluded that there is an institutional culture that protects pedophiles in the Catholic Church.  The Republican Senators getting ready to vote against legislation, based on recommendations from the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, that would grant the right for victims to seek redress in a civil court are reaffirming the culture of protecting pedophiles and support for the continued victimization of children and vulnerable adults in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Others have more eloquently addressed what is going on in Harrisburg.  I offer a couple of links to articles you may be interested in:

Pennsylvania Republican Leadership Spits in the Eyes of Child Sex Abuse Victims with Faux Justice in New Proposal 

PA Senators Vote This Week: Tell Them Window Protects Kids

If you live in Pennsylvania, call you senator.

 

 

What do I want?

ConfirmationStainedGlass
I bet the stain glass artist wants this one back! (You can’t make this stuff up!)

With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August 2018, I have seen a resurgence of visits to this site, thousands of visits reading multiple posts. In the analytics, I can see the search terms people are using, mostly the names of predator priests or a specific Pennsylvania Diocese. While I am happy that people are reading to become more aware of  the scope of the problem, I worry that they are not actively engaging in the discussion and, in Pennsylvania, calling their Senators to move legislation forward that will enable all victims of child sex crimes (rape, molestation, abuse…) to seek justice and to allow the true scope of this crisis to come into the light.

To be perfectly honest with you, I did not expect all of this to come back at me as forcefully as it has. For as much as I have talked on this subject over the last ten years in my blog and to reporters for various publications and media outlets, I was not expecting this amount anger, embarrassment, guilt, and grief to well up in me the way it has in the last two months. It just doesn’t end.  My partner (should I really be calling her my “girlfriend” in my middle 50’s?), eloquently refers to all of this as “the scab being ripped off the wound”. I have had a lot of sleepless nights and discussions that have caused me to physically shake since the report was released. When I do sleep, the nightmares come back.  It has been easier for me to address the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis as a broader subject than to discuss the specifics of my personal experience.  Even now, 44 years removed from that horrible nine-month period of my life at age 13, talking about Gibson has a visceral effect on me.  All these years later I still have to ask,  why did he choose me?  What did I do?

I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am not a complete mess (only partial), I am alive, I have a job, I have a support group, my partner has my back (she always thought Gibson was creepy).  My high school classmates are horrified at what happened to me and others they knew.  I am not an alcoholic (I probably should be, but I won’t drink out of a bottle I have not opened myself or watched being opened because of Gibson), I am not an addict. I have battled depression for years. And, for the most part, I have been able to function in society.  I can count the number of people I truly trust on 2 hands with fingers to spare.

Keeping the secret for as long as I did was the cause of a lot of damage.  That secret sabotaged relationships with my parents, siblings, my former wife, children, and friends.  It profoundly changed the trajectory of my life and left me doubting every decision and action (personal and professional).  Gibson’s voice is the voice of doubt, dissension,  and depreciation in my head to this day.  I cannot shake him off.

In the wake of the Grand Jury Report,  the emails and phone conversations all seem to come down to one question: What do I want out of all of this? To date, this is what I have come up with: (In no particular order, I am spit-balling here)

  • Bishop Joseph Bambera needs to resign with immediate effect.  As Vicar of Priests in the 1990’s under Bishop James Timlin, Joseph Bambera returned “Father Ned” (Robert J. Gibson) to a rectory in the Diocese.  Bambera let a known pedophile back into the world where he was caught grooming a child again.  It is a quintessentially American concept that those who have the ability to change things, to protect the vulnerable, also have the responsibility to do so.  In this, Joseph Bambera fails completely, all the while falling back on the excuse that he was following Bishop Timlin’s orders.  As I have said on this blog before,  I have no confidence in Joseph Bambera’s ability to credibly lead the Diocese of Scranton because of his complicity in Robert Gibson’s case and others.
  • I want all Catholic Cardinals and Bishops in the United States to offer their resignation to the Vatican.  The Pope should accept the resignations of any of those prelates who have had any involvement in a sexual crime against a child or vulnerable adult or were involved in covering up such activity or campaigning to defame a victim that has come forward to report rape, molestation or abuse.
  • I want the U.S. Attorneys across the country to investigate and bring charges against the Dioceses that conspired to move predator priests across state lines to “move the problem”.  Personally, I was taken across state lines to New York and Florida by Gibson.  The Diocese knows this.  I think that the Dioceses and the US Council of Catholic Bishops represent a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the RICO Statute (18 U.S. Code, Chapter 96).  Let the Federal search warrants flow!
  • I want the “facilities” that held Predator priests, such as the  Vianney Center in Dittmer Missouri, investigated for their role in hiding these men.  They are complicit in moving them across state lines and may have violated Federal Law.
  • I want the Diocese to turn over all files in the Dioceses’ “Secret Archives” to Civil Authorities for review to determine what the Dioceses actually knew.  I want the truth.  I would love to see Robert Gibson’s (Father Ned) file.   The Diocese only admits to Gibson having six victims.  I have spoken to more than six that could tell me his modus operandi.
  • I want to see the file on me at the Diocese of Scranton.  I am sure that there is a file cabinet in the Victims Assistance Office that contains a folder with my name on it.  Before the shredders start to overheat, I want to know what is in my file.   In the last week, I had someone claiming to be a Diocesan Priest who may have known my family back in the 1970’s asking for information about my parents.  If I were paranoid, I would say this could be an effort by the Diocese to profile me in advance of potential civil action if the window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate passes and is signed by Governor Wolf.  I would also like the Diocese of Scranton to admit that they use the Victims Assistance office to collect information on victims to allow the Diocese to develop a risk strategy to protect themselves.
  • I want to see all four recommendations proffered by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report to be adopted into law. I will not accept the Church’s offer of a Victims Fund.   That is part of a risk strategy to minimize financial liability on the part of the church and does not serve justice.  If they wanted to protect their interest, they should have protected the children and not the predators.  You reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7)  I do not buy the calls of poverty and threats of bankruptcy.  Those recommendations are:
    • Change the criminal Statute of Limitations for all sexual crimes committed against children
    • Open a civil window for victims
    • Enact criminal penalties for those who fail to report child abuse
    • Restrict the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements
  • I want the people who write to me to tell me that I should be thinking about the priests who are innocent and doing “God’s work” in the community and the negative impact on them as a result of all the publicity to stop.  REALLY?!  Thousands of children and vulnerable adults worldwide over decades, centuries, millennia who have been targeted by priests in the church and you want me to worry about Father ______________ (fill in the blank) and how he is coping with all this?   Why are the “innocent” priests not standing up en masse and calling for the removal of church leaders who are part of the problem?  Why are they not screaming at the top of their lungs calling for reform? Why have they stood by silently when they have had information or suspicions that children were at risk?  Innocent Priests?  SHOW ME!
  • I want to know what the University of Scranton and other Catholic colleges and universities are going to do to foster a discussion on this issue, listening to all points of view on the crisis and leading the way on educating the Church on the history of sexual crimes committed.  I want them to develop a way forward to protect the most vulnerable among us.   If all you are going to do is rename buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the Bishop involved in the cover-up you are only paying lip service to the problem.  I am challenging the President of the University of Scranton, my alma mater, to stand up and be an agent of change.  I am willing to talk to you and represent the victims and survivors.  I am part of the University of Scranton Community  (Once a Royal, always a Royal) and I demand that you take a stand more substantial than renaming dorms in the upper quad.  If you are not willing to do this, let me know where I can return my diploma.
  • Actis formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica.  This is an action item for the Diocese of Scranton. I want out.  I want my name off the rolls.  I want the Diocese of Scranton to coordinate with the Diocese of Brooklyn and make the break with me permanent and official. I am no longer a Catholic, and I want official acknowledgment in a document signed by the Bishop himself.  You should also do this pro bono. (So much Latin!  My Jesuit education is showing again.) I am not going to pay an indulgence for this service.  I have a spot on the wall where my diploma from the University of Scranton currently hangs that may be available soon.
  • I want the parishioners of Catholic Parishes to understand that they are funding the protection of predator priests.  Many of these guys are still on the payroll even if they have been laicized.  Are you happy that you may be paying for a golf membership for a pedophile?  The members of the Catholic Church should stand up and demand both accountability and responsibility from their leadership.

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. I want to be able to turn out the lights on this blog (I am sure the boys in black on Wyoming Avenue want that as well).  If you think for a moment, dear reader, that I enjoy this, you are out of your mind. This is physically and emotionally exhausting.  I am angry at the lies, I am mad at the way I have been treated both as a 13-year-old and as an adult who reported the crimes committed against me.  I am angry that people still rally behind those who protected pedophiles at the expense of their victims.  I am tired of the lies and the attacks on the character of survivors to advance a false narrative that the Catholic Church is doing everything they can to address the issue.  They are doing everything they can to stick to their risk strategy.

That is my list for now.  I am sure I will come up with more items as I think about all of this.

 

 

 

 

 

Some recommended reading from Catholics4Change

A few days ago, Susan Matthews, a blogger advocating for the protection of children and reform in the Catholic Church on a blog called Catholics4Change, discussed the proposed Bishop’s Compensation Fund.  The proposed fund would allow the church to control the amount of money paid out to victims/survivors and allow the Dioceses some damage control.

This Compensation Fund is not one of the recommendations in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  It is a church recommendation that is more of an effort to stop Statute of Limitation changes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and prevent a window that would allow survivors to seek justice in the courts.  I am completely opposed to allowing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church control of any part of the settlement of victim/survivor grievances against predator priests and the hierarchy that protected them.

You can read Susan Matthews’ blog post by clicking this link:

Bishops’ Victim Compensation Plans Ignores Greater Good

Susan and her co-editor, Kathy Kane operate out of the Philadelphia area and have produced a lot of good work.  I highly recommend reading the site and following it for future updates.