The RCC Hierarchy Playbook, Part I

While glancing at my WordPress.com dashboard I noticed that this will be my 200th post on this blog.   I am amazed I have stuck to it this long, although my posts have been less frequent as events in my personal life demand my attention.  For this post I am beginning a series on the Catholic playbook.  These are the strategies that the Church and its apologists use to downplay the sex crisis that continues to play out around the world.   I have been keeping notes over the last five years on reactions to media stories, blogs similar to mine and message boards.   There are too many to do in one sitting so I will try to do them in installments.  I think you can safely say that these strategies are employed by any organization that takes a risk management approach of covering up and denying instead of being proactive and forthright.   The RCC has been using these tactics for centuries.  (That’s right, this sex crisis is not the result of Vatican II as the very conservative zealots will have you believe).

Here is installment 1 of the RCC Hierarchy Playbook:

It is in use again.  The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) hierarchy is pulling out their playbook on how to spin their position on the myriad of crises in which the church is embroiled.  The good old boy network has been fostering corruption, scandal and criminal activity for centuries.  Why would it be any different in the 21st century.

In the wake of the conviction of Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia, the hierarchy’s public relations goon squads are trying to minimize damage in the media, isolate other potential “crisis hotspots”, and brainwash “the faithful” that all is well and that the one holy catholic and apostolic church is on solid footing, just as St. Peter placed it.  You can keep coming to church and filling the collection plates.

The playbook is predictable and  predatory.   It can be broken down into several broad categories.  We start with: ( I shouldn’t have to say this but…  sarcasm runs amock in this post).  (If you are a Diocesan Spokesperson, try to keep up, I try use a lot of one syllable words, if you get confused you can use the google machine.)

Paint the Victim as a Predator

1. Victims are only looking for money!   Greed is one of the deadly sins.   The hierarchy of the church must have people believe that the victim of sexual crimes committed by priests, nuns or lay representatives are only out for a quick, large payday.   Gloss over the damage done by the predators who enjoy the top cover of the church while targeting victims for their own pleasure, that is not relevant!  Father “Fill in the Blank” is not called to account for his actions, crimes and deceptions.  No, we can’t have that.   Let’s go after the victim who has carried his/her great terrible secret of violation for years or decades.  We lurk in the shadows for years for the opportunity to litigate and force the church to pay for sins it did not commit.    The victim is the bad guy in his/her search for justice.

2. Victims will bankrupt us.  Ignore the palaces, art work,massive princely mansions, the expensive cars, summer retreat spots, first class flights to Italy and land used to hide pedophiles in Catholic minimum security facilities.   Ignore the vast resources of the Catholic Church worldwide.    Wealth that is beyond the comprehension of most mortals is not to be considered.   Cardinals and bishops have had the audacity to claim poverty in the face of claims that substantiate their complicity it protecting pedophiles in their attempt to protect the church from scandal.  Dioceses have attempted to use this tactic in court but have failed.   They will cry out that they have to close schools and parishes to pay for settlements and awards to victims of predators that they have shielded.  Funny, it would seem that the best way to avoid scandal is to not create one!   But I digress.  Has it ever occurred to anyone in the hierarchy of the church that predator priests, by their actions and in total disregard for the good of the church, continue to prey on children and vulnerable adults and open that organization to scrutiny, penalty and sanction?   Can I have a big “DUH” from the congregations?

3. Victims of sexual abuse are likely to be abuser as well.  Make me the new monster!  There is no proof of this, but the church and their apologists take this out for a spin on a regular basis.  Paint me as the new threat to children and vulnerable adults!   Once again the church needs you to suspend belief in the overwhelming evidence of institutional cover ups and re-victimization.  Never mind that priests, nuns and lay members of the church have abused their positions of power and were given refuge, financial support and the institutional blessing of the church while victims were ostracized and painted as monsters.    Urges, surely the victims have them and seek the same carnal pleasures that they were forced to comply with.   Really?!  Again, the church is lying to protect its treasure.  It relies on the blind stupidity of the parishioners who believe everything they are told.

AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE:

4. The Priest is only guilty of being seduced.  No kidding!  You would be amazed at the number of times this has been thrown at me by “Good Catholics” and  priests.  It was my fault that he raped me.  I tempted him, I led him down the path to this.  Let’s for a moment suspend belief in reality that sexual activity with a minor under the age of consent is, at a minimum, statutory rape.  Let’s for a moment suspend the logical notion that children who have not gone through puberty are generally not sexual creatures.  Let’s suspend belief that an adult man is unable to distinguish between right and wrong.   These acts, in my specific case, were not tender, passionate acts.  They were brutal, criminal acts that resulted in injuries to my person, my well-being, my psyche.  They stole my innocence, my faith, my trust and my ability to deal with the everyday world around me.   At age 13, I assure you, I did not seduce a priest.  He raped me, repeatedly.  They were acts of violence.  Acts of intimidation, dominance and depravity.  Anyone who can embrace the idea of a child seducing an adult in this manner has, in my opinion, a seriously flawed thought process.

The next installment will be: “There is nothing we can do about it”

If you want to add to the discussion, feel free to comment…

PA Legislation Clock is Ticking! Don’t let the summer recess derail legislation!

If you live in Pennsylvania, and I know a lot of the readers of this blog live in the Keystone State, it has been an interesting few weeks!   But now is not the time to sit back and declare victory.  We are a long way from that day!  

I received a note from Maureen Martinez at justice4pakids calling for people to contact the Rules Chair in Harrisburg to keep the legislation that was crowbarred out of the hands of the Judiciary committee moving to the floor of the State Assembly for a vote. 

The content of her email is as follows:

Two verdicts and the bills moved from Judiciary to Rules Committee—what a week it was last week! THIS WEEK IS CRUCIAL!!!!

 CALL TO ACTION RIGHT NOW!!! Call to Rules Chair Rep. Turzai to call up 832, 878 and the new bill 2488 for a committee vote. The legislature is only in session THIS WEEK until June 29–then they break for the entire summer. Call Rep. Turzai: (717) 772-9943 or email him at: mturzai@pahousegop.com

This is what you can say in an email:

Dear Rep. Turzai- Time is of the essence. Please call up bills 878 and 832 and 2488 (now residing in your committee as of June 20) for a committee vote. The children of PA thank you!

Why are you still reading this, if you live in PA you have an email to write or a phone call to make.  Go on, you have things to do!

Assuaging their own grief…

I have to admit that sometimes I get really angry over some of the comments that are sent in that, on the surface, seem to want to offer me encouragement but, in fact, are supportive of either the man who raped and beat me or others like him.   They are most likely sent by well-meaning people who are not willing to admit that their church is guilty of harboring predator priests as well as other criminal activity.  Or they are unwilling to allow that their precious “Father Bob” or “Father Gibson” was a predator who indulged his perverse fetish of raping prepubescent boys as his way to  get off.  (Excuse me for being blunt.)  (Robert Gibson’s assignments as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton are listed here.)

A case in point, I received an email from a reader in response  to a reply I left to a comment on a recent post.  The original comment was from a friend who was angry that the man who had officiated at her wedding and baptized her children was also the man who sexual preyed on her junior high school classmates (yes, that is an intentional plural).  The conflict was weighing on her. 

I was also conflicted for years because the same man who had raped and beat me numerous times was responsible for getting my father into an alcohol rehab program during my freshman year of college.    The man was a bit of a hero in my family for a long time.  I heard about it for years and I seethed at the accolades being offered for him.    He used this magnanimous act of pastoral kindness to keep me quiet, keep me in place, keep me from telling my great terrible secret.    It was quite a shock to my parents when I finally told them some of the things that happened all those years ago.  Acts of sexual predation that the Diocese of Scranton deemed credible based on other reports on the same “priest”.  Acts that I know were committed on more children than the Diocese of Scranton cares to admit.

The email I received was a little over the top.  I read it once and it bothered me so I walked away from the computer.  When I read it later I was upset.  The next day I was just angry.  I wrote several responses, deleting one after another until I was able to find a way to temper my  anger.  I am not sure that I was completely successful.

The sender of the email stated that she had gone to Missouri to see Father Gibson.  In her words (Sic):

 He was a vegetable of a man in bed. He is completely unable to speak or respond. I knew it was him because they told me that was the man in the bed; but I didn’t recognize him. He is an emaciated shell of a person. He is enduring an empty, lonely, desolation of a life.He cannot speak or comprehend. He is Completely cut off from human interaction.  It is an empty room with nothing but a bed.

Where the wheels came off for me in this email were statements like (sic):

But I knew Robert Gibson. I believe he would choose to suffer like this. I believe he was so ashamed. I believe he was pained at what he did to you.  

        When he dies. ….. And my sense it will be soon… Robert Gibson will make it a priority to help you heal. He was a monster to you. He knew that, but he was not able to control his urges. They call it pedophilia.

Did you ever have urges that you could not control?

Michael… I hope and pray (and I do still pray) that you are somehow able to find peace. If there is a God, then I know that Robert Gibson deserves to suffer for what he did to you. I knew him. He had goodness along side the horror that he showed you.

You will be free soon. Your pain is something I cannot grasp. But you will wake up one day and realize you can breathe. That means Robert Gibson has died and begged our Lord to protect you and comfort you. I hope then you will be free.

Let me answer each of these examples in turn.  I don’t believe he would choose to suffer.  He enjoyed what he did, he liked the power, he liked being dominant and he got off on it.  It sexually excited him.  Did he have regrets or did he lament his actions?  We have no way to know.   His only regret was probably that he got caught.  But even then there was no consequence of note.  The Diocese was more about preventing scandal and keeping the parishioners in the pew for the Sunday morning magic show and tithing.   They moved him to Dittmer, one step ahead of the authorities that should have prosecuted him.

He is going to make me a priority after he dies?  Interesting concept!  If you buy into the “heaven hypothesis” (thanks Maria, I really like that expression) you would think that this man would not get past St Peter.  He would probably be on the express train to hell, along with Bishop Timlin and his band of cronies who put themselves above the welfare of children in the Diocese of Scranton. 

My favorite…  “Did you ever had urges you could not control?”.   If you are insinuating that I have had urges to molest, rape or harm in any way, a child, the answer is “NO”!   I get this more often than not from the church apologists/zealots, in fact it is one of the church defenses against survivors/victims of sexual predators wearing Roman Collars.  They want us to be identified as predators.  They want us to be seen as subhuman and threatening.    Do not, even for a moment, put me in the same category as Robert Gibson, rapist of children.  

He had goodness along side of the horror that he showed you.”  Really!  At what point did the “goodness” manifest itself?  Or perhaps he did “good” things to keep up the facade of being a caring priest in order to separate his next victim from the herd.   Tell me, how do you reconcile the fact that he had all this evil along side of the goodness he showed you? 

The idea of Robert Gibson ascending to the right hand of the “father” upon his death is absurd.   If there is a “god”,  I would suspect that miscreants like Gibson are not destined for any reward in the after life. 

I am sure when he does die, he will be buried with the full vestments of the church that turned its back on his victims.  I am sure he will have a funeral befitting a man of “god”. I am sure he will be heralded for his goodness and sent to his “maker” for his eternal reward.  That will be the final act in the church’s deceit.  I doubt his victims will be invited to send him off with the “honors” he truly deserves.  I am sure that Diocese will wait for a while to tell his victims that he has died so that there will be not interference with his priestly funeral. 

His death will not set me free.  I am already free, I have the truth.  I have spoken that truth and others have also stood up to say that they were also targeted by Gibson.  Some have done so publicly, others have done so privately.   As soon as our great terrible secrets were shared, we were all free.  He has no power over me.  His death will not result in my rebirth.  To give his life, his basic ability to pump blood and draw breath, power over his many victims is ludicrous. He is just a pathetic life form. 

For those concerned about a possible road trip to Dittmer to see Gibson for myself, I did make the run down I-64 from my home in Virginia to Louisville, Kentucky.   While the overhead signs encouraged me on to St. Louis, I did not venture past my Kentucky destination.   Gibson is not worth the gas.   To all my friends who wrote to me out of concern of what a trip to Missouri would do to me, fear not.  I would not do anything stupid.  I would not lower myself to commit an act of violence like Gibson did repeatedly to me and to many others.  If I was going to burn gas to make a scene, it would be to go to Scranton and engage the leaders of the cult in the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue. 

Remember, my dear readers, if you are currently tithing or contributing to the Catholic Church, you are perpetuating the hierarchy that has put children and vulnerable adults in danger.  You have been supporting a corrupt organization that has moved far away from the “faith” it purports to espouse.  Your tacit support makes you complicit in their actions. 

Rolling Stone Article

A fast post this morning on an article that appears in the most current edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.

The article is about the organized coverup of sexual crimes committed in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.    I will have more to say about this later.  You should read the article!

I found out about this latest review of the crisis of sexual crimes committed by Roman Catholic Clergy and the coverup of those crimes by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in a blog by Susan Matthews , Catholics4Change.

I have to get to work, more on this later.  You have a reading assignment!

 

 

FACSA Update on Pennsylvania Legislative Initiative

After a long day working on a project, I came home to find an email in my personal account announcing a press event on 1 March to discuss the Pennsylvania Child Victim Act Legislation that will be introduced in Harrisburg by State Representatives Louise Williams Bishop (isn’t that an ironic last name?) and Mike McGeehan.

While I am trying not to get my hopes up, if this legislation is successful and finds a way to become law, I and many others would be able to seek something we have been denied by the Catholic Church, the truth! (I bet the boys on Wyoming Avenue thought I was looking for a payday!) I want someone to actually tell me the truth, answer my questions and be up front and honest. Shocking, my demands have always been so unreasonable! (Do I need to tell you to adjust your computer sarcasm setting, again?)

Here is the text of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse press release:

FACSA ACTION ALERT

WHAT: Press Conference to discuss PA Child Victim Act Legislation
WHERE: The Harrisburg Capitol Building Rotunda, Harrisburg PA
WHEN: Tues. March 1, 2011 at !0 AM
WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Any one interested in supporting legislation that will hold the criminals who commit child sex abuse accountable.

FURTHER DETAILS: State Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Mike McGeehan, D-Phila., will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 1 at the state Capitol Rotunda to discuss legislation introduced (H.B. 832) and (H.B. 853 ).
The purpose of the news conference is to discuss Rep. Bishop’s legislation that would abolish the statute of limitations on both criminal and civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse and to discuss Rep. McGeehan’s legislation to reopen a two year window to bring civil suit for victims of childhood abuse whose statute of limitations have expired.

Attending the news conference Tuesday will be Bishop, McGeehan, Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, SnDdeN – (NSA) National Survivor Advocates Coalition, Tammy Lerner (FACSA) The Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, Sherry Sensenig, (PROP) Parents Reaching Out to Parents, Marita Green (VOTF-GP) Voice of the Faithful of Greater Philadelphia, Joy Wuenschel, SNAP-Philadelphia Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests, Pam Erdely, (SNAP) Pittsburgh.

State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop D-Philadelphia Mike McGeehan D-Philadelphia

Our mailing address is:
The Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse
740 Cornerstone Lane
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Our telephone:
(215) 870-0680

End Text for FACSA.

If you are a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I ask for your active support. Call your Representative and Senator in Harrisburg and demand that your legislature do the right thing to protect children and to afford the opportunity for justice to those who have been long denied that justice.

Vatican Appoints New Bishop of Scranton

By Michael Baumann

The Vatican appointed Monsignor Joseph Bambera as the 10th Bishop of Scranton. Bishop-elect Bambera is a native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania and is only the second local priest to be appointed to lead the Scranton See.  He has been running the day-to-day business of the Diocese since the premature retirement of Bishop Joseph Martino in August 2009.  With a vacancy in the Bishop’s chair, Cardinal Rigali of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese.

Bishop-elect Bambera will be ordained and installed as Bishop during a mass at Saint Peters Cathedral in Scranton on April 26th.  At that time he will take over a Diocese that has reeled under the ineffective leadership of his two predecessors.  Bishop Martino retired well before the tradition retirement age for Bishops amid several controversies over the closing of churches and schools in the diocese, heavy-handed political threats, intolerance and interference with Catholic Universities in his See and the perception among his critics that he employed bullying tactics to force compliance while avoiding contact with his flock.  Bishop James Timlin was active in the cover-up of sexual crimes committed by more than 24 priests in the Diocese of Scranton over the years.

Bishop-elect Bambera will take over a Diocese struggling to balance the rich traditions of ethnic parishes and schools with the requirement to be fiscally responsible.  He will be dealing with skeptical and often hostile members of his church who are puzzled at the actions, inactions and decisions of his immediate predecessor, Bishop Martino.  Bishop Martino may go down in the history of the Diocese of Scranton as “The Great Divider”.

If I may be so bold as to offer the Bishop-elect a piece of advise…  Get out and talk to your flock, listen to what they have to say about issues that are affecting their lives.  Even if decisions have to be made at the Diocesan level that will be unpopular and will impact the structure of parishes and the assignment of resources (money, priest assignments, facility maintenance) go out and explain why you came to the decision you have made.

One of the things I was impressed with about Bishop-elect Bambera was that his goal after being assigned to run the Diocese temporarily, was to return to his parish.  There were no reports that he aspired to the seat of this See.  I hope this is indicative of his sense of service, his attachment to his parishioners and his compassion.

Perhaps this man will be the Bishop of Scranton who will reach out, in a meaningful way, to the community of survivors of sexual crimes by clergy in this Diocese over the years.  I would offer that Bishop-elect Bambera should meet with survivors at a location such as the University of Scranton to discuss the abuses of the past (both by the priests who committed sexual assaults on children and vulnerable adults and the Bishops and other church officials who protected those criminals at the expense of the victims).

I would like to meet with this man to discuss the topic of  sexual crimes committed by priests in his Diocese.  I would like him to hear from as many of us as possible  and hope that he would be open to listening and shaping real course for change.  (Joan Holmes, Bill Genello, and/or James Early, if you are reading this, it may be a good time to tell the new boss that survivors would like to speak to him).  I will happily make the trip north to meet with Bishop-elect Bambera.

The door is open, maybe now would be a good time to talk.

Note:  If you are a survivor of abuse at the hands of a Diocese of Scranton priest or other religious and would be interested in meeting with the Bishop-elect, contact me and I will try to arrange a meeting at an appropriate and safe location.

Innocent until proven guilty…

It is already beginning.  The troops are rallying around the disgraced priest.  If you read the online reports of the arraignment of Father Bob Timchak in the various news outlets you will find comments by people weighing in on both sides of this issue.  Parishioners and former students are expressing shock and disbelief.  Some are even rallying around him.  Many are questioning their faith and wondering how a man who has been so outspoken on issues important to his parishioners could fall from grace in this manner.  They lament that he was so involved with children in the respective parishes and schools he has been affiliated with over the years and they can’t reconcile the man and the crime with which he is accused.  And yet this “good, kind man” now stands accused of possessing child pornography and tampering with evidence.   Not very priestly activity when you think about it.

Watching news reports online, I am amazed at both the support for Father Timchak and the lack of concern for victims.  Yes, the kids in those photos are victims.  A state trooper interviewed for one Scranton TV news report lamented that this case will make it more difficult for other priests in the diocese.  Excuse me?  You are worried about the other priests?  Where is the concern for the kids in the photos?  Some of them could be from parishes or schools where this man worked.  At a minimum, these photos need to be reviewed by the organizations that search for lost and exploited children.   They are living (I hope), breathing people who need protection from the filth that exploits them.    Not just the people with the cameras and websites, but from the people who get off on  photos of children.

There has been some outrage in the comment sections of online reports, I added my own comments in some cases.  But I am also seeing commenters and at least one columnist who seem to be rallying to the defense of this man.  I get it, really I do.  Innocent until proven guilty.  But that only goes to a point.  When faced with a lot of evidence, Catholics still tend to go with the disbelief option and explain away the truth in front of them.  The indoctrination of the church manifests itself in support for people who engage in horrible behavior.   Love the sinner not the sin.  Platitudes run amok in cases of clergy sex crimes.

I am a firm believer in the concept of innocent until proven guilty.  Father Bob needs to be presented with the evidence against him and make a decision.   I am sure he has gone to his confessor and received absolution.  You know how priests take care of their own.  Part of that absolution should be to atone for his sins and take his punishment.  That, after all, is part of Catholic tradition.  You are told to take responsibility for your actions and do the right thing.  Alas, what your are taught and what the priests do is often a contradiction.

If the evidence against him is irrefutable shouldn’t part of his penance be to stand up and enter a guilty plea?

Here is what I would like to see.  I would like to see him enter a plea of not guilty.  I would like the Pennsylvania state courts to issue search warrants  to allow the police to search the Diocese of Scranton for evidence in this and other cases of sexual crimes that the Diocese helped to suppress.  I would like to see the Pike County District attorney issue subpoenas for Father Bob’s records.  I would like the Diocese to fight that subpoena with every fiber of their being.  And then I want to see them lose.  I would love to see news reports featuring law enforcement carrying boxes of evidence from the Chancery.  All of which should become a matter of public record.

I would like to see investigators go to the parishes and the schools that this priest has been affiliated with and actively search for victims of sexual crimes at the hands of Father Timchak.  It is not a stretch to think that hemay have  acted on his impulses over the years.  There are families with children that were particularly close to this priest.  Start there.  The tell tale signs are very clear in hindsight.   He may have favored a particular child, taken him under his wing, taken him on day trips, maybe an overnight stay somewhere? The best candidates are kids from broken homes or homes with significant addiction or medical issues.  The family, especially the mother, will be very devout in their faith.  The priest is the spiritual advisor or perhaps a  marraige or grief counselor.  This is how he would work his way in.    The targets have to be in awe of the priest and fully accept that the priest is the representative of god on earth.  These are the families in which victims are targeted.

There needs to be an in depth investigation.  I would be willing to bet that the kiddie porn may just be the tip of the iceberg.

I anticipate that the Diocese of Scranton will generously fund this man’s defense (with parishioners’ money, of course) and will stop at nothing to downplay the crimes, absolve the perpetrator and make the victims look invisible.  They will employ whatever sleight of hand is necessary to divert attention away from the church.  Their mission is to avoid scandal.  And yet, they fail at that mission over and over again.

I think all the records of all credibly accused priests in this diocese should be turned over to the U.S. Attorney for review of the crimes that they have committed and to determine the extent of the sexual crime cancer in the Diocese of Scranton.  I would like to see anyone who has covered up sexual abuse reports or moved priests to avoid prosecution dragged in front of a judge.  Let Bishops Timlin and Martino lead the procession to the bench!

Now would be an excellent time for Cardinal Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia and the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Scranton, to clean house and make right what has been wrong for decades.

Below is a listing  of Father Timchak’s assignment history to let people know where he has been.  He has probably left a trail of questionable behavior and, possibly, young victims in his wake.   Why do these guys always have lots of access to schools?  The authorities need to go to these parishes and schools before the Diocese of Scranton starts passing around confidentiality agreements and checks.

Father Timchak’s history as a priest presented from TimesLeader.com:

Timchak’s history as a priest

According to Diocese of Scranton records:

June 27, 1992: Father Timchak was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Scranton.

1992-94: Assistant Pastor, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Wilkes-Barre.

1994-96: Director of Religious Formation, Seton Catholic High School, Pittston; in residence at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Pittston.

1996-98: Director of Religious Formation, Bishop Hoban High School, Wilkes-Barre; and Assistant Pastor, Holy Saviour Parish, Wilkes-Barre.

1998-2000: Assistant Pastor, Annunciation Parish, Williamsport.

2000-06: Pastor, Transfiguration Parish, West Hazleton, and SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Hazleton. Also Chaplain, Bishop Hafey Jr./Sr. High School, Hazleton, 2005-06.

2006-07: Leave of Absence. During this period, he worked in the Luzerne County Probation Office.

2007-April 2009: Assistant Pastor, St. Vincent de Paul, Milford, and St. John Neumann, Lords Valley. Also, he was an occasional substitute teacher in area elementary schools.

April 2009-present: Leave of Absence.