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.

 

 

 

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?   

Mother’s Day Weekend update from the Diocese of Scranton

The email has been pinging again.  It seems that the Diocese has announced that they have paid out $2.2 Million to “abuse victims” in the first 90 days of the Individual Survivor Compensation Program.  (David Singleton. May 11, 2019. The Times-Tribune: Diocese of Scranton pays $2.2M to abuse victims in first 90 days of program)

How nice to let the mothers of the Diocese of Scranton know, on this their special weekend,  that the Bishop/Diocese are paying pennies on the dollar for sex crimes committed against their children.  I hope you are pleased that they see this as a good thing and not for what it is,  a horror story.

I have heard from other survivors about the struggle to document the abuse, the stress of having to put the details of the sexual offenses committed against them by priests who used their position to perpetrate these crimes and the cover of the bishop’s office with all the minions in line to avoid scandal.  Never mind that they all failed, including the incumbent, Joseph Bambera, to protect children.  They failed to do the right thing.  They failed to uphold the basic tenants of the religion in which they placed their faith and took vows to live their lives by the teachings of their savior.

I have not submitted a claim as of the date this post will be published.  I am finding it challenging to sit and write out the details of the sexual violations committed against me by Robert Gibson.   You may recall that Gibson is the infamous “Father Ned” returned to a parish by Joseph Bambera at the order of Bishop Timlin.  I don’t see this ISCP as long-awaited justice. I still think this is just a way for the Diocese of Scranton to pay minimal compensation to a large number of survivors to make this go away.  As if it will ever go away.

The parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton should be demanding answers to questions on where the money for the program comes from.  Why is the Diocese spinning this as a successful program?  It seems to be a successful coverup. Why are the parishioners still in pews, still tithing, still believing that the problem is not that big a deal?  Why don’t they get it.?

It strikes me as odd that men who preach that all will stand in front of their god in judgment, behave in a manner contrary to their everlasting salvation.  I see this as an indicator that this is all smoke and mirrors.  They continue to act in a fashion that indicates their own disbelief in a higher power’s justice.  Perhaps they believe their collar makes them immune.  Think about it.

 

In just a few days, a Billion $ pledged to fix a church.

But no pledges to fix “The Church.”

The fire at Notre Dame de Paris was a cultural tragedy.  The cathedral is iconic to Paris, to France, to the world. The loss of over 850 years of work by carpenters, stone masons, painters, sculptors, stain glass makers, metal smiths, and untold numbers of other artisans who lent their talents to create this magnificent Gothic Cathedral is nothing short of catastrophic.

 

Sparks fill the air as Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris
The Cathedral burns in Paris, April 2019

 

I realize the significance of this cathedral to the national identity of France and to the people of Paris.  I have had the opportunity to see it myself while traveling in Europe during my years in the military.  I was impressed with the dramatic lines of the Gothic architecture as I approached.  I marveled at the art, tapestries, sculptures, and attention to detail inside.  It was truly amazing. And to think that this cathedral survived almost 900 years through good times and bad.  It survived the French Revolution, World War I and World War II relatively unscathed.  It seems that this fire was started by an electrical short during renovations. A small pop, a short circuit and so much was lost.

Within hours of the fire devasting Notre Dame, money was being pledged to restore the cathedral.  A core group of wealthy French families had already pledged almost $700 million to restore the building.  Within just a few days that number soared over $1 Billion.  I tell you, those Catholics can sure come together to tackle a problem like repairing a church.  It is just a damn shame that those same Catholics can’t band together to restore THE church.  You know, get rid of the dysfunctional hierarchy that is in denial about everything from priests raping children, priests raping vulnerable adults, priests fathering children (the next big crisis is coming!), misuse of funds, and lying to the laity? Anyone?

All through my youth, in catechism class and in countless homilies I heard that the church is not the building.  The church is the people worshiping together as one.  I am amazed that the worldwide outpouring of support was so immediate and tangible.  But, that outpouring is for a building.  Granted, it is a cultural heritage asset.  But still…

If Catholics would take a moment to step back and look at the overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing by priests and other church officials who enjoyed protection from a flawed Catholic hierarchy willing to do anything to protect itself.  They are shameless.  Cardinal Dolan of New York took the opportunity when interviewed on the Paris fire to make a plea for funds to help pay off the renovations in St. Patricks Cathedral.  I had to laugh at his blatant attempt to raise money. Nothing like a good cathedral fire somewhere else to fill some of the local coffers in New York.  A couple of days later, a man walked into St Patricks with gasoline and lighters.  A security guard stopped him before he could light the place up.  The guard was able to get some backup from members of the anti-terrorism task force that was just outside of St. Patricks.  One question, why was the anti-terrorism task force just outside of St. Patricks?  I wish I had that kind of protection when I was 13 and Father Gibson was attacking me.

The Catholic church, as I understand it( “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.*” blah blah blah), is still burning.  The hierarchy keeps putting fuel on the fire, and they are willing to sacrifice the innocent on the altar to keep the gravy train going. They blame, and they deflect, and they keep fleecing the sheep for all they are worth.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt.  I would argue that we should let the Catholic Church, in its current form, continue to burn to the ground.

 

*Matthew 18:20

 

 

 

Filling out the ISCP application

20180924_073807
On a car in the parking lot at work, in Virginia.

I have been struggling with this for weeks.  I am trying to make sense of this play by the Diocese of Scranton.  They have set a window for survivors to apply for the Independent Survivor Compensation Program (ISCP) that terminates in July for those who have not previously reported their abuse or in September for those of us that have informed the diocese of what happened  and are known to the people who work at the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.

This fund is a bet on the part of the Diocese.  They are hoping that victims/survivors will take the fund offerings now and forego the chance to depose diocesan officials if window legislation somehow passed in Pennsylvania as it has done in several states over the years.  Most notable among the states who recently voted to allow victims to take their perps and the institutions who protected those predators are New York and New Jersey, neighbors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The bishops are clinging to a failed strategy of minimizing the issue, vilifying the victims/survivors through their proxies and claiming that the only people who will suffer are the old, infirmed and very young who “so desperately need the assistance of a benevolent church”.  And just to put a punctuation on that concept, the Diocese of Scranton is selling off properties that include assisted care facilities and coyly saying that funds from these sales will go to pay for the ISCP.  The sleight of hand and misdirection are not lost on survivors.

 

Bishop selling assets
Bishop Bambera begins the fire sale of diocesan properties.

 

While many have accused me of trying to make a “quick buck” over the years, I am still looking for the truth to come out about the extent of the cover-up and the number of diocesan officials who had a hand in actively marginalizing victims and their families while protecting child rapists.  Given that I have been writing this blog for over ten years, I may need to rethink my “quick buck” strategy.

In the meantime, I am looking over the form for the ISCP.  There are seven pages of required information and questions that will determine the eligibility of a survivor to participate in the ISCP for the Diocese of Scranton.   You are allowed to provide additional pages as necessary to complete answers. The form asks for details on all the instances of sexual assaults, rapes, molestation and other forms of abuse.   You will note here that this trauma is being revisited on the survivors, while the officials of the diocese just sit back hoping to get out from under all of this for the absolute minimum investment before window legislation can be enacted into law.

This is the essay test from hell.   Can you imagine the dread that survivors are experiencing looking at this task? The Diocese, under the terms of the ISCP, will be able to have copies of all of the applications from survivors. My greatest fear is that they will take pleasure in what they will read.   As I try to answer the questions,  I can’t help but feel like I am writing inappropriate erotica for the fetishists at the Chancery.

Excuse me, I think I need to be sick.

Diocese releases more information on the ISCP

If you are a survivor in the Diocese of Scranton, you will need to look at the Diocese website for the Independent Survivor’s Compensation Program.  The link is at the end of the news release and is not part of the main Diocesan site.   The Bishop also released a video. There is not a lot of substance there, just a rehash of points in the letter mailed to survivors by the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) (I should check that envelope to see if that was a bulk mailing).  It is replete with politically correct attempts at “empathy” for victims within the Diocese that should appease the most ardent of the Bishop’s apologists supporters.

I strongly recommend that you get legal advice from someone not associated with the Diocese of Scranton.  If you have not come forward with a report of your abuse yet, you should go to the police, district attorney for your jurisdiction or the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and make your statement to civil authorities.

Some vital information on who may file a claim from the FAQ Sheet for the program:

The persons eligible to participate in this Program are: a) individuals who allege they were sexually abused as a minor by clergy (whether incardinated within the Diocese of Scranton or a member of a religious order serving within the Diocese of Scranton), lay teachers or employees associated with the Diocese of Scranton, or b) the Legal Representative (as defined below) of those Claimants. The following additional criteria apply:
• For new allegations first reported after November 8, 2018, the Claimant must first report the allegation of abuse in writing (with a copy submitted to the Administrators) to the appropriate District Attorney’s Office in order to participate in this Program. A finding of criminal liability by the District Attorney is not required for participating in this Program. All new allegations of abusereceived through this Program will also be reported to the appropriate District Attorney by the Diocese as required by law and Diocesan policy.
• The Claimant must not have previously entered into a settlement agreement resolving the same claim of clergy sexual abuse against the Diocese and/or a member of clergy.
• The Claimant must not have previously litigated his/her claims to resolution against the Diocese or any related entities. However, a Claimant whose claims were dismissed or resolved solely on the grounds that they were barred by the Pennsylvania statute of limitations and no other basis, remains eligible to participate in the Program.
From the Diocese FAQ Sheet

The letter I received from the VAC last week indicated that more details would be forthcoming from the administrators of the ISCP.  As of this writing, I have not received that package yet.   I will provide updates when it does arrive.

Everyone needs to assess their situation and make decisions that are right for themselves and their families.  Only you can decide how you are going to proceed.

I am providing links to the Claim Form, Protocol, and Fact sheets in a .pdf format.  These documents are from the package received from the administrators managing this process.

iscp claim form

iscp protocol

iscp fact sheet

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

diocese of scranton004 croppeddiocese of scranton005 cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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