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:
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. The recommendations in the Grand Jury Report 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.
Senator Lisa Baker (R) has been identified as a key vote on window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate that would allow victims of child sexual assault the ability to take civil action against the people and organizations that have been covering up abuse for years. At this moment, we think she is a “No” vote going forward. That means that she supports the denial of justice to all victims of child sex abuse, rape, and molestation.
Is she your Senator? If yes, pick up your phone and call her office at (570) 675-3931. Her constituents are from Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming Counties. Attached is a spreadsheet where you can see the specific municipalities.
Calls/visits from her constituents would be incredibly helpful for the movement to pass the two-year window.
She seems to support a fund by the Catholic Church to pay restitution to victims. The fund will only perpetuate the silence the church has been seeking. It also denies justice to those outside of the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis.
When I first reported Father Gibson to the Diocese of Scranton, I was told that he had been removed from ministry and sent to a facility for safekeeping. While the Diocese should have handed this prolific sexual criminal to civil authorities, they instead sent him into the Catholic Church’s “Pedophile Protection Center” a.k.a. The Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer Missouri. The facility is run by the Servants of the Paraclete, a Catholic order of priests who specialize in “caring” for troubled priests. While the Jesuit order has been called “God’s Stormtroopers”, it seems that the Servants are “God’s Corrections Officers” or Cruise Directors. I guess it all depends on your point of view.
A reporter for KDSK – 5 in Missouri, Leisa Zigman, has completed a two-part series with a follow-up on the Center. Long believed to be a haven for hidden priests removed from their parent Diocese, the center is more of a retirement home than a serious rehab center for the most dangerous priests. Review the videos and see for yourself!
Links to the series, with related video reports, are provided for your review:
The article by Nate Brit of the Boonville Daily News reads as follows:
An ex-Boonville priest suspected of sexually assaulting three mid-Missouri men in the 1980s has been taken into custody in New Jersey, Cooper County Prosecutor Doug Abele said today.
The suspect, Gerald Howard, was arrested with the help of the Bloomfield Police Department in New Jersey and the Boonville Police Department, Abele said.
A $1.5 million bond has been set, he said.
Howard is expected to be charged with three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy and two counts of kidnapping, Abele said. Howard could face 5 years to life in prison if convicted on the sodomy charges.He could face 5 to 15 years if convicted on the kidnapping charges.
Howard once worked as a priest at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville.
The prosecutor’s office is not naming the three alleged victims — identified in court documents as John Doe 1, John Doe 2 and John Doe 3 — to preserve their confidentiality, Abele said. Their names would become public if the case goes to trial and they are asked to testify, he said.
Former Boonville resident Mark McAllister claimed in August that Howard sexually assaulted him repeatedly during the 1980s while he was an attendee of the Boonville parish. He won a $600,000 settlement in connection with those claims in the fall.
McAllister claimed Howard as having worked at Ss. Peter and Paul and as having taken him on trips to places such as New Jersey.
The Cooper County Sheriff’s Department also participated in the investigation, Abele said.
Decisions about which charges to file had to be made based on laws that were in effect at the time the crimes are suspected of having occurred, Abele said. That meant consulting Missouri statutes in effect in 1983, 1984 and 1985, he said.
Judge Robert Koffman on Monday reviewed the grand jury’s recommendations Thursday in Cooper County. Koffman authorized the warrant that has been issued for Howard’s arrest, Abele said.
Capt. Don Smith of the Boonville police said the Sheriff’s Department launched the investigation into Howard in September and later transferred the case to Boonville police.
Bloomfield police took Howard into custody at his apartment today, Smith said. It was their first attempt to make contact with him.
The link also lists other related stories about this monster.
The next thing that needs to happen is the prosecution of those that knowingly moved this predator from New Jersey to Missouri by way of New Mexico. The giving and receiving Diocese should both be held criminally liable for their complicity in hiding this predator.
There are so many articles about the current antics of the Catholic hierarchy that it is tough to choose what to comment on these days. I have what I call my “You have to be kidding me file”. This file, mostly in the memo program of my iTouch, contains some random comments on things that I hear in the media or read in one of the many blogs that I visit on a regular basis. It is usually something so out there that it defies logic. Today I am dipping into the file to comment on the behavior of two separate dioceses in different parts of the country and a Catholic order that has cared for and tried to rehabilitate pedophiles before they release them back into the world.
Recently, Dr. Mark McAllister reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of Newark (New Jersey), the Diocese of Jefferson City (Missouri) and the Servants of the Paracletes in a civil action over abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Gerry Howard in Missouri. The abuse began in 1983 when Dr. McAllister was 13 and continued through 1988. Reports I have read indicate that this priest had a history of sexual battery long before arriving at the parish in Booneville Missouri. That is where our story really begins.
Father Carmen Sita of the Archdiocese of Newark, more specifically of St. Aloysius parish in Jersey City was charged in 1982 with “an act of penetration with a male juvenile on diverse dates” and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance to a minor”. Sita pleads guilty in January 1983 to sexual assault, is given five years probation and is packed off to Foundation House, a facility run by the Paracletes in New Mexico.
Let’s stop and analyze this mess. The priest is using illegal drugs to get his victims addicted and make them easier targets for his perverse actions. When he gets caught he pleads out and serves no jail time. I would love to know what parish the judge and the district attorney attend. Then he is off to the Paracletes in New Mexico. As soon as the flight to New Mexico goes “wheels up’ from Newark International Airport, the Chancery in Newark lets out a collective sigh of relief and washes its hands of this priest. He is now someone else’s problem.
He arrives at the treatment facility in New Mexico grateful that he is not the boy toy of some hardened (pun intended) criminal at Rahway State Prison back in Jersey. The Paracletes essentially run the Pedophile Protection/Relocation Program for the Catholic Hierarchy in the United States. After he completes his “program” he legally changes his name to Gerald (Gerry) Howard.
Stop! A convicted felon on probation in New Jersey in a cushy “renewal center” in New Mexico legally changes his name? I am not a lawyer, but something is not right here. Did the probation officer supervising Carmen Sita sign off on the name change? Did the Catholic Church sign off on the name change? It may just be me, but when you change your name, you have to get all kinds of records updated so that you can go on with your life. Everything from a drivers license to bank accounts to academic records and professional certifications have to be modified to reflect the new identity of the person who initially established them under his original given name. Did his probation records reflect the name change? Did the probation officer follow along with this or does he/she lose track of Carmen at this point?
He departs New Mexico and lands, somehow, in Boonville Missouri. He gets a priestly gig at a parish in the Jefferson City Diocese. Was this a collaborative assignment cooked up between the Archdiocese of Newark, the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Paracletes? Or did Carmen, now presenting himself as Father “Gerry” Howard land the job at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church all on his own? My question here is why did the Diocese not do a background check on Father Howard? If all of his credentials were in the name of Carmen Sita, how could they have not checked into why a Catholic priest would legally change his name?
There can be only two reasons for a priest to change his name. The first would be that he is in some sort of witness relocation program after testifying against some crime organization. With a name like Carmen Sita that seems plausible. Or, he has committed some heinous crime and is hiding from his past. In the former case, the feds would probably want the priest who testified against the bad guys to find a new line of work. In the latter case, the receiving Diocese should have had all kinds of bells (church or warning, take your pick) going off on why the “good father” changed his name. The obvious answer here is that the Archdiocese, the Paracletes in their role as the pedophile relocation specialists, and the Diocese of Jefferson City made a deal to hide the priest in the Midwest.
Any protest that these parties to the conspiracy thought he was “cured” would be specious.
And what about the supervising probation officer? All of these events are taking place as Gerry Howard, aka Carmen Sita is still on probation with New Jersey. Has he fallen off the grid? Did he violate his probation?
These organizations put this priest on a collision course with Mark McAllister and others like him. Although his tenure in the parish in Missouri was short lived, he had access to children and he exploited that access for his own perverse, criminal pleasure.
Father Howard was dismissed for “reasons other than abuse”. Exactly what were the circumstances of his departure. Did they catch him stealing? Did they catch him distributing drugs? Did they catch him abusing children? Did someone find out about his past and decide he was too much of a risk? We don’t know, the Jefferson City Diocese needs to answer that question. No really, they need to answer the damn question.
What we do know is that this monster used his position to get vulnerable boys into a compromising situation. He plied them with drugs and he committed sexual acts on them. He damaged them physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He addicted his victims to drugs, as if it wasn’t bad enough that he sexually abused them.
Father Howard is still out there. He is still technically a priest because the Archdiocese of Newark failed to take action to defrock him and decided to trade him away to another diocese. I wonder if they had to offer up a couple of seminarians to be named later to get him into the Diocese of Jefferson City. Father Howard is still out there because the Diocese of Jefferson City failed to take action. Whatever the cause for his dismissal, the diocese failed to take appropriate action against this priest. This man should be serving a very long term in a very unpleasant penitentiary. There are probably some members of the dioceses and the Paracletes that should be sharing a cell with him for the deceit and fraud perpetuated on parishioners and specifically on this monster’s victims.
He is still out there. Perhaps he is still functioning as a priest either in the United States or somewhere in the world where he has easy access children. He is most likely still offending. The Catholic Hierarchy insist that they do not know where he is. I am not sure that they can be believed. After all, they did condone his behavior by reassigning a convicted sex offender who changed his name to avoid detection.
The respective dioceses report that they have had no new reports of abuse by other victims. SNAP has publicly announced more victims have come forward but do not want to do so publicly, at least not at this time. Can you blame them? I suspect that the victims know that going to the dioceses that protected and relocated this monster would be an exercise in futility. It is better that they notify civilian authorities outside of the diocese if they seek any chance of an honest and impartial investigation into their allegations. They will not get one from the Catholic Church.
Mark McAllister showed great strength in coming forward and bringing this monster back into the light. I want to acknowledge the courage it took for him to come forward and fight the good fight. By doing so, I have no doubt that others will come forward and tell their stories. He is a hero in every sense of the word.