NDHS Class of ’78

There has been a flurry of emails in the past couple of weeks from some of my classmates at Notre Dame.  My blog was discovered by a friend from  NDHS class of ’78 and she has been spreading the word.  I alluded to her email a few posts ago.  She thought that she may have been the last to know about the events that were taking place under our noses at the school on the hill in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania all those years ago.  Despite having gone public with the information in 2008, some 30 years after my departure from the tarnished halls of Notre Dame, there are people who are surprised to learn about what was happening during the 1970’s at the school and in the parishes that provided the student population.

I, for one, have no nostalgic love for my old school.  What to some may be the location of academic and athletic milestones and accomplishments was for me a reminder of treachery, abuse, lies and deception.  When I went to Stroudsburg in 2008 to speak with an Assistant District Attorney for Monroe County about Gibson, I arrived in town early enough to drive by my alma mater.  As I came up the hill, the familiar shape of the school chapel began came into view and my stomach flipped.  It had been one of the few times since my graduation in 1978 that I had been up there.  Unlike some of my classmates, the only fond memory I have of the building was leaving it for the final time after graduation.  I lost my yearbook a while ago, no doubt on one of my many Navy moves over the years. 

I do have good memories of classmates and friends in the classes that surrounded my graduating class.  Having been in a family that had 5 of 6 children in NDHS at one point I knew a lot of people, at least as acquaintances. Granted, the school only had an enrollment of only about 250+ students in grades 7 – 12 while I was there.  Until recently, I was unaware that some of those friends and acquaintances were keeping a similar great terrible secret to my own.  While the Diocese of Scranton will admit to only 4 Gibson victims, my list keeps growing with 2 more in recent weeks telling me that they were targeted.  I now know that there are multiple survivors in the NDHS alumni community. 

People are telling me that they had long wondered about Gibson’s mannerisms and arrogance.  One in particular indicated that his name often came to mind when they read an online story from the Pocono Record’s website about a priest being credibly accused or arrested.  And, for the record, I did talk to the Pocono Record on a few occasions after the story broke in the Scranton Times Tribune in September of 2008.  They declined to run a story because both Gibson and I no longer lived in the area.  That shortsighted editorial decision neglected to take into account that more of his victims were, indeed, still living in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

What I do see from behind the dashboard of this blog is a renewed interest in Gibson.  I am seeing a significant increase in the number of search engine queries for his name and either a camp, school or parish he was either assigned to or associated with included in the search.  I am seeing referrals from Facebook (I do not have an account for a number of personal and professional reasons) and other sites.   I am also getting emails, some of them are supportive, others are acknowledgements of what happened to other people all those years ago.  No one is really surprised by the predator, but there is shock at the revelation of what was really happening all those years ago.

With the news coming out of a Grand Jury Room in Philadelphia about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia protecting pedophile priests and trying to cover up their crimes, I suspect that there may be some traction for legislation in Harrisburg designed to allow survivors to seek justice and determine how the various dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania  protected  priests, perhaps hundreds of them,  over the years.  I think it would be great if the Notre Dame Alumni community supported that effort and their classmates and friends who are now trying to get to the truth.  You may be surprised by who has been keeping a great terrible secret.

Follow-up on the Robert Timchak Case in Northeast Pennsylvania

The Pocono Record is updating the case of Father Robert Timchak as he approaches his sentencing date in November.  The article is available at the Pocono Record Website and quoted here:



Priest, ex-Notre Dame teacher, awaits sentencing in child porn case

Pocono Record Writer
October 13, 2010

A priest who once taught at East Stroudsburg’s Notre Dame Elementary is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 18 in Pike County after pleading guilty to child pornography possession.

The Rev. Robert Timchak, 44, of Milford, an assistant pastor in Scranton, pleaded guilty in August to 17 counts of child porn possession and one count each of criminal use of a communication facility and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

After the Diocese of Scranton received an anonymous tip in December 2008 about Timchak’s possible inappropriate computer use, police began an investigation that led to the discovery of explicit pictures of underage boys on his personal computer, according to an affidavit.

Police said Timchak downloaded the photos from two Internet porn sites.

Timchak was a student teacher at Notre Dame from September to November 2007. In December 2008, he worked as an occasional substitute teacher at Notre Dame, “occasionally celebrated Mass” and “possibly” attended school functions there, according to a statement released last November by the Diocese of Scranton.

He substituted in other local elementary schools, including public schools, the diocese said. He was also assigned at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Lords Valley.

The diocese released the following statement this week: “Father Timchak continues to reside at a treatment facility outside the diocese. Also, he is obliged to adhere to the strict limitations already imposed on him by the diocese.

“As with the case of any cleric accused of sexual abuse of a minor, Father Timchak is prohibited from exercising any ministry in the Church. Father Timchak remains on a leave of absence while he awaits the outcome of the legal proceedings in Pike County.”

Fund Drives and the Ghosts of Pedophiles Past

I received a letter in the mail not long ago from the “2009 Annual Campaign” for Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  The campaign has a theme, “Celebrating Today… Preparing for Tomorrow”. As with all fundraisers, the letter came with a glossy brochure full of information on projects to be accomplished, scholarship assistance programs in need of support and the required breakdown of the recognition levels that accompany donations.  For only $10,000 you can have your name on the Cornerstone Society list!  (Act now!)

I understand that the school has requirements that exceed the money collected in tuition.   On the one hand, there are kids that need support to attend school and new computers always seem to be in short supply.  On the other hand, this was the place where I was singled out to be raped by my 8th grade religion teacher, Father Robert Gibson.  I was roughed up by the same priest in the chapel of this school and the nun that walked in on that event simply walked away.  This was the school where other students were targeted by other priests, either on the grounds or at events such as school retreats to the Fatima Center.  The documentation on the priests involved is pretty extensive.

In case you were wondering who the priests were, they are Father Robert Gibson, Father Peter Crynes (at the Fatima Retreat Center)  and Father Christopher Clay.  Those are the three priest who have been documented with histories of abuse and a connection to the school.  In the case of Peter Crynes, a reader who posted comments to this blog stated he was assaulted by Father Crynes at the Fatima Center.  Most recently, another priest who did some substitute teaching at Notre Dame Elementary School was charged with having child pornography on his computer. Father Robert Timchak is awaiting adjudication of his case in Pike County.  You can search for other predator, pedophile priests at Bishop Accountability.

My dilemma is this. do I simply shred the information on the fundraising campaign along with the request from Catholic Charities in Wilmington (How the hell did I get on that mailing list?) and be done with it?  Or do I write a letter explaining my reasons for not taking part in the fundraiser for the school?

I think it all comes down to one thing.  The Diocese has not been forthcoming with information on the predators it has long protected.  The Diocese and the parishes involved with the school have not actively sought out victims and tried to minister to there needs.  There has been no meaningful public acknowledgement of the damage done and the families torn apart.  There has been no acknowledgement of the faith destroyed and the trust lost.    There are, most likely, more of these monsters who are finding refuge in the secretive workings of the Chancery.  Until the Diocese of Scranton, the Catholic Church in the United States and the Holy See accept their responsibility and are held accountable for their role in the victimization of children and vulnerable adults, donors should decline any request for donations to any institution that is part of the Roman Catholic system.

Cut off the funding and the hierarchy will have to face the fact that they have forgotten their mission and have focused and all the earthly trappings that go with power, position and privilege in the Catholic Church.  If reforms are not implemented at all levels, the secrecy and the abuse that thrives inside that secrecy will continue.

If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to send your donation dollars, I recommend your local food bank.

It keeps happening in the Diocese of Scranton

An email from a reader alerted me to yet another priest that has been relieved of duties in a parish in the Diocese of Scranton. In a report from the Times Leader, a priest was removed after he attempted to project an informational DVD about the annual diocesan fundraiser on October 25th. Allegedly four photographs of “minimally attired adult males” were displayed.  Bill Genello,   spin master for the Diocese of Scranton, announced that the photos were not pornographic.  Well thank goodness for that!

Father Edward Lyman was removed as administrator of St. Anthony, St. Bridget and St. John the Baptist parishes in Throop, Pennsylvania. The current whereabouts of Father Lyman are unknown.

At some point the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton need to start demanding accountability from the Diocese. I don’t know what the last straw will be. These people have rallied behind priests that have abused, molested and raped children. They have supported priests with child pornography on church computers and they have tolerated priests that have had inappropriate relationships with adult parishioners. What does it take? I am at a loss.

I would love to see an independent investigation into the Diocese and their policies to determine if the parishioners, particularly the children are safe. The diocese will not take responsible action. It seems that bishop after bishop has failed to take proactive steps to set standards and turn over priests who have violated the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States to appropriate authorities.

Local District Attorneys and the U.S. Attorney should look into the continuing saga of sexual crimes against both children and vulnerable adults, fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice on the part of the Chancery, all the way to the office of the Bishop. (I know the Diocese of Scranton is currently without their own shepherd, I could argue that has been the case for decades…)

I would hope that law enforcement officials got a look at the laptop to determine if child pornography laws were broken before the IT gurus wiped all the evidence from the hard drive. Given the chance, I have no doubt that the diocese will destroy evidence to protect itself.

Where ever Father Lyman is, I hope he has been questioned thoroughly by law enforcement. If no crimes have been committed, I would hope the Diocese takes the appropriate sanctions against this priest if he has violated Diocesan rules. What will probably happen is that this guy will get shuffled to the next unsuspecting parish.

I wonder if Father Lyman is bunking in with Father Timchak, they seem to have a common interest in photography.

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.