I have heard from a few of you concerning the amount of time it is taking to get an offer from the various funds set up by the Dioceses in Pennsylvania for childhood survivors of sexual crimes by priests. I have heard there is a backlog with the administrators, an article, Pennsylvania dioceses offer $84M to 564 clergy abuse victimsby Michael Rubinkam, on the Associated Press website from December 26, 2019, backs up what I had heard. (Click on the first link to read the article.)
Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally that’s sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims, according to an Associated Press review.
The average payout reported to date is over $148,000 for the seven dioceses that have released information.
I recommend a read of the article. I believe that the Dioceses are displaying an amount of hubris that is entirely inappropriate. They are reveling in getting away with the rape of children and the coordinated coverup of those crimes over decades. Everyone one of the Bishops in Pennsylvania should hang their heads in shame. While these payments will give relief to some of the victims, they do not forgive the crimes. No amount of money will assuage the torment of those who were targetted, first by the predator, and then by the institution that should have protected them in the first place.
It has been six months since my last post. Much has happened for me, but nothing has changed as far as the Diocese of Scranton is concerned. Everything remains a risk calculation for the boys on Wyoming Avenue. We are no closer to the truth, no closer to the Bishop taking responsibility for his actions, not anywhere near an honest act of contrition. And now Bishop Bambera is under consideration for appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, another corrupt bastion of Catholicism. Yes, sports fans, Bambi is perhaps in line for a red zucchetto.
The bishop is calculating the victory lap he thinks he will take when the accountants come back with the final tally from the Individual Survivors Compensation Program (ISCP). It will be a ledger of payments, pennies on the dollar, intended to make survivors go away. There is no actual admission of wrongdoing, no real penance. It is a business transaction.
One of the downsides of having this blog is the email from “ordinary Catholics” who are pissed at me for having the audacity to call out the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for the coverup of decades, perhaps centuries, of sex crimes committed by priests against children. The most recent, received last week, comes from a man who initially sent me an email insisting that I call him. He included a phone number with a southeastern Pennsylvania area code. (Note to potential email correspondents to this blog, saying you “would like to speak to me,” and providing a phone number is not going to get me dialing my phone.) No context, no explanation, just an expectation that I will drop what I am doing and dial the number. On the outside chance that the email could be from a survivor, I responded. My experience also shows that other survivors who are unsure how to start “the conversation” will make the same request, provide a number and ask me to contact them or request that I provide my digits. The sole reason I respond to any of these emails is the possibility that the originator is a fellow survivor.
After more than a dozen years working on this blog, it is easy to spot a militant “protectors of the faith” in a follow on email. Often they are trying to ambush me into a lecture. Sometimes, if I politely decline, it gets more aggressive with accusations that I hate the church, I am making up stories, or I am tarnishing the reputations of “godly” men. You get the picture.
Last week I saw a spike in visits to the blog. Because I have not posted since last June, I was surprised to get an email from WordPress telling me that my stats were booming. The next day brought an email request for my phone number. I thought it odd and stated so in my reply when I asked for the reason he wanted to speak to me and for an introduction.
His reply began with a quote from my blog:
The Catholic Church is a huge multinational business, run for a purpose. It has a goal to collect money, to perpetuate itself and to avoid scandal. They want to attract the “faithful” to fill the seats for the Sunday morning magic show in order to keep the collection plate filled. This will allow the monsignors, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope to continue living in opulent excess. It has long ago stopped being about god, charity, faith and truth.”
My first thought was, “here we go!”
The second paragraph was: (my comments in bold italics)
“I am an ordinary Catholic living near Allentown, PA. (So?) I have been in Scranton several times. (as if this lends geographic credibility to what is to follow) I read your history on the blog “Off My Knees” about the abuse you suffered by a Catholic priest online (thanks for the page views?!). You stated that you no longer consider yourself a Catholic (I don’t), and you don’t believe in God in the traditional Catholic of Christian construct (Yup, I said that too). (And then we get to it…) I want to talk to you about why you don’t want to belong to the Church, your attacks and hatred of the Church, and why I believe the Church is being (sic) unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like you.”
I am curious, why is my desire to have no relationship with the Catholic Church any of your business, Mr. “Ordinary Catholic living near Allentown?” My criticism is directed at the hierarchy of the church for reasons that are well documented. My hatred of the church? You lept to that conclusion all on your own. Show me where I ever said I hated the church. Hate is a powerful emotion, but it not the opposite of love. The opposite of both love and hate is indifference. I am indifferent to any institution that has a culture where prominent leaders rape children, their higher-ups cover up the rapes and encourage followers to enable those crimes through collections, tithing, and donations. My question to you, Mr. Ordinary Catholic, is why aren’t you?
I don’t care (there is that pesky indifference again) if you believe the church is being unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like me. Imagine how unfairly treated the victims of sexual crimes committed by priests and covered up by the hierarchy of the church feel.
On the outside chance that this was a Festivus “airing of grievances” from Whitehall, PA. I would suggest that you now move on to the “feats of strength” activities.
Merry Christmas and an Excellent Festivus to us all!
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
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:
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:
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.
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:
After removal of the pathetic reply above, the PCC issued the following apology/retraction/backtracking attempt:
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.
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.
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?
The Diocese of Eire has removed Monsignor Charles Kaza from St. Tobias Parish in Brockway, PA while an investigation is made into allegations that he sexually abused a minor at St. John The Baptist Parish in Erie in the 1980s. As of the time I was writing this on 19 May 2019, it is five days since the story broke in Erie News Now and Msgr Kaza is still listed as Pastor. There is no announcement available on the church website to indicate that there was a potential predator priest at the church and active with local parochial schools.
I hope that Amy Scarnati is talking about this development with her children to determine if they have been potential victims of the monsignor. The crisis is impacting so close to home, and yet this Senator lacks the spine to allow legislation to go to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate for an up or down vote., I hope the Church, the Insurance lobby and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference are paying you handsomely. Perhaps they do so with 30 pieces of silver. Senator, if that reference is lost on you, you might ask your pastor (the one in seclusion) to get you up to speed on the Gospel of Matthew. I believe you both need a little reading and reflecting.
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.
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.
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.
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.