William Donohue, Catholic Hater in Chief!

The bar must be open!
The always coy Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League.

I am just amazed at the antics of the President of the Catholic League, Mr. William Donohue.  The more I read and watch the more I am convinced that the Catholic Court Jester has hijacked the press podium for the Catholic Church in the United States.  In addition to his latest rants on Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the all-out assault on Nuns who made the mistake of thinking and seeing the world through a lens not necessarily endorsed by a bunch of old men at the Vatican,  this guy seems to be declaring war on the survivor community at large (Remember, we are not all card-carrying members of SNAP).

I am sure he is going to say that I am a godless, liberal, money seeking, “alleged” victim.  He is a bully, and that is what bullies do.  But for the record, I generally a  conservative who was brought up in an Irish Catholic family in New York and Pennsylvania. The difference, well one of many, between Billy and me is that I don’t blindly support the Catholic Hierarchy.  I also don’t make a living kissing the ass of the Archbishop of New York, amongst others.

Bill has a habit of running his mouth without verifying content beforehand. His rant on the front page of the Catholic League (which, surprisingly, not the governing body for Diocesan secondary school athletic teams) about SNAP is an excellent point in case. The YouTube Video and the accompanying “paper” on his undercover expose of the SNAP convention last year struck me.

If you read his epistle, you will notice this article lacks any definitive substance to back up his assertions.  He relies on character assassination and belittling individuals instead of engaging in thoughtful discourse. All his attacks are meant to divert attention from silly little annoyances like nuns with brains, trials in Philadelphia, Bishops who lie and protect predators, vast numbers of Catholics leaving the church.

Why don’t we take a stroll through the epistle of St. Billy to the world concerning the SNAP Convention.  It is about 9 pages of ranting and raving, but I recommend you take a look to get a glimpse into this guy’s mind.  In a nutshell, everyone is at war with the Catholic Church.  EVERYONE!   My contention, based on my 16 years of Catholic confinement education, is that the war is not being waged on the Catholic Church, it is being waged on the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  You know, the people who have been covering up and deflecting attention away from the sexual abuse crisis that has been going on for decades, centuries even!

Bill sent undercover Catholic League operatives to the convention to infiltrate the organization.  He did so because there is “nothing so salient than the precarious state of the due process for priests.” He calls these undercover operatives who have impeccable credentials who were there.  Who were they?  He can’t reveal his sources, just wink and go along with their “impeccable credentials.”

Bill then delves into the meat of his “treatise,” character assassination.   Since Bill’s arguments tend to be emotional and unsubstantiated, he resorts to the tactic in the debate that is a clear indication of a weak position argument, attack the individual.  (I was Jesuit trained, that is what I was taught).

His targets were William Spade, a former District attorney from Philadelphia.  He dismisses Mr. Spade because he has an “eclectic” relationship with the Catholic Church.  Let’s not discuss the ongoing criminal case, and Grand Jury reports about organized Roman Collar Crime and the cover-up of criminal activity in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Let’s not confuse evidence of criminal activity and conspiracy because the person speaking has an “eclectic” relationship with the Catholic church.  Despite the veracity of the message, the person delivering it is just not to Bill’s tastes.

His next target is Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has been involved in litigation on behalf of victims. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am not a client of Mr. Anderson.)  He was raised a Lutheran!   MY GOD!  He became a Catholic!  SAY IT AIN’T SO! Then he became an atheist! (Seems like a natural progression to me.)  Bill then goes on to call Mr. Anderson a “Hippie” (page 3) and makes a comment about his “diminutive 5’4″ ” stature.  BILL DONOHUE HATES SHORT PEOPLE!  Bill also makes mention that Mr. Anderson is a recovering alcoholic.  BILL DONOHUE HATES RECOVERING ALCOHOLICS!   So what we have learned here is that short recovering alcoholics are not to be believed. Of course, Mr. Anderson is only in this racket for the money.  I understand completely.  Just like the law firms and public relations firms on retainer with American Dioceses who have made billions defending the indefensible on behalf of the Catholic Hierarchy.  Ask your Diocese about the amount of your donations that goes to lawyers, public relations firms and mouthpieces to attack, humiliate and demean victims of predator priests.  (I will wait while you email your Bishop, Chancellor, Diocesian Comptroller…)

You can also take a moment here and understand his underlying theme that all victims of sexual assault at the hands of Catholic religious are out for only one thing… a big fat payday! (time to reach for the sarcasm meter key, it is right next to the “any” key on your keyboard) Yes, I plan on getting rich off of the fact that a Catholic Priest took a shine to my hot 13-year-old ass.  As he was slapping me around, threatening me, telling me the lie that my mother approved of my “visits” and that God thought this activity was alright, I was thinking that 40 years down the line I would be getting a big ass payday!  Keep drinking Bill, you may actually see this post as proof of concept.

Bill Donohue is the face of the Catholic laity.  If you are a Catholic and you are not screaming for this moron’s head, you are allowing the rest of the world to believe that zealots and clowns are protecting the faith.  Good men and women must be in short supply in the pews (oh, I forgot, Catholics are fleeing the church in droves) or they have stupidly clung to the lies of the Bishops that “all is well.”  Bill Donohue is the personification of the Catholic faithful, whether they like it or not.  This guy is proof to the world that Catholics are asleep at the switch.

If you want to have a conversation Bill, give me a call.  I doubt your style of personal attack would survive very long against a Jesuit trained survivor.   Bring it on Billy!  Bring your buddy Dolan along.  Leave the nuns alone, they are way out of your league (Catholic or otherwise).   It will be a battle of the wits, and I will be fighting a half armed man.

You know what they say about grumpy Irish men who rant on and on about how horribly they or their causes are being treated!   Oops, there I go rereading the Catholic League playbook.

Many changes…

This is a blogospheric (a new word is born) place holder. 

The last few months have seen many changes in almost every aspect of my life.  I will probably get to most of them in the coming weeks.  I have some things to say, some things to think on and some goals to accomplish and I will use this blog to help me sort it out. 

For some reason, even though I have not posted regularly in the past few months, the number of readers coming to the blog has not really fallen off.  I don’t really understand that, but that will probably sort itself out. 

I am going to start taking a separate tact here for a while.  It will focus on surviving and not being a victim.  I will be working on things to help me put baggage down and move on.  I am widening the aperture to get a bigger perspective.  No longer will I be throwing “blog rocks” at stained glass windows. although I will be happy to point out the folly and failure of the Catholic’s hierarchy. 

There is a fork in the road and I am taking it (Yogi Berra will forgive me).

There is not enough traction

“The Message” is not getting out.

The SNAP Conference will be held in Washington next month so I thought I would gather my thoughts on how I see the current landscape in order to help me determine how I will spend my time at plenary sessions and breakout sessions.  In the two years (almost to the day) since  I reported Father Robert Gibson to the Diocese of Scranton as my abuser I have learned some valuable lessons and I have decided that there are things that we, as survivors of perp priests need to address if we want to get some traction and find some success in effecting change.  The point of this concept paper, manifesto, white paper, whatever you want to call it, is to offer the challenges I have identified and possible solutions for your consideration.  Be aware this might be just the ramblings of someone frustrated with the state of affairs we are in at the moment.

The major challenges I see for survivors and organizations of survivors are as follows:

1. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States, and around the world for that matter, want to keep survivors isolated, quiet and incapable of getting the message that the problem of priests committing a variety of violent, sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults still exists. Bishops will lie, cheat and conceal information that proves that predatory priests operate in their curias and that the hierarchy of the Diocese has protected them. If caught, they will simply say that they didn’t know raping/molesting children was a criminal offense.

2. The public has grown weary with the story.  After high profile cases and reports in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia and the recent findings released concerning abuses in Ireland, the public seems to have the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes to the ongoing story of predator priests.  I have even heard the phrase “post pedophile priest scandal” in relation to the new order in the church.  I must have missed the Pope declaring “Mission Accomplished!” from the back of the “Pope-Mobile”.

3.  The people carrying our message are spread thin and are in a reactive mode rather than a practive mode.  If you are driving your message only when the other side is giving you an opportunity, they are controlling the story.

4. Victims are slow to come forward.  I know this from personal experience. I waited 33 years before I was willing to go public.  I think that many victims did the same kinds of things I did, they looked on line for their perp.  They looked to see if he/she was reported, had died, had gone to jail, etc…  Many look for support from other victims and groups only to find websites with out of date contact information and broken links.  They don’t know how to tell there story so they go the church and tell it.  The church works hard to keep that story under wraps.  Victims of Sexual Abuse should not go to the Diocese. The Diocese will do what they can to protect themselves,  hide the story and lie to the victim.

5. The organizations that do exist seem to lack local organizations  to help support a cohesive plan to help victims and their families.  Coordinated efforts to spread the word, support legislation, and seek justice seem to be inadequate to compete with the resources, power and influence of our adversary, the Bishops and their supporters.

6.  We have not successfully countered the Bishops’ campaign that tells people that we are attacking the church for our own personal gain.  They have painted us as greedy and focused on destroying the Catholic Church in the United States.  It seems that our focus is on leaf-letting parishioners entering the church or writing letters to the editor when the Bishops are using public relations firms, lawyers and intimidation to get there message across. They also seem to believe their own press that the crisis is past.  “All is well, come back to church and bring your check book”.

So what are we to do?

1. Focus the message.  We need to clearly define our goals and set out to reach those goals and measure how effective we are in achieving those goals.

2.  Coordinate and energize our base.  Not only other victims, but those that are sympathetic to our message:  families, groups that are seeking reform in the Catholic Church, legislators, law enforcement, judicial officials, the media, and bloggers.

3. Develop a legislative agenda to help protect children, hold those people responsible for crimes or covering up crimes accountable in both the criminal and civil courts.  Find sympathetic lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to champion this agenda and then do the hard work necessary to get the agenda passed. Make it a crime for an organization to shield a child molester/rapist.

4.  Clearly define what we want our end state to be.  If an organization’s mission does not translate to a tangible achievable end state, it is doomed to fail. It will become a self licking ice cream cone.  It exists for the purpose of perpetuating itself.

5.  Convince the public that the first call a victim should make is to the police or the office of the district attorney.  DO NOT GO TO THE DIOCESE WITH THE REPORT. These are criminal matters for law enforcement and the justice system to deal with.  The bishops will not do the right thing when left to their own devices.  If you haven’t figured that out, you need to go to Abuse Tracker and start reading.

6.  Determine how we will measure success in the interim.  What makes us successful?  We should track:

  • number of perp priests identified
  • indicted
  • removed from ministry
  • convicted
  • number of bishops removed for hiding pedophiles
  • legislation drafted, debated, brought to a vote, passed into law
  • assistance provided to victims and their families
  • number of outreach programs developed
  • seminars conducted with teachers and church workers to help them identify behavior that is inappropriate

There are more metrics we can track, these just rolled off my brain.

7.  Identify who is  accountable to the victims.  Are the organizations that exist today to support victims effective?  If the  leaders of organizations that support victims don’t meet objectives do we have the ability to seek new leadership?  Some are volunteers and we should honor their service.  There are people who draw a salary off donations out there that should be shown the door if they are not successful.  If  lawmakers are siding with the church to deny justice to victims, their constituents should be told and hopefully those lawmakers will be shown the door during the next election cycle.

8. We must stop the practice of civil authority allowing the church to investigate allegations of criminal activity by priests.  The church is not a law enforcement agency and is not proficient in determining the circumstances of crimes.  Leave that to the police, the justice system and investigative reporters.

I see 4 major areas where I think our community should be focusing their efforts.

1. Identifying the bishops, their lawyers, public relations firms, lobbyist and supporters who are enabling the pedophiles to continue to prey on children.  Fighting to expose them, remove them and if appropriate punish them in criminal and civil courts.  They are fighting and winning because we are not fighting with the same level of resolve.  Get this straight in your head, we are fighting an adversary that will employ ruthless tactics to wear us down and defeat our efforts. These bishops have a great deal to lose in terms of power, influence, treasure and status.  They will not go down without a fight.

They will employ tactics to beat us through attrition (wear down our human and material resources until we are an ineffective force) or through disruption (attack our organizational cohesion and effective functioning so that we cannot operate as a coherent whole).  Both defeat mechanisms are designed to break our resolve to continue fighting for the truth, reform and justice.

Right now the Bishops control the battle rythm, we need to seize that initiative and hold the moral high ground.

2. Protecting children and vulnerable adults.  This is where education, awareness and a legislative agenda come into the picture.  The Bishops will only abandon their current strategy when the consequences for their actions are more than they can bear.

3. Engage groups with similar goals.  We need to partner with groups that seek reform in the church, protection of children and protection for victims of crime.

4.  Establish clear channels for victims who need assistance to find the support they need.  We should be supporting each other and identifying resources to help victims and their families deal with the social, mental, physical and legal problems that they face.  We should not be sending these people to the Bishops for assistance because the Bishops are a very big part of the problem.

A last thought and then I will wrap this one up.  If  we truly have a network, we should be able to utilize the network.  We should be able to communicate with each other without having to go through a filter.  We need to shake the cobwebs off the message boards and reestablish communications with each other.  We cannot be effective in getting any message out if we are not communicating with each other.  Organizations  needs to clean up their points of contact to make sure that victims can actually make the initial contact with the organization through a real person.  A little website clean up is appropriate for more than one victim’s rights organization.

We need to have a place for people to submit blog links and post their thoughts.  Kathy Shaw does an excellent job with the Abuse Tracker to keep all of us up to date on stories in the media, but we don’t have a consolidated blog roll for our community.  We need to leverage technology to get our message out.  You know that the Dioceses across the country are spending big money on shaping and communicating their message and they are not doing it by leaflet.  We need to blog, tweet, and really network.  We cannot be a network in name only.

We have a capable and ruthless adversary.  We are not going to be successful if we don’t leverage the resources available to us to effect change and get help for those who need it.   We cannot win if we do not come together as one.  That is the message I will carry to the SNAP Conference in August.  What message are you going to send?

Threats and intimidation

Over time, Gibson became much more controlling and aggressive.  He was less likely to “soften” me up with alcohol and much more forward when he had the opportunity to get me alone.  His initial caring words and expressions of god’s love and understanding that what we were doing was good and right and part of the way god allowed him to express his love for “his boys” turned very menacing.  The more I resisted or tried to fight him off, the more physically and emotionally abusive he became.  I think he was determined to break me.  I am not ready to get into more detail on the actual acts he committed at my expense.  In the back of my head I am afraid that the salacious details would be the equivalent of porn for perp priests.  I also don’t think at this point it is information that I can just put out there.  I am not there yet.

The threats were subtle at first.  He would tell me that no one would take the word of a child over that of a priest.  Anything that I would say would be the product of an over active imagination and disregarded.  He told me I would be severely punished for telling lies.   Any allegations made would motivate  my mother to send me away.  He always seemed to infer that he had her passive permission because priests had a special station in life.  It was his privilege and therefore no one would do anything about the situation on the outside chance that they believed me.  But, rest assured, I would not be believed.  He told me the nuns and lay teachers at the school would not do anything and the other priests would support him.  After all, they all had their “favorites” as well.    I was suspicious and afraid of anyone on the staff of the school.  Whether it was rational or not, I became convinced that people were aware of what he was doing to me and that they had no problem with it.  I would look in disbelief at the people in the schools office when he would take me off campus during the school day.

The nature of the threats changed rapidly.  Since he was a powerful and well loved pastor he could expel me and my siblings from Notre Dame and St. Matthews Elementary school without anyone challenging him. He was above reproach.  His word would be good enough to remove us all from school.   He told me that my siblings would hate me for having to attend a public school and leaving their friends behind. My parents would be humiliated,  my mother especially, since she had gone to Gibson for pastoral counseling.   More sinister threats of taking advantage of a younger sibling or of beatings began as he tried to keep me under his control.  Finally, it came down to telling me that if I spoke out and told anyone, I would disappear and never be found.  I would simply be erased and, after a short while, no one would give my absence a second thought.   I was only in my first year at the school and I would soon fade from the collective memory of those at the school.  It was clear that I was expendable.

I was completely terrorized by his words.  He knew it!  I could not believe that all of this was true, but at age 13 I had no way to know for sure that it was not the truth.  This he also knew and exploited.  What was true was that all of this seemed to be about power and control.  The fact that he got off on it seemed to be an extra benefit for him.

I’m sure he told my mother that he was acting as a mentor and offering opportunities for me to do interesting things on my own with a good male role model.  He exploited her as clearly as he had exploited me.  Much to my horror, she would allow him to take me on overnight trips, one lasting as long as a week.  He took me to the new rectory when it was completed.  It was  his own personal pedophile pleasure palace and masturbatorium.  He would talk about the rectory as a great personal accomplishment.  He took me  to New York “to see some plays” and to  Walt Disney World.  On a couple of occasions he took me off school grounds during the school day for “pastoral counseling”.  I went along, I was too frightened to put up a fight or tell someone what was happening to me.

I am curious about how long it took him to perfect this intimidation on other children.  Did this start before the seminary?  Was it something he slowly came to?  How soon after entering the seminary or being ordained did he identify his first victim?  How many victims did he have?  Did he focus on just boys or was he an equal opportunity abuser?  The Diocese of Scranton says that they had 4 reports including mine.  I think that the Diocese is so lacking in credibility that they cannot be believed. I don’t think I will ever have answers.  Those that know don’t have the stones to tell the truth.

I would like to think that I successfully broke away from his control at the beginning of my freshman year in high school  I have some doubts about that, though.  It is as likely that I was simply getting too old for his perverse tastes.  Sullen preteens turn into unmanageable, moody teenagers.   I grew over that summer and I was determined to get so active in the school that there would be no opportunity for Gibson to get me alone.  Hiding became less about being invisible and more about being out in front of the crowd, in plain site.  It made it harder for him to cut me from the herd and back under his grip.

I can only assume he moved on to someone else.  I lived with the ever present fear of him coming back for me, I would break into a cold sweat anytime he would show up at the school.  I was always off balance if I knew he was in the school building.  His presence at the school gradually became very infrequent.  I think he kept tabs on me to make sure I was not going to make trouble for him.  What was worse than the fear of him coming back for me was the guilt that comes with knowing that if he had moved on to a new target, I was responsible. I had not tried to stop him by turning him in or killing him.  Believe me, I wanted him dead in the most heinous way possible.  I agonized over that for decades. Any victim that came after me was my responsibility.   I am still haunted by it.  To date, the other victims of Gibson that I have spoken with came before me on his time line of preying on children.   I am afraid of the day when I talk to someone who was a victim of  Robert Gibson after the fall of 1974.  I don’t know how to ask for them to forgive me for not being stronger and turning the bastard in.  I don’t know that I could look them in the eye.   I could have done something, anything and they would have been spared the pain, betrayal and anguish.  Their lives would not have suffered a similar oblique as the one in my life at that point.

Intellectually I understand that this is not rational, that I was a child in a horrible situation that was out of my control.  That does not take away the guilt nor does it help me sleep at night.  Even 35 years later, I wake in the dead of the night sometimes and the thoughts are there as a reminder.  Sometimes it seems like it all happened yesterday.

My relationships with my parents and my siblings went downhill in 1974.  I became quiet and withdrawn at home.  I wanted nothing more than to wish away high school and get out of the Poconos.  College was to be my liberation.   All energy was focused to that end.  Those who knew my family probably thought this was all related to my father’s drinking.  This made sense, the truth however was much more sinister.  It was a good cover, so I used it.  It was easier to be the brooding son of an emotionally abusive alcoholic father than the sexual play thing of a pedophile priest.  Afterall,  I had been told, very convincingly, that no one would believe me and that the price to pay for telling the story would be higher than I could bear. I believed that for over three decades.   What a horrible price I have paid for keeping that secret!

First descent into hell

I knew something was wrong.  I was supposed to spend the night at the rectory.  The reason for the stay has long ago left my mind.  Instead of getting on the East Stroudsburg School District bus in front of Notre Dame that would take me to East Stroudsburg High School to allow me to transfer to the bus that would take me up state highway 402 to Hemlock Farms, I boarded the bus that would head to Brodheadsville.  Pleasant Valley School District emblazoned on the side of the bus.  It would drop me off at the Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.

Stepping off the bus, I walked across the street to church property. I approached the trailer and knocked, no answer. I went to the church but it was also locked. I looked for his car, it was not there. My initial thought was that he was detained somewhere so I would just wait. He would be back soon. I started doing my homework on the steps to the trailer. Time went by and it began getting dark. I was growing more concerned because I was not from this area. My home was 45 miles or so north of Brodheadsville. Did I have the right night? Was I supposed to be here? Where was he? Had he forgotten about me? My mother was going to be furious if she had to come all the way from Portage Lane to get me. I am sure I would pay for this all the way home and for weeks later. There was a pay phone across the street. I needed to make a call. Checking my pockets and book-bag revealed that I had no change. The 15 cent call was beyond my grasp. I dialed “0” for operator but it required the change to connect. I tried an emergency number, but you could only connect the call by having the coins slide into the coin slot. (it was 1974, and the phone technology was limited)  The phone was useless to me. It was getting darker and the only light I had was on the telephone pole. You know the kind of light fixture you see on rural roads near business or barns. Large, white and insulting to the darkness of a moonless Pennsylvania night. I was getting cold and very nervous about my situation.

Around 8:30 pm, about 5 hours after the bus dropped me off,  an older couple was driving by and saw me standing there looking agitated. They had seen me earlier but thought nothing of it. They stopped and asked me if I needed help. I told them that I was supposed to stay at the rectory and that I did not know where Father Gibson was.  They were parishioners of the church and knew Father Gibson.   They took me to their home and started making phone calls. Finally, near 9 o’clock, contact was made with Father Gibson. The gentleman who had picked me up wanted to call my parents and have them come get me. I did not want to call my mother because of the trouble it would bring. The woman decided to take me to the rectory. There was an animated conversation between the couple as she loaded me in the car for the 5 minute ride to the rectory.

When I arrived, Gibson seemed a little out of sorts. He had glazed eyes and was not really finishing his sentences. I knew this look. My father was an alcoholic. My mind began normalizing all that was happening. Reinforcing that all men of a certain age dove into a bottle at the end of the work day (or before their work day, during their work day or instead of their workday). I could handle it. I would just be quiet, go to bed and let him sleep it off. At least I was inside and had a small single bed in a tiny room in the trailer to hide in. I was relieved that I would not have to tell my mother anything about the events of the evening. He started by offering me a drink.  He had juice, soda and iced tea.  I opted for the juice.  I noticed that it tasted a little strange but thought nothing of it because it was not the brand my mother would buy.  I really wanted to go to bed but he was pretty insistent on talking about what had happened and watching TV.  He said he had loss track of time and how sorry he was.  He kept asking me to not tell anyone.  That was the first time he made that request.  There were many more to follow.  He offered me more juice.  I accepted.  I was starting to feel a little odd.  I rationalized that it was a rough night and that I was tired.  I finished the juice.   He was quick to refill the glass.  I really just wanted to go to bed.  I was suddenly very tired.  “Here, this will help you sleep” .  I drank about half the glass and then things went foggy. 

I woke up in the small room.  My clothes had been removed.  I was somewhat aware of my surroundings, but everything was a little out of sorts.  I could hear him walking around the trailer.  I heard him come into the room and I felt his weight on the bed as he began to rub my back.  I was not able to move and at first the contact was comforting.  I thought I just was coming down with a bug.  Slowly it dawned on me that he was also undressed. His hands ranged over me  and I knew that this was not what I wanted.  I could not move, I could not make any noise.  I could tell that there was something really wrong about all this.  He whispered to me that I would be better in the morning and that he would take care of me.  He rolled me over on my back and I could tell that he was erect.  I did not understand all of what was happening at that moment. He masturbated over me.  At some point I passed out again. 

The next morning I woke up in my underwear on the bed.  The sheets were different.  I showered, dressed and wondered what the hell had happened the night before.  Did I dream all of it?  He acted completely normal, offering to stop at the bakery on the way to the school.  As I left the trailer I noticed two empty bottles of Vodka on the kitchen counter.  I remember getting into his green car (I think it was an Oldsmobile).  He was very chatty, I was completely the opposite.  Did I imagine everything?  Looking back, to a naive 13 year old who had not discovered much about sex at that point, my memories far exceeded my knowledge of masturbation at the time. 

He pulled into the parking lot at school and wished me a good day.  As if nothing was out of the ordinary.  He told me to go in, he would follow in a few minutes, he had some papers to look over in his car.  I walked into school in a daze, I was completely off balance.   

That was the first descent into hell for me.  It would not be the last.  On that morning my innocence and my soul started to be destroyed.  Everything changed, nothing was ever going to be the same again.

The tyranny of distance and the curse of the Internet

I am frustrated.  Admittedly, some of the frustration comes from a tyranny of distance.  I am in southern Virginia and the diocese that I have an issue with is 400 miles worth of driving north of here.  I would love to have a face to face conversation with the Bishop’s advocate so I could look her in the eyes and see whether she is part of the problem with the Diocese of Scranton, or part of the solution.   I want to meet with the other victims of Father Gibson and victims of other priests in the Scranton Diocese.  I’ll make the drive, but it takes planning and timing.

I am frustrated by the New York legislature, they had the opportunity to do the right thing with the Child Victims Act of New York and yet they still have not passed it.  SNAP had a presence in Albany to lobby for votes.  They asked for photos and people to come to the Capitol to put a human face on an inhuman scandal.  I would have loved to drive to Albany to take part in the event, but I again, it was just too far at a time I needed to be in the office in southern Virginia.  I don’t know how it went nor have I seen any reports or photos of the SNAP event.

I am frustrated with SNAP and the other organizations out there that are advocating for victims.   SNAP is a  national organization, but at the local level they are not always there.  If you look at their website there are  points of contact listed that are no longer active. To use a term my wife, Melissa coined, these sites are becoming “Cob-Websites”. I know that the heads of organizations like SNAP are trying to do the right thing, but I think that they are losing victims who are already hesitant to come forward, by having broken links and out of date contact information.   Nothing is more frustrating than trying to speak for the first time and finding the point of contact you are trying to call is no longer there.  That happened to me 2 years ago when I decided it was time to end my silence.  The name listed on the SNAP website for this part of Virginia was no longer acting as a SNAP contact.

I am frustrated that for many people watching from the sidelines, there is a perseption that this is a Catholic Problem.  It isn’t.  It is a Baptist problem, a Jewish problem, a Mormon problem, and a Lutheran problem.  It is a local, statewide, national and global problem.  If you don’t believe me, take a look through Kathy Shaw’s blog Abuse Tracker.

I recommend that SNAP does what it can to energizes the base .  The tools  to do just that may be right under our noses.  Computers, iPhones, cell phones, blackberries and other electronic devices can be employed to pull us together. The SNAP website offers hints on writing letters to the editor and handing out leaflets.  That is all good stuff.  But why don’t we connect all our blogs together?

A few suggestions:

For the SNAP Conference in Washington, DC over the weekend of 7-9 August why don’t we set up Twitterfalls to track what people are say and see how people are reacting to speakers and break out sessions in real time.  Why don’t we webcast key meetings or speeches to the people that want to listen but can’t make it to D.C.? (That was an idea from Kay Eberling).  Why don’t we have an interactive online community to allow for the free exchange of ideas, strategies, support and discussion?  It could be a central location for blogs, allow people who don’t want to set their own blogs to submit articles when they are ready to do so.  We have Bishop Accountability, Abuse Tracker, SNAP, FACSA and other websites, but they seem to be more for the presentation of information.  We need discourse, interaction and community. We need to work on legislation on the state and federal level.  We need to work together.

We will not succeed as a community in our search for justice and change if we are isolated from each other. So why don’t we use the computers in front of our noses to effect a change and hold the bishops accountable for their sins of ommission as well as their sins of commission.

My Twitter address is OffMyKnees.  I plan on Twittering from the Conference in Washington DC this August.  If you have a twitter account, follow me and I will follow you.  We all need to start having a discussion, if we start with 140 characters at a time, at least we are starting.

An Open Letter to Bishop Joseph F. Martino, Diocese of Scranton

Bishop Martino,

During January and February 2009, we exchanged letters on the topic of Father Robert J. Gibson who, as you are well aware, sexually abused and raped me as a 13 year old child in the rectory of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania , while on vacation at Walt Disney World and on a trip to New York City.  All of these events took place in 1974 when I was an eighth grader or rising freshman at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.   As of this writing, I am still not satisfied with the action taken by you or your representatives on this matter.

From my vantage point, I see the Diocese of Scranton as a significant player in the policy of excusing and enabling the sex crimes committed by pedophile priests in your curia.  I believe that your administration and the administration of Bishop Timlin and the previous bishops of Scranton buried reports, prevented and delayed reports to civil authorities to outlast the statute of limitations.  I believe that the bishops acted in a blatantly criminal and arrogant manner to obstruct justice.  I have no doubt that victims came to the Diocese and sought help, justice, and guidance.  I am sure that many feel, as I do, that they were betrayed and violated all over again.

You and your predecessors had ample opportunities to act swiftly to protect children and vulnerable adults and to limit the number of victims of priests who were acting outside of the law and the church.  The bishops of Scranton, the chancery, the priests who have known about the actions of their brother priests and did nothing but look the other way all failed the victims, the parishioners of the Diocese and their God.

Perhaps your time in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia tempered your attitude towards victims.  All of Pennsylvania’s Catholic Diocese share a common legacy of secrecy and deceit. I see your administration as a continuation of an arrogant, self-serving attitude by those who feel entitled by their position to act any way they see appropriate to secure the secular trappings that accompany high office in the Roman Catholic Church.  At some point it stops being about God, doesn’t it?

Based on our correspondence, your writings, public statements and my observations of your actions in your Diocese through media outlets that cover you, I am convinced that you selectively choose those moral issues that you so vehemently champion.  Your zealous defense of conservative Catholic positions seems out of step with your Diocese’s deafening silence when it comes to the issue of the priest sex scandal. It must be effortless for you to compartmentalize your positions.  It must be simple to attack people and matters that are external to the walls of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.  It is alright to use the tactics of a bully on the likes of Senator Casey, Vice President Biden, and James Calderone or to threaten to close the doors of the Cathedral on St. Patrick’s Day if the parade isn’t your liking.  You must enjoy the thought of calling the administrators and faculties of the Catholic Colleges and Universities to task on health and diversity issues or to storm into a church forum and attempt to dictate the votes of the parishioners in accordance with your views.  Why, then, do you remain silent in your pastoral letters, actions, and statements about the epidemic of sexual crime/abuse within your own diocese?  Why have you taken no action against those that have committed these heinous crimes?  Why have you taken no action against those in your diocese who turned the other way or actively sought to cover up or delay reporting the sex crimes committed against children, adolescents and vulnerable adults in your diocese?

On a very personal level, I have not been satisfied with the treatment I have received while dealing with your Chancery.  Your responses to my letters and the responses from your representatives indicate that your diocese remains unwilling to take the serious actions required to safeguard the children of your diocese from predators wearing Roman collars.

You have failed to adequately answer my questions on actions taken against Father Gibson to include canonical proceedings to defrock him.  Were he to die today, I have no doubt that the Catholic Church would give him a funeral where his great works as a priest would be celebrated.  I am sure the names of his victims will never be mentioned. For the record, I have more names than the four unnamed victims stipulated to by you through your representatives.  I am sure that he will be carried to his grave in a manner befitting an exalted and faithful servant of God.  That will be a lie perpetuated by you!  I doubt we, his victims, will be notified of his death or invited to the celebration of his priestly life.  That would not be in keeping with your Diocese’s business model.  I would show up, to pay my last respects.

Why has the Diocese of Scranton failed to notify the parishes and schools to which Father Gibson has been assigned of his admitted actions?  There are more of his victims out there  who may have run across Gibson at any one of his assignments including  St Paul’s Parish in Scranton, St. Clare’s School, St Matthews in East Stroudsburg, St. Matthews School in East Stroudsburg (now known as Notre Dame Elementary School), Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, St. Marks in Delaware Water Gap, St. Luke’s in Stroudsburg, Our Lady Queen of Pease in Brodheadsville, Holy Family in Jonas, St. John Bosco in Conyngham (my, that was a short 6 month assignment), St Bernadette’s Church in CanadensisMonsignor McGugh Elementary School and St. Ignatius in Kingston. You just don’t want to be bothered by all the mess that would accompany those victims coming forward.  I’m sure your staff found his love of alcohol an excellent cover story for his removal from at least one of these assignments.  You would rather they remain silent and isolated.  You care nothing of the damage done to their lives, families and their faith.  Multiply that damage by the number of other victims of the other priests that your Diocese has protected over the years, and you will begin to see the magnitude of the problem.

What steps have been taken to determine if others knew of Father Gibson’s crimes but turned their backs or enabled him to continue abusing? I cannot believe priests in residence at rectories where Father Gibson lived did not find his obsessions with boys as odd. One other victim told me that a priest, still in service to the diocese today, walked in on them while Father Gibson was molesting the boy and simply left the room. A nun walked in on a heated, very physical argument in the school chapel between myself and Father Gibson. No action was ever taken. Turning away is easy. All evil needs to thrive is for good people to do nothing.

The Bishops and Auxiliary Bishops, the Chancellors and the Episcopal Vicars who have held office in the Diocese of Scranton knew of the actions of this priest and far too many others.  You are all complicit in the crimes that have been committed by your lack of action.  Is not a sin of omission still a sin? Is there not one person of moral character among you that is willing to stand up and say this was a terrible wrong?

You have extended an invitation for me to meet with you.  At this time I must politely decline that invitation.  Traveling to Scranton to meet with you would be a complete waste of my time.  I do not need to be the next target of your bullying.  My greatest fear, however, is that you would enjoy the salacious details of the rapes, molestation, and abuse I suffered at Father Gibson’s hands.

I do hope that someday we will have the opportunity to meet.  I would love to know what kind of man would protect monsters like Father Gibson.  In the meantime, when you are saying mass in a chapel, your  Cathedral, or any of the churches that Father Gibson defiled through his deviant, immoral and criminal activities, I want you to think about the children you have failed, the families that have been wrecked and the souls destroyed because men like you did nothing.  At the moment of consecration, I want that flash of consciousness of the suffering of the victims of your priests to come over you.  Then perhaps, you will understand.

Very respectfully,

Michael Baumann