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

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

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

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

diocese of scranton004 croppeddiocese of scranton005 cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awaiting Details of the Bishop’s Fund and End of the Year Reading

There are only a few days left until the Diocese of Scranton releases the information on the Bishop’s Victims Compensation Fund.  I am confident that Bishop Bambera will over-promise and under-deliver to victims and their families. If you plan to make a claim against the Diocese of Scranton, watch their news release page for information.  I expect the lies and blame deflection will flow from Bill Genello’s office as soon as the details of the “Independent Survivors Compensation Program” ooze out of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.

Look for requirements that will disqualify as many people with credible accusations as possible.  If you were raped/molested/harmed by a priest in a religious order teaching in a Diocesan school, you might be out of luck.  The Bishop will probably flick that booger towards the religious order and ignore that the crimes were committed within his curia.  As in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, they will probably offer you the services of an attorney to help you navigate the rules of the fund.  Please be aware, that the attorney being paid by the Diocese will not have your best interests at heart.  If the Diocese is paying the bills, the lawyer is working for the Bishop and not for you.  I strongly recommend that you get your own legal representation, working for your interests and yours alone.

The best bet in Pennsylvania is to enact legislation that opens a civil litigation window, sweeps aside the need for confidentiality agreements, and forces institutions like the Catholic Church to comply with laws protecting children and vulnerable adults.  All victims should have the right to bring a claim in front of a judge.  The format of the compensation funds is stacked to favor the Dioceses.

I have been reading some articles linked from sites like Catholics4Change.org or sent in from readers of this blog (thanks Barb!).  I am going to offer you some links to spike your outrage or just leave you shaking your head at the myopic idiocy of Church leaders.

Abuse Talking Points Interrupt God’s Word 

Can victim funds help heal wounds of Pa. church sex abuse scandal?

NY archdiocese issued suitability letter for priest under abuse investigation

Catholic abuse victims face new obstacle | Editorial

Business as usual in the Catholic Church

Ticking time bombs in the church

Cardinal Wuerl, despite stepping down due to abuse scandal, presides over grand Basilica Christmas Mass

The Cardinals and the Bishops are ending 2018 full of deceit.  I hold out little hope for change when the clock strikes midnight tonight, and we charge headlong into 2019.  Over the last ten years writing on this blog, I have always been in awe of the Church Hierarchy’s ability to be unfeeling, uncaring, unchristian buffoons.  I don’t think they will disappoint in their stupidity in the new year.

BISHOP BAMBERA SHOULD RESIGN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT!

 

The Jesuits

Twas the week before Christmas…

The University of Scranton’s President, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., has released a message on the University’s Website and in an email to the University Community regarding the Maryland Province releasing the names of Jesuits credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. As Father Pilarz points out, four of the Jesuits named have been associated with the University of Scranton, and other Jesuit run schools within the Diocese.  The statement of the Maryland Province may be found here.

All of these predators were included in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  Father Pilarz addressed one of these predators, Neil P.McLaughlin S.J. back in 2010. (I wrote about it eight years ago, almost to the day.)  You can find McLaughlin’s record of assignments at this link: Bishop Accountability.com.  McLaughlin falls off the earth with the Jesuits in 2010 in the Jesuit Directory.  Perhaps they were hiding him?

Father Pilarz recommends that anyone who has been victimized by a Jesuit   “contact the Victim Advocacy Coordinator at 443-370-6357 or at MARadvocacy@jesuits.org, and appropriate law-enforcement and child-protective agencies.”

I strongly recommend you forego notifying the “Victim Advocacy Coordinator.”  They are not there to help victims, they are there to identify threats to the order.  “Victim Advocacy Coordinator helped me get the help and support I needed,” said no victim of sexual crimes by Catholic priests ever!  The VAC is there to start the initial risk assessment to the church, or religious order, and to begin the process of isolating and intimidating victims, their families and anyone that supports them.  You can call me paranoid, but this has been my personal experience, and other survivors have told me the same story over and over again.

hotline_poster2-300x240If you have been victimized by a Jesuit, call law enforcement, contact the district attorney’s office in the jurisdiction where the crimes took place.  <<<<<Contact the PA Attorney General’s Hotline.

I have no reason, at this point,  to believe that Father Pilarz is not sincere.   After ten years of writing on this blog, I will tell you that the fastest way to come to a dead stop is to trust the church to do the right thing.  (The truth is harsh at times.)

Report to civil authorities and find competent legal counsel who will look after you and your interests.  The Catholic Church, its orders and its institutions, will undoubtedly be looking out for their own interests.

One final note on today’s blog.   In good faith (there is that word again), I composed a letter to the President of the University of Scranton in November concerning his Task Force on Healing Reconciliation and Hope.  I sent copies to the two University Professors who co-chair this Task Force. To date, I have not heard a word from either the President of the University or the Task Force acknowledging my correspondence.  In his defense, Father Pilarz did have quite a few Alumni Christmas Events to attend all over the mid-Atlantic this holiday season.

You can read my letter to the President of the “U” here. 

Tetherow’s Story Continues

 

Tetherow
“Father” Tetherow, convicted felon

The York Daily Record released a story on Virgil Bradley Tertherow, one of the convicted priests who was listed in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Grand Jury Report (his story is covered on page 872 in the Diocese of Scranton section).

By the looks of the number of search engine inquiries and hits on my collection of posts on this particularly creepy con artist, there is a renewed interest in this collector of child pornography.  A man continually changing his name and denying his felony conviction is an indicator of something, isn’t it?

He is still operating as a “Priest” in a “Traditional Rite Catholic Church Cult called the “Saint Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church” in Lower Windsor Township where he is going by the name “Father Gabriel.”  There a delusional congregation has swallowed his ridiculous story of how he was set up because of his adherence to the Traditional Latin Mass. They have a FaceBook group that is full of pictures of this rogue “priest.”    These people are in denial despite the overwhelming evidence of this man’s guilt to include copies of official court records and his own admission of guilt.  Bishop James Timlin gave this man his first opportunity to operate in the Diocese of Scranton.

This is a particularly unsettling article. You may want to shower after reading it!

I am looking forward to the next slug of hate mail from his cult supporters in Central Pennsylvania.

The number for calling the rectory of his church is (717) 758-3947.

Bishop Timlin is in Baltimore! So much for keeping a low/no profile.

There has been a confirmed (and press covered) sighting in Baltimore of Bishop James Timlin, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Scranton.  Despite the current Bishop’s “forbidding” (wink, wink) of Timlin from representing the Diocese, James Timlin is at the General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore Maryland.

According to an article in the Times Leader   (sent to me this morning by a reader of this blog), Bishop Timlin was asked not to attend the USCCB event by the current prelate of the Diocese of Scranton, Joseph Bambera.  It seems that Bishop Timlin played the “you’re are not the boss of me” card and got on down the road to Baltimore.

I have a question.  Who paid for this trip?  I am willing to bet lunch (at a restaurant of my choosing) that some staffer made the travel arrangements for both Bishops (perhaps three if Bishop Martino is also along for the party), to include luxury accommodations in the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.  I will also be willing to bet lunch that the Diocese is funding the pilgrimage for both of our intrepid diocesans.

Timlin in the open
Bishop Timlin (bottom rider on the escalator) in Baltimore on Monday

I am amazed at the lack of understanding on the part of the staff at the Diocese on how the optics of this is playing out.   To me, this is proof of Bishop Timlin’s hubris and, perhaps, defiance.  At best, it shows that Bishop Bambera has little control over the chancery in his own curia.  At worst it is proof that he is only playing the part of a prelate who is concerned about his diocese and victims of sexual assault.  I would be checking the travel expense accounts to find the answer.   If the current Bishop’s people are authorizing and paying for Timlin’s travel, we have the measure of Bambera’s commitment and leadership.  Perhaps he is just waiting for all of this to blow over.  Bold stand, your Excellency! (sarcasm intended)

I am sure Timlin is only attending the seminar on Rebels, Robbers, and Rogues in the Church or meeting with the secret society of contemporary Holy Roman Emperors.   I will assume he does not have to go all the way to Baltimore for a day of exhilarating escalator rides.

To all you members of parishes within the Diocese of Scranton, I hope you approve of your offerings being used in this manner.  The Diocese is complaining about a drop in donations but they can put two bishops and, I will assume, some Diocesan staffers, at the hotel in the posh Inner Harbor at an assembly that, by order of the Vatican, cannot vote on any proposals for a way forward.  So, what exactly are they doing down there on your nickel?

It is not a long ride from my Virginia home to Baltimore. I have some time off coming to me.  It would be fun to go up to the Inner Harbor and check out the Aquarium.  Perhaps I can go to the Marriott where the USCCB is meeting and see who is floundering on the escalator for myself.  I would love to meet the man and ask him a few questions.  I bet security is tight around this gathering of Roman Collar Criminals.   I wonder how many pictures of survivors are on file with hotel security.  As if we were the real danger posed by this gathering.

Indifference

I saw a couple of quotes by Elie Wiesel that are relevant to the discussion on the continuing sex abuse crisis and the inability of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to do the right thing.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor,  never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

I think I could say this until I am blue in the face. Abuse thrives in an atmosphere of secrecy.  If you are silently standing on the sidelines waiting for the “Church” to do the right thing, you are complicit in the cover-up of sex crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults.  If you continue to tithe to the church, fill the collection plate and fund the diocese, you are lending material support to leadership that is actively campaigning to prevent justice for victims of abuse.  If you are not challenging your bishop, your pastor or your parish council about the damage inflicted, for decades, upon the most devout and vulnerable families of the church you are silently in solidarity with the people who have allowed these crimes to be covered up.

What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

I have heard all the excuses.  People are supporting their own parish, not the bishops.  That is really not the case, and if that is your position, you are lying to yourself.  Change can come from within. If that is the case, why hasn’t it happened?  We don’t have that problem in our church! Are you sure about that?  Isn’t the “church” more significant than just your parish backyard?

An editorial by the National Catholic Reporter released on 9 November is worth the read.  You can find it here:

Open letter to the US Catholic bishops: It’s over

If you are not standing up now and demanding that the bishops be held accountable and responsible, what is it going to take?  Or are you siding with the Bishops?

 

 

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

trojan_horse

It has been a while since I read the Aeneid in which Virgil warned “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” I will paraphrase in the traditional English fashion.  “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”   Today, the Trojan Horse was rolled out of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton.

Just days after the mid-term elections failed to turn the Pennsylvania Legislature from red to blue, the Roman Collar Crime Syndicate in Pennsylvania announced the formation of a  “Compensation Program for Survivors of Sexual Abuse.”

A press release from the Bishop made the announcement that was heavy on diocesan empathy (sarcasm intended) and light on details.  The text is available on the Diocese Website.   I will put the wording of the release at the bottom of this post.

Survivors will need to weigh their options in the coming months on what they want to do.   I see this as nothing more than the Dioceses in Pennsylvania trying to settle claims of horrible abuse for pennies on the dollar.  I strongly recommend that if you are going to consider going this way that you get competent legal advice.

The Devil is in the details. There are no details here yet.  The Devil must still be advising the Bishop on how to proceed.  I will wait until this flushes out a little more.  This doesn’t look like transparency and justice. It seems like an attempt to buy silence on the cheap.

The press release from Bill Genello reads as follows:

SCRANTON, PA (November 8, 2018) – The Diocese of Scranton announced today the creation of an Independent Survivors Compensation Program for those who have suffered sexual abuse by clergy, religious or lay employees. Participation in the Program by survivors is entirely voluntary.

The Program will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, two leading experts in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. They will have absolute autonomy in determining compensation for survivors, and the Diocese of Scranton will abide by their decisions. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros are currently managing a number of high-profile compensation programs nationwide, including similar programs started by five Catholic Dioceses in New York. Those programs collectively have provided over $200 million in compensation to more than 1,000 survivors. They have received positive feedback from those who participated.

An Independent Oversight Committee will oversee the implementation and administration of the Program. The Diocese will have no authority over this committee. Compensation decisions are final and cannot be appealed or overturned by the Diocese or the Independent Oversight Committee.

“Providing compensation to these survivors is the right thing to do,” said the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton. “Several weeks ago, Pennsylvania’s Bishops announced support of such a program, which was recently discussed but not enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Diocese of Scranton is therefore moving forward and is offering this Program for survivors.”

Parish and school assets, as well as contributions and bequests from parishioners and donations to the Diocesan Annual Appeal, will not be used to fund the Program. Rather, the Diocese will use available reserves and will sell assets and borrow money as needed. While the Program will require significant resources, the Diocese will strive to maintain its core mission to serve the local community.

The Diocese continues to refine the Program so that it better serves survivors. Further details concerning the Program will be made available in the near future, including a website for survivors to obtain information and claim forms. The Program is anticipated to launch in January 2019.