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.

Lack of confidence in Bishop Bambera’s ability to lead the Diocese of Scranton

 

Bambera
Bishop Joseph Bambera

I am catching up on my reading on the Diocese of Scranton in the wake of the Grand Jury Report and actions in the State House in Harrisburg.  I keep going back to an article from the Associated Press by Michael Rubinkam on September 5th that discussed Bishop Bambera’s involvement in a civil case in 2007, a year before I before I went public to expose Robert Gibson.  The case involved Bishop Bambera because he was Vicar of Priests when the priest involved, who went by the pseudonym “Father Ned”, was returned to a parish in the Diocese after going through a treatment program after being credibly accused of inappropriate activity with a minor.  “Father Ned” was, in fact, Father Gibson, the man who raped me when I was 13 years of age.

Father Robert J. Gibson
“Father Ned”, Robert J. Gibson

 

The first paragraph sent chills through me.

Even as Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera apologized to his flock last month for the “misguided and inappropriate decisions of church leaders,” he is reckoning with his own role — revealed in federal court a decade ago — in the system that protected pedophile priests

Bishop Bambera has apologized to “his flock”.  I read “flock” to be the dwindling number of parishioners at the Cathedral in Scranton.  He is also pretty adept at apologizing to banks of microphones in front of the press.  What he has not publicly done is apologize to actual survivors of abuse in person.  A room full of the victims of “Father Ned” and many other priests in the Diocese over the years should be the audience he stands before to ask forgiveness.  He should personally go to the churches and schools where these predators selected and groomed their victims. Sending a video does not cut it.   An article in the Scranton Times from 16 September reported that the Bishop had a mass of atonement on  September 15, 2018 (a Saturday, I bet that was attended by tens of people) where he apologized. That article said:

During the Mass, led by Bambera, the bishop devoted the entirety of his nearly 15 minute homily to addressing the abuse scandal that has roiled the Roman Catholic Church. Bambera said the abuse has been one of the darkest moments in the diocese’s history and arguably one of the darkest in the history of the church.

“The church let you down,” Bambera said. “And you deserved better.”

Addressing the victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may have been in the pastoral center, he said, Bambera stressed that his apologies are not hollow words uttered only because they are the right things to say at the moment. He said his heart breaks for the faithful priests and deacons who are tarnished by the sins of others and encouraged those currently studying to become priests.

“You are not part of the problem,” Bambera said. “You are part of the solution.”

I love the sentence “Addressing the victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may have been in the pastoral center, he said, Bambera stressed that his apologies are not hollow words uttered only because they are the right things to say at the moment.”  Victims may have been there.  I don’t think victims were invited.  I did not get an invitation. Bill Genello did not send me a note, a Facebook message, an email… Victims “may” have been there.  But they probably were not.  It is more likely that they were dealing with their own lives on a Saturday while theater of the absurd was being directed by the diocese.  Bishop Bambera does not seem to have the spine required to own up to his past actions in front of the people directly impacted by those acts.

Bishop Bambera, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.  Your words are hollow and will always be so.  Your heart breaks for faithful priests and deacons who are tarnished?   REALLY?!  Doesn’t your heart break for the children involved?  Oops, your public relations boys dropped the ball on that statement.

A paragraph in the September 5th AP article articulates clearly that the Bishop is part of the problem.  The worn out defense of  “I was following the orders of Bishop Timlin” does not acquit the current Bishop.

Bambera’s participation in the Gibson case highlights the fact that some of today’s bishops, while they were rising through the ranks, helped their superiors shield priests accused of abuse from law enforcement and allowed them to continue in ministry — or at least had knowledge of the cover-up by senior church officials and didn’t blow the whistle.

Falling back on my 23 years of experience as a Naval officer, I look at this Bishop, and his own public utterances (to anyone but actual victims) and I see someone who does not have my confidence in his ability to command, to lead the Diocese of Scranton.  His presence in the Diocese is divisive.   His focus since the release of the Grand Jury Report was directed more towards the Annual Fund Drive (how did that work out, your Excellency?) than any substantial effort to bring about transparency and honesty.  He is almost defiant in his manner and public comments to protect his church at the expense of the survivors/victims.  His actions and words compound the harm.  He is part of the malignancy on Wyoming Avenue in the Chancery.

As one of the survivors of Robert Gibson (Father Ned), I call on Bishop Bambera to resign, immediately.

 

Teresa Osborne, Chancellor of the Diocese of Scranton, Seriously Injured in Crash

I have been off the grid for about a week.  I am just catching up with the news and my email and I was startled to find out that Teresa Osborne, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Scranton was injured in a serious automobile accident on 23 July.

I wanted to send out my best wishes for a full recovery.  While the employer of Ms. Osborne and I do not see eye to eye, I do not wish anyone in the Diocese ill and I certainly don’t want to see anyone have to endure serious injury.

For those of you who find comfort in prayer, please keep her in yours.  For those of us that don’t, a little love and light in her direction can’t hurt.

Scranton Times-Tribune Coverage of the Urrutigoiry Story

An article in the Scranton Times-Tribune online follows up on the story of Carlos Urrutigoiry and his elevation to a position of authority over priests accused of misconduct in a Catholic Diocese in Paraguay.

The National Director of SNAP, David Chlohessy, is demanding the Diocese release  the files on the Urrutigoiry and the events that occurred at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, a residential school sponsored by the Society of St. John, a religious order.   Urrutigoiry was credibly accused of sleeping with teenage boys as part of his “ministry”.

It will come as no surprise that the Diocese of Scranton will take no action and that the National Director of SNAP will move on to another press release/photo opportunity.  The dance continues and yet no progress is made.

Confirmation of What I Knew Already

Returning from an event in Northern Virgina, I decided to call the Diocese of Scranton and get confirmation that Robert Gibson had died.  I identified myself and asked for the office that could help me confirm that a priest, formerly of the Diocese, had passed away.  I was transferred to another office and, once again, I identified myself and request confirmation that Robert Gibson had died.   After a pause, the woman’s voice changed, and she told me that she would not discuss the matter with me.  I asked for her name, and she hung up on me.

Not too long ago I had been assured by the Chancellor that I would be notified of his death.  Apparently, that was another hollow promise.  Shocking!

This morning, after the call to the diocese that was terminated abruptly by a diocesan employee, I sent a  note to the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator,  I received a terse response from the Diocese:

Mr. Baumann,

 Please be advised that Robert Gibson died on Sunday, May 27, 2012.    

 Teresa Osborne

Chancellor 

                                              DIOCESE OF SCRANTON

Teresa Osborne                             

Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer   

Phone: 570-207-2216             Fax: 570-207-2236

Email: Teresa-Osborne@dioceseofscranton.org

It is amazing to me that this organization could not even grant me a confirmation of his death without misbehaving.  For them, they must be relieved that he is passed and the mistaken impression that this is over.

Can someone,(Bishop Bambera), explain to me why his staff is openly hostile to victims of priests that served in his diocese?  Can someone perhaps teach a little compassion?  For the record, I identified myself and spoke in a courteous manner to the woman on the phone who refused to identify herself.  Perhaps the Bishop should, at a minimum, have his staff trained in proper phone etiquette.

But I do have confirmation.  The Diocese still doesn’t get it.  It really is time for Pennsylvania to change the law and allow all the victims to seek to bring the coverup committed by the Diocese of Scranton into the light.

 

Just for the record,  Robert J. Gibson’s Parish assignment history is located at this hotlink.

Only Four, I Think Not…

Four.  That is the number of victims of Father Robert Gibson to which the Diocese of Scranton has stipulated. Four.

I don’t get it.  I cannot believe that the Diocese of Scranton continues to stubbornly stick to that number.  I have corresponded with survivors, family members of survivors, classmates of survivors, as well as friends.  I have spoken to officials at Notre Dame High School.  The number grows a little higher every time I get an indication that someone is looking for Gibson on Google.  Sometimes an email arrives a few days later, sometimes a comment appears.  The number I have is Fourteen.  Of course, I have names to go with the digits.  That is still a very low number.  Given the number of parishes, schools and camps he had access to and the number of years in his predatory prime, this man probably had victims that numbered in the hundreds.  He probably tried to groom or isolate more than that.  This man was prolific in his criminal sexual behavior against minors.  Against children!

Four?  I think not!  And the Diocese of Scranton knows it.  Someone in the diocese has access to his “secret” files.  Someone can go in and get a feel for how many complaints were submitted.  I bet the vast, overwhelming  majority of those were covered up.  Someone knows about the settlements and the confidentiality agreements that had everything to do with protecting the Bishop and the Diocese and nothing to do with protecting children, searching for victims and getting Gibson out of ministry and into the hands of the criminal justice system.  I know of one, the survivor told me himself.

Someone in the Diocese of Scranton has the names of other victims.  The Victim’s Assistance Coordinator gave me a name of another victim along with his contact information. (Not the one I alluded to in the previous paragraph.)

I have responded to emails, phone calls and blog comments from classmates of mine, from classmates of my siblings, from siblings of other potential survivors and from parents of Gibson’s other targets.

The magic number is not FOUR.  The Bishop of Scranton needs to come clean, now.  Not only on Robert Gibson, but on at least TWENTY-FIVE identified Catholic Priests and lay officials of the diocese that have credible allegations of criminal sexual assault on boys, girls and vulnerable adults.  Former Bishops have covered up and moved these monsters around the diocese allowing them access to fresh pools of potential victims.  The Bishops, only concerned with keeping allegations quiet and victims isolated, showed a reckless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of children in the diocese by moving Gibson and other monsters just like him from parish to parish.  And when the heat was too much, they moved Gibson to Missouri.  They put him in a Catholic “safe house”.  He is still there in Missouri, outside of the jurisdiction that could have tried him for the rapes and sexual assaults he committed over his career.

Just as a recap from a post I did in October 2008, Robert Gibson’s history of assignments:

1959-65 Scranton, PA St. Paul, 1510 Penn Ave. Priests: John J. Vaughan(Vicar Forane, Dean), Joseph F. Ryan, Joseph R. Doggett(’59), Francis A. Conlan(’60-62), Robert J. Gibson

School: 7 Sisters of the I.H.M. 1 lay teacher 484 pupils High school: 10 Sisters of the I.H.M. 280 pupils
Mission: St. Clare’s School: Sisters of the I.H.M. 7 Lay teacher 1 2215 Washington Ave. 401 pupils.
1966-67 directory not available (

1968-1970 Stroudsburg, PA St. Matthew’s, 200 Brodhead Ave. Priests: Thomas J. Cawley,Robert J. Gibson, John J. Bendik

St Matthews School: 7 Sisters I.H.M. 2 lay teachers 311 pupils Missions: St. Luke’s, Stroudsburg; St. John’s, Bushkill; St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap

1971-1974 Stroudsburg, PA St. Luke’s, 906 Main St. Priests: Francis G. Barrett, Robert J. Gibson In residence: John J. Bendik Mission: St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap.

St Matthews School, East Stroudsburg, Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School.

1975-82 Brodheadsville, PA Our Lady Queen of Peace Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Jonas, Holy Family.

School:  Still associated with St. Matthew’s and Notre Dame

1983 Conyngham, PA St. John Bosco Priest: Robert J. Gibson

1984-95 Canadensis, PA St. Bernadette Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Promised Land, Our Lady of Fatima

1996 -1997 Kingston, PA St. Ignatius, 339 N. Maple Ave. Priests: F. Allan Conlan, Glenn E. McGreary, Joseph B. Wilson In res., Robert J. Gibson Chapel—St. Ann’s

1998-2008 Unassigned or leave of absence.  In the case of Fr. Gibson, he was sequestered in the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri and now is reported to be in a hospital in the Ditmer area.  The report is from the Diocese.  I do not put much stock in the word of the Diocesan spokespeople, they seem to be accomplished liars.

The latest contact was from a family member of a probable victim of Gibson.  He came after me on the timeline.  I can’t help but feel a little responsible. I didn’t stop him.  I didn’t kill him when I had the opportunity. I didn’t turn him in, he had me completely terrorized.  I know intellectually that it was not my fault.  But the voice in my head hasn’t processed that yet.

Postscript: My middle son is one of the most brilliant minds I have ever known (from his mom’s end of the gene pool).  He was counting on his hands as my oldest son’s “love interest” was quizing him on the classic movies he should be familiar with as a modern, well healed male in the 21st century.  He was counting off the movies he had seen from her extensive list in binary (his world seems to spin on a slightly different axis, and that makes him a force of nature).

When he got to 4 I started laughing.  If you are as smart as he, you know what finger “4” is on when counting in Binary.  That knowledge in hand, so to speak, I would like to offer something to the Diocese of Sranton.  I got your “four” right here.

Diocese Of Scranton Quietly Reassigns Priest Who Displayed Suggestive Photos of Men in Church

The Diocese of Scranton has reassigned a priest removed from his previous assignment for accidentally displaying questionable photographs of men at a Church event. According to 13 May 2010 edition of The Catholic Light, the newspaper for the Diocese of Scranton, announced (on page 3) that Reverend Edward Lyman has been assigned as “Senior Priest” “from Leave of Absence for reasons of health”, to Holy Name/Saint Mary and Holy Trinity Parishes, Swoyersville, Pennsylvania effective April 28, 2010.

Father Lyman had been previously assigned as administrator of St. Anthony, St. Bridget and St. John the Baptist parishes in Throop. According to an article in the Scranton Times Tribune, Father Lyman was removed after he displayed inappropriate, although not pornographic, photos while trying to set up a DVD related to the Diocese’s fund-raising efforts. The photos were displayed at St Bridget’s church before 8 a.m. mass on October 25, 2009.

The diocese, which has used the “absence for reasons of health” line before in cases where inappropriate or sexual misconduct was discovered, has seemingly reinstated this man to a position where he will be able to have close, personal contact with children.

Once again, the Diocese of Scranton has played a waiting game and hoped that no one would notice it has returned a priest very questionable behavior back in the line of duty. Do you need more proof of how seriously the Diocese takes cases of sexual misconduct?