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.

The Holy Vader’s Letter to Ireland (or, Vatican example of passive aggressive prose)

The Holy Vader
Scary, isn't it?

From the Death Star (Vatican): Emperor, oops, POPE Benedict XVI  has issued a pastoral letter to the people of Ireland concerning the findings of two reports commissioned by the Government of Ireland.  The letter was meant to be a way of communicating with  the faithful in Ireland on the never-ending sex crisis in the church.  Pope Benedict, who bears a striking and oddly appropriate likeness to Emperor Palpatine (of Star Wars notoriety), is hoping that this letter will be a salve on the wounds in the church in Ireland.  

The pastoral letter did not really accomplish it’s mission. People in Ireland have not been receptive to the “his Holiness'” advances (pun intended). Instead of a letter that is contrite and makes a statement of the committment of the Holy See to take immediate and decisive action to weed out perpetrator priests and the bishops that hid their actions and victimized the survivors, the pope (or his subordinates) developed a rambling passive aggressive missive that, at the end of the day, does nothing to correct the wrongs committed by priests in Ireland or anywhere else. The way the letter was crafted is telling. The passive voice is used throughout, almost qualifying each statement. He carefully lays blame for the crisis firmly within the borders of Ireland, “I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children.” The Vatican is not complicit in any of this…

 “In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values.” It is not a church problem, it is the heathen secular society in Ireland that allowed this situation to manifest itself.

 “On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them.” Come sit with me for a while. Virginia is nice this time of year. I would love to bend your pontifical ear for a few hours. You may have indeed heard what you were told, but did you listen? You have acknowledged suffering, WOW! What is missing in the letter is the passage that says (and this is what I wish I saw, not what was written): “I have removed from ministry all credibly accused priests, deacons, nuns and laity in the church to protect children. Where there were substantiated instances of abuse, I removed the offending perpetrator from church service and turned over to the civil authorities all evidence held by the local Diocese or by the Holy See relevant to the case, regardless of the statutes of limitations. I have directed (ordered) bishops to go to the parishes to seek out other victims and inform the parishioners of the predator that was in their midst, even if it was 20, 30, 40 years or more ago. I have removed from positions of authority all representatives of the church who enabled the predators to continue to target children by either ignoring credible reports, hiding evidence, unduly influencing or coercing victims, moving predators from parish to parish or moving known dangers out of one diocese to another to stay one step ahead from law enforcement.”

 This from the man who headed up the Congregation for the Dorctine of the Faith during the papacy of his predecessor, John Paul II. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the arm of the Vatican that, among other things, investigates Sex Crimes committed by priests under its mandate to oversee matters of canon law. More importantly it is the propaganda arm of the Vatican. The spin on the sex crisis is mastered from the office once held by Cardinal Ratzinger, now the successor to the See of St. Peter.

 We will see this “expression of papal sympathy” again and again. Coming soon to Germany, perhaps? One must wonder about then Cardinal Ratzinger’s knowledge of predator priests in the Archdiocese of Munich. It will also manifest itself in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Africa and South America. This is a global crisis that will not be dealt with effectively as long as the Papal strategy in dealing with the crisis is based on trying to get people in the pews for the Sunday Morning Magic show, money in hand for the offering plate. It will not be solved until the Pope takes immediate and decisive action to remove predators and all the bishops and high level officials that have had a hand in covering up the criminal activities of predators in priestly garb.

 This crisis will not end until civil authorities take criminal and civil action against predators and their protectors. As long as civil authority bows down to the church and allows them to “deal” with the predators internally, the environment of secrecy will prevail, the abuse will continue and church will go merrily down the path of denial, distraction and deception.

 Oh by the way, if the Pope or his advisors are reading this, I would still like to nominate St. Rita as the Patron Saint of Victims/Survivors of Church Sex Crimes. Thanks….

Diocese of Brooklyn – Organized Roman Collar Crime Syndicate.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Darth Vader

The Catholic Church seems to be able to universally choose to do absolutely the wrong thing on a regular basis. It amazes me that so many bishops, who claim to be intellectuals and men of god, can be so devoutly focused on maintaining their status at any cost.  Parishioners be damned, it is all about the bishops and their cronies.  I have no doubt that Governor Frank Keatings nailed it correctly when he made the assessment that the Catholic Church acts in a manner more reminiscent of La Cosa Nostra.  You know, the mob, the mafia, organized crime.

A case in point can be found in New York.  The New York Catholic Conference, a holy and pious group of Catholics who do the bidding of the Archbishop of New York and the Bishops of the other Diocese in the Empire State, have been behaving badly.  As noted in Kay Eberling’s Blog City of Angels 5:  Hope 2009 and documented by the New York Times and other news sources, opponents of the New York Child Victim’s Act bussed in 3 busloads of supporters to counter-demonstrate against Victims of Priest Sexual Crimes. At the behest of the Bishop of Brooklyn, Bishop ” Nicky the Don” DiMarzio and a low life, bottom feeding, pedophile supporting City Assemblyman named Vito Lopez brought in their minions (obviously a political favor returned for some other sleazy deal) to shout down the supporters of the Act that will come up for review again in Albany in the fall.

What is the most galling is that the Lopez’s minions, many of whom did not understand what they were counter-demonstrating against, chanted and began pelting the victims of pedophile priests with coins.  That would be a battery for those legal watchers out there.  One report even had a pastor, a catholic priest, pushing a victim aside when that individual tried to engage him in a discussion.  Shocking! A catholic priest getting physical, say it isn’t so!  Where were the police? Perhaps he would have been one of the first to be exposed as a pedophile should the bill pass.  No wonder he was so upset. One can only speculate at why these priests would support assault and battery on victims of sexual crimes perpetrated by priests.

Bishop “Nicky the Don” DiMarzio must miss New Jersey.  I am sure he gets all misty when he watches reruns of the Sopranos from his palatial digs on Prospect Park West.  Nice neighborhood!  I know this because I grew up in Park Slope. We won’t delve into the controversy surrounding the removal of the long time principal of  St. Saviour Elementary School, where I went to school from grade 1 to grade 7 here (maybe later so you get a more rounded picture of how sleazy Nicky the Don can be).   Obviously, the vow of poverty is overlooked for a New Jersey gangster wannabe  priest that ended up climbing the corporate ladder in the Catholic Church.  I wonder if he is paying Vito Lopez off in alter boys?

What has been documented is that Bishop “Nicky the Don” DiMarzio has threatened to close parishes and schools in the districts of New York lawmakers who vote in favor of the New York Child Victim’s Act.  Great threat Nicky! Mama DiMarzio must be so proud back in the old country, New Jersey.  How does that play out?  You intend to punish innocent parishioners and school children if you don’t get your way with the lawmakers?  This is obviously a great and benevolent Shepherd to the flock in Brooklyn.  Funny, when I was a kid in Brooklyn, we wouldn’t tolerate some thug from across the Hudson threatening our neighborhoods and families.  I guess when the thug is wearing a roman collar, it is alright to turn the other cheek.  Let me tell you from experience, turning your other cheek near a Catholic priest may be a very dangerous and painful thing.

You have to wonder why “Nicky the Don” is so afraid of this legislation.  He says it will bankrupt the Diocese.  Even though that theory has been debunked in California and Delaware where similar legislation was passed, the bishop clings to this excuse.  What is more likely, is that “Nicky the Don” understands the extent of the pedophile problem in the Diocese of Brooklyn as well as in the other diocese in the Evil Empire State.  He knows that there are a great number of priests, perhaps some close to the bishop who have indulged in their perversion for little boys or little girls.  He knows that there are priests that have taken advantage of vulnerable adults.  He knows that his “good deal” will be negatively impacted if it becomes public knowledge that he has supported pedophiles and put children at risk by not taking appropriate action to deal with pedophile priests.  That action can only be handing them over to the criminal justice system.   He knows and he has decided to lie, cheat and misrepresent to avoid having to tell the truth and face the parishioners in the Diocese.  He is a thug and he is being supported by the spineless assemblymen who are getting sweetheart deals to vote against the bill. Ah, New York politics at its best.

If the bill were voted down on it’s own merits, I could live with that.  If it is voted down because of a smear campaign by the Catholic Roman Collar Crime Machine run out of the Chanceries in Brooklyn, Manhattan and points north and west, that would be a sin.  Something with which the bishops are intimately familiar.

Tell me Nicky, if you have the stones, why do you support priests that rape children?  Why are you so afraid of a law that protects children and allows for some justice for those who have been victimized by priests, nuns, teachers, scoutmasters, etc?  Are you really that threatened by the truth?  Do you have any idea of the damage done by the 5-9% of the priests that decide that they get off on sexual crimes against children.  Tell me Bishop, how many pedophiles are you protecting?  What do they have on you?

How can this thug be called a Bishop? Is there not one priest in the state of New York who will put faith, service, compassion and the truth ahead of the bishops’ calls for threats, treachery, and lies?  The Cardinal wants the bill to fail, given his track record of supporting pedophiles in the midwest and in Connecticut, it isn’t a surprise. I wonder if he is wringing his hands over the decision of the courts to release documents that will prove that the Bishops lie as a matter of corporate policy.   New York needs to open its eyes to the carpetbaggers in their churches.  These men are perpetuating the climate that allows your children to become the victims of the pedophiles in your midst.

Abuse thrives in an atmosphere of secrecy.  It is time to understand that concept and take action.

Support passage of the New York Child Victims Act and let the truth come out.  It will be painful, but it is the only way for the changes that are required to keep our kids safe.  Let the pain be visited on those who committed the atrocities or those that supported them.  You will be surprised to see the support that these monsters had, all the way up through the Archbishops, past and present.

Bishop of Scranton Eliminates/Consolidates Parishes

The Scranton Times-Tribune continues to cover the further misadventures of Bishop Martino.  Go to the Scranton Times-Tribune article on the consolidation of parishes due to shortages of priests and parishioners.

Read the Bishop’s Message.

Do you think that the increasing number of Catholics who are no longer “practicing” their faith is related to issues such as the Priest Sex Abuse Scandal, authoritarian Bishops, or poor management of diocesan resources (schools, parishes, funds, etc…)? Maybe if they stopped lobbying against legislation to protect victims of clergy, media blitzes against teachers who want a fair wage or came clean on the amount of money that they spend to keep pedophiles in resorts there would be more money for parishioner services.

Bishop Martino continues to manage the decline of the Catholic Church in Northeast Pennsylvania.  Rest assured, Northeast Pennsylvania will remain a safe haven for pedophile priests as long as Bishop Martino holds court on Wyoming Avenue.

Let the Federal Search Warrants Flow…

Please support your local crusading U.S. Attorney!

Yesterday’s news, chronicled in the Abuse Tracker by Kathy Shaw, was full of stories about the Federal Grand Jury Investigation of the Diocese of Los Angeles and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony for his alleged role in covering up child molestation by priests.  The grounds on which the grand jury’s work is to be based centers on whether Mahony or other church officials violated a law prohibiting schemes to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”

I am sure that this news has shaken Chancery buildings across the country.  Even as we speak I have little doubt of the quaking cassocks that are turning to their shredders to purge Diocesan records of proof of the continued policy of hiding and enabling pedophile priests .

I fully support any crusading U.S. Attorney, especially the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, to get a warrant and raid  Chancery Buildings before the Bishops obstruct justice (again) to hide their complicity in the scandal that will not go away.   May I suggest that they start with the Diocese of Scranton on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton.   Hey,  it is a short walk from the William J. Nealon Federal Building and Courthouse on North Washington Avenue, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania is located.    If  Cardinal Mahony and the Diocese of Los Angeles can be investigated, then lets afford the same legal courtesy to victims of pedophile priests in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA) and investigate Bishop Timlin, Bishop Martino and the Diocese of Scranton’s handling of the sexual assaults and abuses by priests in NEPA.

The Diocese of Scranton is still hiding information and protecting pedophiles at the expense of parishioners and to the detriment of victims.  Their “transparent” process is filled with roadblocks and secrecy.  They attempt to keep victims silent and act as if we are the villains.  If the process is transparent, why are the names of the members of the Review Board that advises the Bishop on Sex Abuse cases are kept confidential?   I’m not sure that the Diocese grasps the concept of “transparent”.

Remember, this is not about religion.  This is about a large business enterprise (the Diocese) consolidating their power and influence while  trying to manage risk by obstructing justice, hiding information and protecting pedophiles and rapists.   If any other business venture were to conduct themselves in this manner the CEO and the leadership of that business venture would be in jail, and rightfully so.

Now is the time to act.  Now is the time to push for Window Legislation in Pennsylvania and force the Catholic Dioceses of that Commonwealth to do the right thing.  The seem to lack a conscience , only the legal system will be able to compel them to do what should have been intuitive to the leaders of a religion.

Please contact your legislators and the U.S. Attorney’s office in your region to support any initiative that forces the Catholic church to be accountable for their actions.

Chance to talk to other Survivors, SNAP Support Groups

I have been doing some travel to the Washington, DC area as part of my job.  The project that I am working on has meetings  scheduled almost every Wednesday.  This has afforded me the opportunity to try to get to a SNAP support group meeting that is conducted by the Virginia Coordinator for SNAP in Falls Church on the last Wednesday of the month.   The meeting is  at 7:00 p.m. at TYSONS-PIMMIT HILLS REGIONAL LIBRARY, 7684 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA.  (Please contact: Ellen Radday 703-538-6128 or Wayne Dorough 443-336-4186 for more information.)   I spoke to Becky Ianni, the Virginia Chapter Coordinator to confirm that the meeting was still on.  She assured me that the group was going to meet as scheduled.

If you are looking for SNAP Support Groups in your area, go to the SNAP pages listing support groups for the eastern, central and western sections of the United States.  There are also pages for Canada and Mexico

SNAP should update some of the contact information for some of the chapters.  I know that the information for the area I live in, Hampton Roads, Virginia  is out of date.   There is no information listed on a chapter in Northeast Pennsylvania or for Scranton proper.  Given the number of priests accused/convicted in that area, I would think that an organized support group in that area is greatly needed.

Of course, these support groups are only as good as the people who are willing to come forward and stand up not only for themselves but for others who have been affected by the Clergy Sex Abuse/Assault Scandal. We will be much more successful when we consolidate our energy and resources to affect a change in the law and in the attitude of the church. I don’t believe the latter will happen until the laws change.

In the spirit of change that has captured this country, I recommend that we all stand up together and be heard.

Second and Third Order Effects

When I look back at decisions I have made and actions that I have taken throughout my life thus far, I am struck by the primary, secondary and tertiary effects of those decisions and actions.  (note: if you are a diocesan spokesperson, tertiary is defined as third rank of order or importance, please try to keep up!).

For those who are victims of sexual assault at the hands of clergy, their lives took an oblique turn with the first assault and betrayal of trust.  Not only was their innocence stolen, but most life decisions they have made from that point on are related to that primary event.   For some it was all-consuming. For others, the events manifested themselves in decision-making skills , lifestyles, relationship skills, interactions with friends and family, addictions, personality changes.   For many of us, life decisions were made based on the long-lasting effects of the sexual assaults.

The methodology for second and third order effects  is pretty simple.  Cause 1 yields Effect 1.  In my case, the gradually escalating mental and physical  abuse, to include sexual assaults by Father Gibson when I was 13 was my Cause 1.  One of the first order effects resulting from Cause 1 was a total loss of trust in Priests and suspicion of the motives of any adult in a position of authority (coaches, teachers, police, Scout Leaders, etc…) .

Effect 1,the loss of trust becomes Cause 2 yielding  Effect 2.  (There are many second level effects, but for the sake of brevity and clarity I will only deal with one second order effect.)   Effect 2 was a questioning of every aspect of  Catholic faith, tradition and dogma.     This happened over time and finally manifested itself in an outright rejection of Catholicism by the time I was serving in the Navy.   With a betrayal as obscene as I had experienced, this seemed to be a logical step.  As I have mentioned in earlier posts, at the time I should have been converting the years of religious education, service as an altar boy, and generational examples of those in my good Irish Catholic family to a solid faith, I was dealing with a pedophile who was getting some perverse satisfaction not only from the physical part of the assault  but from the psychological gratification of knowing he had me trapped.  Without that basis in faith, I could not form a bond with Catholicism.

Effect 2 becomes Cause 3 yields Effect 3.  One of those third order effects was that my rejection of the Catholic faith led me to reject the notion of raising my children as Catholics or, for that matter,  in any other faith.  I rejected the notion of voluntarily attending any religious services on a regular basis.  I have attended religious events as a part of my job, out of deference to my parents (their 50th Anniversary Mass), or at events such as weddings or funerals.  In those instances where I attend some sort of  Catholic ritual, I do not receive any sacraments.    Two of my sons have never been baptized and they have very limited experience with any kind of participation in religious services.

I’m sure I can diagram out first, second and third order effects of the abuse for days and not capture all of them  all.  I am sure the tree diagram that would be generated by such an exercise would be pretty impressive.   The profound impact of the events in 1974 have altered my relationships with my parents and siblings since then.  I am sure that members of my family could actually pinpoint the change in my personality at the time if they thought about it.  Friends from Notre Dame could  point to profound changes in my appearance and behavior during high school.  In fact, one of those friends has actually commented on just this subject after I told them the story of my experience with Father Gibson.

While in college, I could become suddenly distant.  I know, with certainty, that this impacted relationships with friends and kept me from getting  close or opening up to people who were important to me.  My relationship with my parents was strained for years.  While there were other factors, the main driver was the fact that I was embarrassed and ashamed of what had happened in the rectory at Our Lady Queen of Peace,  in New York and in Florida with Gibson.  At some level I know I resented my parents for not protecting me from this predator.

At the beginning of the second semester of my senior year at the University of Scranton I made the decision that I had to get away from Pennsylvania, Father Gibson, my family and friends and start a new life.  I had to leave behind the damage that was done.  I made the decision to stop pursuing a spot in a law school.   The fastest ticket out-of-town was the military.  The Navy was my French Foreign Legion.  I signed up so I could “forget”.   Within 2 weeks of my college graduation I left Pennsylvania for good.  I left my family, my friends, my dreams and opportunities to get away from the damage.  The thing is, the damage went with me and kept manifesting its paralyzing effects in every aspect of my life. The damage from Father Gibson continued to impact every relationship and important decision in my  life despite my attempts to run away from it.  I am trying to face it and take ownership of it still.   I don’t know how successful I will be.