An Update on the Status of Survivor Funds in PA

I have heard from a few of you concerning the amount of time it is taking to get an offer from the various funds set up by the Dioceses in Pennsylvania for childhood survivors of sexual crimes by priests.  I have heard there is a backlog with the administrators, an article, Pennsylvania dioceses offer $84M to 564 clergy abuse victims by Michael Rubinkam, on the Associated Press website from December 26, 2019, backs up what I had heard.  (Click on the first link to read the article.)

Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally that’s sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims, according to an Associated Press review.

The average payout reported to date is over $148,000 for the seven dioceses that have released information.

I recommend a read of the article.  I believe that the Dioceses are displaying an amount of hubris that is entirely inappropriate.  They are reveling in getting away with the rape of children and the coordinated coverup of those crimes over decades.   Everyone one of the Bishops in Pennsylvania should hang their heads in shame.  While these payments will give relief to some of the victims, they do not forgive the crimes. No amount of money will assuage the torment of those who were targetted, first by the predator, and then by the institution that should have protected them in the first place.

When Life Gives You Demons

It has been six months since my last post.   Much has happened for me, but nothing has changed as far as the Diocese of Scranton is concerned.  Everything remains a risk calculation for the boys on Wyoming Avenue.  We are no closer to the truth, no closer to the Bishop taking responsibility for his actions, not anywhere near an honest act of contrition. And now Bishop Bambera is under consideration for appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, another corrupt bastion of Catholicism.  Yes, sports fans, Bambi is perhaps in line for a red zucchetto.

The bishop is calculating the victory lap he thinks he will take when the accountants come back with the final tally from the Individual Survivors Compensation Program (ISCP).  It will be a ledger of payments, pennies on the dollar, intended to make survivors go away.  There is no actual admission of wrongdoing, no real penance.  It is a business transaction.

One of the downsides of having this blog is the email from “ordinary Catholics” who are pissed at me for having the audacity to call out the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for the coverup of decades, perhaps centuries, of sex crimes committed by priests against children.  The most recent, received last week, comes from a man who initially sent me an email insisting that I call him.  He included a phone number with a southeastern Pennsylvania area code.  (Note to potential email correspondents to this blog, saying you “would like to speak to me,” and providing a phone number is not going to get me dialing my phone.)  No context, no explanation, just an expectation that I will drop what I am doing and dial the number.  On the outside chance that the email could be from a survivor, I responded.  My experience also shows that other survivors who are unsure how to start “the conversation” will make the same request, provide a number and ask me to contact them or request that I provide my digits.  The sole reason I respond to any of these emails is the possibility that the originator is a fellow survivor.

After more than a dozen years working on this blog, it is easy to spot a militant “protectors of the faith” in a follow on email.  Often they are trying to ambush me into a lecture.  Sometimes, if I politely decline, it gets more aggressive with accusations that I hate the church, I am making up stories, or I am tarnishing the reputations of “godly” men.  You get the picture. 

Last week I saw a spike in visits to the blog.  Because I have not posted since last June, I was surprised to get an email from WordPress telling me that my stats were booming.  The next day brought an email request for my phone number.  I thought it odd and stated so in my reply when I asked for the reason he wanted to speak to me and for an introduction.

His reply began with a quote from my blog:

The Catholic Church is a huge multinational business, run for a purpose.  It has a goal to collect money, to perpetuate itself and to avoid scandal. They want to attract the “faithful” to fill the seats for the Sunday morning magic show in order to keep the collection plate filled.  This will allow the monsignors, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope to continue living in opulent excess.  It has long ago stopped being about god, charity, faith and truth.”

My first thought was, “here we go!”

The second paragraph was: (my comments in bold italics)

“I am an ordinary Catholic living near Allentown, PA. (So?) I have been in Scranton several times. (as if this lends geographic credibility to what is to follow)  I read your history on the blog “Off My Knees” about the abuse you suffered by a Catholic priest online (thanks for the page views?!). You stated that you no longer consider yourself a Catholic (I don’t), and you don’t believe in God in the traditional Catholic of Christian construct (Yup, I said that too)(And then we get to it…) I want to talk to you about why you don’t want to belong to the Church, your attacks and hatred of the Church,  and why I believe the Church is being (sic) unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like you.”

I am curious, why is my desire to have no relationship with the Catholic Church any of your business, Mr. “Ordinary Catholic living near Allentown?”  My criticism is directed at the hierarchy of the church for reasons that are well documented.    My hatred of the church?  You lept to that conclusion all on your own.  Show me where I ever said I hated the church.  Hate is a powerful emotion, but it not the opposite of love.  The opposite of both love and hate is indifference.  I am indifferent to any institution that has a culture where prominent leaders rape children, their higher-ups cover up the rapes and encourage followers to enable those crimes through collections, tithing, and donations.  My question to you, Mr. Ordinary Catholic, is why aren’t you?

I  don’t care (there is that pesky indifference again) if you believe the church is being unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like me.  Imagine how unfairly treated the victims of sexual crimes committed by priests and covered up by the hierarchy of the church feel.

On the outside chance that this was a Festivusairing of grievances” from Whitehall, PA. I would suggest that you now move on to the “feats of strength” activities.

Merry Christmas and an Excellent Festivus to us all!

 

This week’s reading. Follow the money!

I took today off to finish drafting my ISCP package.  With any luck, I will have it off my plate by the end of the weekend.  I will go through that mess with you all as soon as it is emailed to go through a review for legal sufficiency.

But for now, I have a couple of links for you to read through.  It seems that the church is spending a lot of parishioner money to prevent people from holding institutions accountable that have protected pedophiles in the past.  And now they have to come clean that they are using parishioner donations (feigning shock) to do the dirty work at which they excel.

From NBC News:

Catholic Church spent $10 million on lobbyists in fight to stymie priest sex abuse suits

From the Washington Post:

 

Church_Abuse-Lawsuit_92405-296e2
Michael J. Bransfield, former Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virgnia (Scott McCloskey/Intelligencer/AP)

 

W.Va. bishop gave powerful cardinals and other priests $350,000 in cash gifts before his ouster, church records show

My question is for those of you that still support the “Catholic Church”, is this how you want your money spent?  I am sure you were probably thinking along the lines of “good works” or “charitable purposes”.  I am sure the bishops are thinking along the lines of keeping the cash flow coming in, morals be damned.  Lets  face it, you are supporting Roman Collar Crime.

Just a reminder, the Catholic Church does not pay taxes.  Your tax dollars also support these con artists.

Abuse Survivors, the New Lepers

  • a person who is avoided or rejected by others for moral or social reasons.

Let’s just put this out there.  Abuse survivors are the new lepers to the “Catholic faithful.”

Recently, a Facebook Post reply from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference to a comment left by  Carolyn Fortney showed that organization’s disdain for the universe of survivors.   Here is the screenshot of the now deleted post:

PCC FB stupidity
Carolyn Fortney’s screen grab

After removal of the pathetic reply above, the PCC issued the following apology/retraction/backtracking attempt:

Screenshot_2019-05-19 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference - Home
PCC failed attempt at damage control

If you don’t know about the Fortneys, I strongly encourage you to check out their website and follow them on Facebook at Fortney Family on the Move for Justice.  Of nine siblings in the Fortney family, five were abused by a Catholic Priest.  These brave women came forward and have lent their voices to advocate for change and justice.  They do not deserve the disrespect leveled at them by the PCC.

Screenshot_2019-05-19 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference » Contact
Screen grab from the PCC website

I will assume that the FB reply came from Al Gnoza, the “Communications Director.”  I wonder if he is the one with whom the PCC leadership is “addressing the matter” with?

Before I go any further, I will recommend to Mr. Eric Failing that he fill the Department on Social Concerns Director vacancy soon. You really need someone with some people skills in your organization.  Just a thought!

As for Al Gnoza, a former newscaster dismissed for cause from ABC27, an ABC affiliate in Harrisburg in 2014 for making inappropriate comments.  After a few years at the CBS affiliate in town, he left in 2018 to take his current job with the PCC.  He has a track record of not knowing when to keep his mouth shut.  I am hoping the disciplinary action taken includes Mr. Gnoza packing up and going elsewhere.

As the voice of the PCC, Mr. Gnoza has made it clear that he has disdain for survivors and their families.  That disdain is clearly the position of the PCC as long as they keep this man in their employ as the Communications Director.  This organization, just like the Catholic League, wants survivors to go away, to be silent and to stop calling to task the hierarchy of the church and its minions in the Insurance Lobby, the office of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

You can read more about the Facebook exchange in an article in The Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil, updated: May15, 2019. Pa. Catholic Conference to clergy sex abuse survivor: ‘Why do you have to troll here?’

This feeling is not limited to organizations lobbying for the church.  It is strongly felt by the “faithful” who also want us to go away.  They often complain that we are just looking to make a few bucks off the church.  That money comes from parishioners.  They have been told, and they believe that services to seniors, young children, and social programs are being impacted to pay off the survivors. They have made us the villains.

Dioceses have conducted services for forgiveness and atonement, but they do not invite survivors and their families.  They bar entry to churches for those who add vocal support for survivors. We are the problem in their eyes.  In my own case, I offered suggestions and support to my alma mater, the University of Scranton’s Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation & Hope. It was made clear in a brief letter from the president of the University and a more polite email from the chair of the Task Force that my offer was not welcome. A clear indicator that I am no longer considered to be part of the University of Scranton community.

Forgive me if I have no sympathy for the PCC, the Catholic Church, or for “the Catholic Faithful” who continue to try to isolate and marginalize survivors.  Just a reminder, folks.  We were the victims of crimes committed by priests and other religious.  Those perps had the support and protection of the hierarchy of the church.  The church continues to benefit from the comfort of organizations like the Catholic League and the PCC who are all about telling you that we, the survivors of the abuse, are the reason that things are wrong in the church.  They say that we are going to bankrupt the church.  I have news for you, they are already morally bankrupt.

UPDATE – 20 May 2019

The spineless leadership of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has removed the apology to Carolyn Fortney and other survivors on their Facebook page.  Isn’t it just like a Catholic organization to hide evidence of a problem and act like it never existed?   

In just a few days, a Billion $ pledged to fix a church.

But no pledges to fix “The Church.”

The fire at Notre Dame de Paris was a cultural tragedy.  The cathedral is iconic to Paris, to France, to the world. The loss of over 850 years of work by carpenters, stone masons, painters, sculptors, stain glass makers, metal smiths, and untold numbers of other artisans who lent their talents to create this magnificent Gothic Cathedral is nothing short of catastrophic.

 

Sparks fill the air as Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris
The Cathedral burns in Paris, April 2019

 

I realize the significance of this cathedral to the national identity of France and to the people of Paris.  I have had the opportunity to see it myself while traveling in Europe during my years in the military.  I was impressed with the dramatic lines of the Gothic architecture as I approached.  I marveled at the art, tapestries, sculptures, and attention to detail inside.  It was truly amazing. And to think that this cathedral survived almost 900 years through good times and bad.  It survived the French Revolution, World War I and World War II relatively unscathed.  It seems that this fire was started by an electrical short during renovations. A small pop, a short circuit and so much was lost.

Within hours of the fire devasting Notre Dame, money was being pledged to restore the cathedral.  A core group of wealthy French families had already pledged almost $700 million to restore the building.  Within just a few days that number soared over $1 Billion.  I tell you, those Catholics can sure come together to tackle a problem like repairing a church.  It is just a damn shame that those same Catholics can’t band together to restore THE church.  You know, get rid of the dysfunctional hierarchy that is in denial about everything from priests raping children, priests raping vulnerable adults, priests fathering children (the next big crisis is coming!), misuse of funds, and lying to the laity? Anyone?

All through my youth, in catechism class and in countless homilies I heard that the church is not the building.  The church is the people worshiping together as one.  I am amazed that the worldwide outpouring of support was so immediate and tangible.  But, that outpouring is for a building.  Granted, it is a cultural heritage asset.  But still…

If Catholics would take a moment to step back and look at the overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing by priests and other church officials who enjoyed protection from a flawed Catholic hierarchy willing to do anything to protect itself.  They are shameless.  Cardinal Dolan of New York took the opportunity when interviewed on the Paris fire to make a plea for funds to help pay off the renovations in St. Patricks Cathedral.  I had to laugh at his blatant attempt to raise money. Nothing like a good cathedral fire somewhere else to fill some of the local coffers in New York.  A couple of days later, a man walked into St Patricks with gasoline and lighters.  A security guard stopped him before he could light the place up.  The guard was able to get some backup from members of the anti-terrorism task force that was just outside of St. Patricks.  One question, why was the anti-terrorism task force just outside of St. Patricks?  I wish I had that kind of protection when I was 13 and Father Gibson was attacking me.

The Catholic church, as I understand it( “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.*” blah blah blah), is still burning.  The hierarchy keeps putting fuel on the fire, and they are willing to sacrifice the innocent on the altar to keep the gravy train going. They blame, and they deflect, and they keep fleecing the sheep for all they are worth.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt.  I would argue that we should let the Catholic Church, in its current form, continue to burn to the ground.

 

*Matthew 18:20

 

 

 

Filling out the ISCP application

20180924_073807
On a car in the parking lot at work, in Virginia.

I have been struggling with this for weeks.  I am trying to make sense of this play by the Diocese of Scranton.  They have set a window for survivors to apply for the Independent Survivor Compensation Program (ISCP) that terminates in July for those who have not previously reported their abuse or in September for those of us that have informed the diocese of what happened  and are known to the people who work at the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.

This fund is a bet on the part of the Diocese.  They are hoping that victims/survivors will take the fund offerings now and forego the chance to depose diocesan officials if window legislation somehow passed in Pennsylvania as it has done in several states over the years.  Most notable among the states who recently voted to allow victims to take their perps and the institutions who protected those predators are New York and New Jersey, neighbors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The bishops are clinging to a failed strategy of minimizing the issue, vilifying the victims/survivors through their proxies and claiming that the only people who will suffer are the old, infirmed and very young who “so desperately need the assistance of a benevolent church”.  And just to put a punctuation on that concept, the Diocese of Scranton is selling off properties that include assisted care facilities and coyly saying that funds from these sales will go to pay for the ISCP.  The sleight of hand and misdirection are not lost on survivors.

 

Bishop selling assets
Bishop Bambera begins the fire sale of diocesan properties.

 

While many have accused me of trying to make a “quick buck” over the years, I am still looking for the truth to come out about the extent of the cover-up and the number of diocesan officials who had a hand in actively marginalizing victims and their families while protecting child rapists.  Given that I have been writing this blog for over ten years, I may need to rethink my “quick buck” strategy.

In the meantime, I am looking over the form for the ISCP.  There are seven pages of required information and questions that will determine the eligibility of a survivor to participate in the ISCP for the Diocese of Scranton.   You are allowed to provide additional pages as necessary to complete answers. The form asks for details on all the instances of sexual assaults, rapes, molestation and other forms of abuse.   You will note here that this trauma is being revisited on the survivors, while the officials of the diocese just sit back hoping to get out from under all of this for the absolute minimum investment before window legislation can be enacted into law.

This is the essay test from hell.   Can you imagine the dread that survivors are experiencing looking at this task? The Diocese, under the terms of the ISCP, will be able to have copies of all of the applications from survivors. My greatest fear is that they will take pleasure in what they will read.   As I try to answer the questions,  I can’t help but feel like I am writing inappropriate erotica for the fetishists at the Chancery.

Excuse me, I think I need to be sick.

Diocese releases more information on the ISCP

If you are a survivor in the Diocese of Scranton, you will need to look at the Diocese website for the Independent Survivor’s Compensation Program.  The link is at the end of the news release and is not part of the main Diocesan site.   The Bishop also released a video. There is not a lot of substance there, just a rehash of points in the letter mailed to survivors by the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) (I should check that envelope to see if that was a bulk mailing).  It is replete with politically correct attempts at “empathy” for victims within the Diocese that should appease the most ardent of the Bishop’s apologists supporters.

I strongly recommend that you get legal advice from someone not associated with the Diocese of Scranton.  If you have not come forward with a report of your abuse yet, you should go to the police, district attorney for your jurisdiction or the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and make your statement to civil authorities.

Some vital information on who may file a claim from the FAQ Sheet for the program:

The persons eligible to participate in this Program are: a) individuals who allege they were sexually abused as a minor by clergy (whether incardinated within the Diocese of Scranton or a member of a religious order serving within the Diocese of Scranton), lay teachers or employees associated with the Diocese of Scranton, or b) the Legal Representative (as defined below) of those Claimants. The following additional criteria apply:
• For new allegations first reported after November 8, 2018, the Claimant must first report the allegation of abuse in writing (with a copy submitted to the Administrators) to the appropriate District Attorney’s Office in order to participate in this Program. A finding of criminal liability by the District Attorney is not required for participating in this Program. All new allegations of abusereceived through this Program will also be reported to the appropriate District Attorney by the Diocese as required by law and Diocesan policy.
• The Claimant must not have previously entered into a settlement agreement resolving the same claim of clergy sexual abuse against the Diocese and/or a member of clergy.
• The Claimant must not have previously litigated his/her claims to resolution against the Diocese or any related entities. However, a Claimant whose claims were dismissed or resolved solely on the grounds that they were barred by the Pennsylvania statute of limitations and no other basis, remains eligible to participate in the Program.
From the Diocese FAQ Sheet

The letter I received from the VAC last week indicated that more details would be forthcoming from the administrators of the ISCP.  As of this writing, I have not received that package yet.   I will provide updates when it does arrive.

Everyone needs to assess their situation and make decisions that are right for themselves and their families.  Only you can decide how you are going to proceed.

I am providing links to the Claim Form, Protocol, and Fact sheets in a .pdf format.  These documents are from the package received from the administrators managing this process.

iscp claim form

iscp protocol

iscp fact sheet