Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.
It is October and I realized the other day that I have been doing this blog for almost a year. I posted for the first time on 14 October 2008. Since then I have published over 90 posts, permitted over 100 comments and, to be honest, disallowed about 2 dozen others (not including the normal spam).
A year has passed and I am trying to figure out if I have accomplished any of the things I have set out to do. There is a line in the song “No Good Deed” from the musical Wicked where Elphaba is questioning whether she was “seeking good or just seeking attention”. I am beginning to understand that question more every time I start working on a post or reading another blog about clergy abuse.
I have been sorting through the things I have discovered since I started this blog. Many are probably self evident, others were a little surprising. Where to begin?
- Faith is not a part of my life. I do not pray in the traditional sense. Really, I just don’t buy into the process.
- I do not believe in God in the traditional Catholic or Christian construct. I do not believe in heaven or hell or in a benevolent god. The truth revealed to me by the actions and crimes of Father Gibson as well as the actions of diocesan officials who have gone to great lengths to hide the crimes of many priests was that the “faith” they promoted was as contrived, calculated and deceptive as their defense of the priests who violated the most devout for their own perverse pleasure. I have to admit, I have not been able to reconcile my personal confusion with survivors who are still devout Catholics, Baptists, Jews… I don’t understand.
- People knew. My contemporaries knew he was odd and that something was not right. Parents knew something was wrong, he was moved at one parish after only 6 months. The other priests knew, one walked in on him. Nothing was done. He had help keeping his secret, I was alone with mine.
- People who should have protected me and the others failed us as badly as he abused us.
- The judicial system and state legislatures are deferential to the church. They are predisposed to allowing the Catholic church to regulate itself at great peril to children and vulnerable adults.
- The Catholic Church will do anything, expend funds and resources, deceive, lie and attack anyone in an effort to downplay the fact that they are still hiding the abuse that has been at an epidemic level for decades. They will do the most unchristian and evil things in order to discredit anyone that comes forward with credible allegations. You don’t have to go any further than your local news blog or Abuse Tracker to get a taste of the church’s battle against the truth. From the Diocese of Bridgeport going all the way to the Supreme Court to fight an order to make public the details of abuse to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (and Cardinal Mahoney) denying responsibility for hundreds of cases of criminal sexual activity by their priests, the evidence is presented on a daily basis documenting the Catholic Hierarchy’s complicity in perpetuating the abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
- 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.
- The Dioceses in the United States will work with each other and through orders like the Servants of the Paraclete to move pedophiles out of a diocese in order to protect the church. They will send predators to other parishes in other states or countries to hide them from prosecution. They are willing to put children at risk to avoid scandal.
- The church has convinced parishioners that all survivors want to do is collect large awards in civil actions. They have successfully used their influence to paint us as the “bad guys”. They are actively revisiting the abuse on us to keep the money rolling in.
- The church’s representatives are so delusional, they are almost comically incompetent. And no one in the mainstream media, law enforcement or government will hold them accountable for that incompetence.
- Parishioners will blindly follow their bishops in spite of overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing.
As far as this blog is concerned, I am amazed that people read any of this. I have been surprised by some of the people that have read my posts and commented or contacted me. I have spoken to people I have not seen since my high school graduation. I have corresponded with college and high school friends and I have found that they don’t judge me. In communication with people I knew in high school, they all have stories that seem to piece together a picture of a priest who was out of control. Looking back on that puzzle taking shape, this man was a prolific abuser. Others, both male and female, have stories that involve other priests being physically or sexually abusive.
Even more surprising is the lack of feedback from people that I thought would respond to my blog. I know I fumbled the delivery of the news of what happened to me all those years ago to my family and friends. I honestly have no idea if my siblings or my parents read this blog. If they do, the conversation, if there is one, takes place without me.
There are days when hundreds of people read what I have written. Some posts see a lot of traffic, some are barely noticed. Usually, I am surprised by the posts that get picked up by other bloggers. Then there are days when 30 visitors come through. I can tell how people come to find this blog (although I cannot see who is coming in). Sometimes I will see an increase in traffic even though I have not posted anything new. It is a mystery to me. I do admit to editing, modifying and adding to posts once they are up. In the case of this post, I accidentally published a few days before I wanted to let it go out into the blogosphere. I apologize to anyone who read my disjointed efforts at the initial draft that made it online.
I know people “google” Father Gibson and find this blog (I see how people are referred into this blog). I wonder how many of those people were doing so for the same reason I once googled his name. My guess is that there are more victims out there who have found my blog and are still grappling with their own great terrible secret. If you are in this category, you are not alone. If you want to talk or get information on organizations that can help you, contact me and I will do whatever I can to assist. I will respect your privacy.
One of the more surprising revelations has been my interactions with other survivors. I am amazed at the bond I have felt with other survivors. Before attending the SNAP Conference this past August, my contact with other survivors had been limited to one SNAP meeting in Northern Virginia, several phone calls and a few emails with a few bloggers. There are people out there that I have never met in person that I feel I have known all my life. Entry into this club comes with an absolutely vulgar initiation. But, membership comes with unfailing support from people with similar experiences. Perhaps I now understand the strength my father has gained as a result of the time he has spent with other friends of Bill.
Finally, I continued to be frustrated by people I know are genuinely offering me a lifeline. But, I have reached my limit of devout Catholics who comment on this and other blogs that survivors need to come back to the mother church to find peace. The same people that support their local pedophile expect me to see the error of my way and return to be forgiven by God. I have been told by people, some close to me, that I need to put all this behind me and come back. I have been told that I need to make sure I do not let what happened to me drive me. Funny, for over 30 years I kept the great terrible secret and it ate me alive. It damaged every relationship I have ever had and drove me to some very destructive behavior. I cannot put that genie back in the bottle, nor do I want to. To them I would like to respectfully say “No Thank You”. Please don’t refer me to your parish priest. If all you have to offer me is your invitation to come back to the church, resist the urge to offer the invitation. I am not obsessed with what has happened, I am working through the damage caused by the acts of a monster who is still supported by an organization that has forgotten the basis of the religion they claim is the one true faith. I simply believe that there is no such thing as one true faith. Between my experiences as a child and my experiences in the military, I have seen enough absolutely evil things done in the name of religion to convince me that devotion and faith are easy excuses for violence and intolerance. I have no use for religion.
I strongly support the passage of window legislation in every state to allow survivors to force an accounting for the horrible acts that have been committed and covered up. I think that until the church is forced to pay a price it cannot bear for hiding pedophiles, they will not change the way they do business. I want to see the end of allowing any religious organization the power to “handle matters on their own”. To allow for any religion to impose its own law or “solution” is counter to all I believe in. I swore an oath to protect and serve the Constitution and I served my country for over 23 years. I feel that any law enforcement or judicial officer who allows the church to deal with a pedophile hiding behind their clerical robes has failed in their duty to protect the public.
The Church has spent millions on lobbyists and public relations firms to prevent legislation from being passed that will hold them accountable to victims. If they spent a fraction of that providing services for survivors, vetting seminarians and taking reports of criminal behavior seriously, there would be a much smaller universe of survivors. The only people who have consistently benefitted from the war the church has started and continues to fight are the trial lawyers.
I do not know what is coming my way in the next year. The song from Wicked is stuck in my head, reminding me that no good deed goes unpunished, no act of charity goes unresented…
Let me know what you are thinking.