This week’s required reading…

Here is the latest group of articles I am recommending as your reading for the week:

How a Catholic sex abuse report in Pennsylvania echoed around the U.S.

D.C. attorney general opens inquiry into sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Washington

Bill White: PA Senate’s inaction on child sex abuse bill was cowardly

Want to make it up to church abuse survivors, Sen. Scarnati? Come back to Harrisburg now | Editorial

The Catholic Church owns the Pa. Capitol. Abuse victims saw that Wednesday night. | Maria Panaritis

The Pennsylvania Senate’s failure to offer remedy to child sexual abuse victims was an utter disgrace

Virginia investigates Catholic Church: ” We have heard from Victims” 

 

It looks like there is traction, we just don’t seem to be going anywhere.

#mysurvivorfrustration

#wherearethey

#ourhouse

Action Alert from the Foundation To Abolish Child Sex Abuse (FACSA)

 

This is from an email that FACSA sent out Yesterday.  It was important enough to come out of my self imposed archive.

1-888-538-8541

Last April, the PA Attorney General’s Office established a toll-free phone number for survivors of child sex abuse (who were PA residents, or were abused by someone in PA) to call if they wanted to file a report of being sexually abused or molested as a child under 18 no matter how long ago the abuse happened or no matter who committed the abuse.

The AG’s office is asking victims from all the places/institutions and all the alleged criminals that have literally gotten away with soul murder. Hopefully, the AG’s office will be able to take further steps to expose the criminals and the criminal institutions that aided and abetted the perps.

1-888-538-8541

While your specific abuse may have happened so long ago that there is no criminal or civil charges you can file, by your identifying perps and complicit institutions now, other victims may gain the courage to come forward once they realize they were not the only one abused by their perp.  Additionally, we anticipate there are many institutions over the years that have hidden cases of child sex abuse when it happened and with the children they were supposed to be protecting. The perps and the institutions need to be held accountable for the damage that happened.

1-888-538-8541

Please call this number. Leave a message. Someone will call you back.

Your story could be of help to other victims.

And then SHARE, SHARE, SHARE this email/post!
PS: If you lived in the Allentown Diocese when you were abused, please also contact Rep. Mark Rozzi.
On Facebook: Private Message Rep. Rozzi at https://www.facebook.com/VoteRozzi
Via Email: MRozzi@pahouse.net

FACSA Update 4/18/2014

The following is the content of an email I received yesterday from the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse (FACSA):

Over the many months of the current PA Legislature’s session our team has continued to monitor for legislative efforts that will protect children from sexual predators and provide some measure of justice for CSA victims. Most recently there were several pieces of legislation signed into law by Gov. Corbett including the following changes:

  • Designated state licensing boards will now be required to provide training on child abuse recognition and reporting.
  • New provisions clarify who is mandated to report child abuse and the reporting process they must follow to report suspected abuse to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.
  • Employees will now be protected from discrimination in the workplace as a result of reporting suspected abuse.
  • Penalties will increase for those required to report supposed abuse but fail to do so.

Additionally a bill providing for stable funding of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) in PA was also signed by Gov. Corbett. CACs are multidisciplinary treatment programs for abused children, which brings together doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and law enforcement. This approach gives abused children the best chance to recover and also provides the most effective way to gather evidence to bring perpetrators to justice. There are currently 21 CACs in PA.

However, although more than one dozen “child protection” laws have been enacted to date, none enable the removal of known pedophiles.

One champion for this much needed legislation is Rep. Mark Rozzi. Rep. Rozzi represents part of Berks County. He and some childhood friends were victims of CSA. Rep. Rozzi has introduced several pieces of legislation to help protect children and promote justice for victims.

  • You are Invited!

Please join us in Harrisburg on Wednesday April 30th to support Rep. Mark Rozzi’s HB 2067 and after the press conference join one of our teams who will be meeting with key legislators to ask for their support of this important legislation.

PRESS CONFERENCE INFO:
Rep. Mark Rozzi Press Conference on HB 2067
WHEN: Wed. April 30, 2014 at 10:00 AM
WHERE: Capitol Media Center, Room 1 East Wing of Capitol, Harrisburg, PA

How do you get there? 

MEETING WITH LEGISLATORS:
If you are interested in joining one of our teams who will be meeting with legislators after the press conference, please contact Tammy Lerner at 610-509-9568 or email her at lerner@abolishsexabuse.org to sign on. You will need to arrive at our legislative team’s office across from the Capitol Building in Harrisburg no later than 9:00 AM  to review plans for the day.

MORE INFO RE: HB 2067:
HB 2067 does several things:

  • Going forward, it permanently eliminates the SOL for child sex abuse, both criminally (now to age 50) and civilly (now to age 30)
  • As a compromise, it does allow for previously time-barred victims (up to age 50) to bring suit.
  • If the perpetrator was employed by a public or private entity that owed a duty of care for the victim, damages against the entity may be awarded with a finding of “gross negligence”.
  • Add “child sex abuse” as an exception to immunity laws thereby removing the “sovereign immunity” defense for public officials and institutions.

Why this legislation is important:

  • Victims deserve their day in court.
  • It takes courage (and often decades) for children to acknowledge abuse.
  • Perpetrators and responsible entities have not been held accountable.
  • Perpetrators are still involved with children.
  • Perpetrators have been deliberately shielded from prosecution.
  • The SOL laws are arbitrary and archaic.
  • Only lawmakers have the power to enact laws to protect the public.
  • Although more than one dozen “child protection” laws have been enacted to date, none enable the removal of known pedophiles.
  • HB 2067 is sound public policy.

Below is part of an e-mail Rep. Rozzi recently sent to his colleagues to encourage them to support HB 2067:

“Once again I am appealing to the sense of civic responsibility that leads every one of us to seek public office.  As legislators, we have an obligation to institute laws that safeguard our citizens… especially those who cannot protect themselves.

“We read how venerable institutions, insulated by outdated laws, have not only allowed the victimization of children….but have exposed countless others to the horrors of sexual abuse.   The problem will NEVER GO AWAY as long as perpetrators are shielded.  Witness Sandusky, the Boy Scouts, any religious organization, and any school system…public or private.

“We have learned that victims of child sex abuse often take decades to acknowledge their demons and that they rarely make false claims.  We know that perpetrators can’t stop abusing.  But if we can give survivors of child sex abuse the opportunity to expose predators through accessing records to support their claims, without the constraints of arbitrary statutes of limitations, than this will go a long way to stop the abuse of the next generation of children.

“I implore you to co-sponsor my legislation, House Bill 2067 and call upon the Chairmen of the Judiciary Committee to at least hold a meeting on the merits of the measure.  On behalf of all victims of child sexual abuse, I thank you in advance for your consideration and support.”

FACSA’s mailing address is:

FACSA
740 Cornerstone Lane
Bryn Mawr, Pa 19010

You can make a contribution to FACSA!

 

Coming Soon… A Survivors’ Blog Roll

I have decided to take on a project in an effort to gather together the voices of people blogging on the topic of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.  I am not limiting this to survivors of abuse by priests.  This is going to be open to any blogger who wishes to put their blog up in a “blog roll” that showcases their work along with that of others.  I want to use the power of the blogosphere to bring the various voices on this topic out in a place where interested readers can read a broader spectrum of blog offerings in a centralized location.  Currently there is no such Blog Roll for our community.

This is not meant to compete with Abuse Tracker, the blog by Kathy Shaw that brings together the news of the day in addition to selected blog posts that tell the continuing story of the Sex Crime Crisis in the Catholic Church and other religious communities.  What I am envisioning is a collection of blogs offering opinions, sometimes differing, outside of the established and narrowly focused organizational websites that are putting forward particular agendas.  I want to bring the individual survivor who is blogging to a more prominent position that will enable their voice to find a larger audience. 

I have turned to some professionals in the field that are putting together a proposal for me to build this Blog Roll for Survivors.  I will post the link to this as soon as we can get the coding done.  I am shooting for an early November launch.  I am looking at the list of blogs in the left rail navigation of this page as the basis for the initial launch of the new site.  I may, after I get the kinks worked out on this concept, offer a place where guest bloggers, who do not have their own blogs online,  can put up a single or occasional blog posts.  I need to look at some legal issues and my own time constraints before I commit to that.  For now, let’s call that phase II of this concept.  I want Phase I up and running first. 

If you have a blog on this topic or you know someone who does, and you think this is a good idea, please let me know.  Send me a comment or an email and let me know what you think or if you have a suggestion.  I am all ears. Also, if you have a suggestion on what I should call the site send that along.

I put a down payment on this project so I am committed.  Please help me populate the new site by sending me a link to your blog or by passing this to anyone you know who blogs on Survivor topics.

I am willing to put my money where my mouth is to try to get the survivor community united and our collective voices heard.  I think something like this is long overdue and I am taking this on myself because no one else was willing or able to do it.

“Dear Mr. Ratzinger” Campaign

I have a new hero in Ireland. Her name is Emma Somers. She is a free-lance writer and she has come up with the most elegant and simple way to reply to Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the Irish people regarding the sex crisis in the Catholic Church. We are all going to drop him a line, compose a letter, fire off an email, send an epistle, you choose the form it takes as long as the message is sent. I know this is starting as an Irish initiative, but I would like to see a more international effort  supporting Emma’s campaign.  This is a show of support for Ireland’s concerned movers and shakers who are done with the abuse committed by clergy and covered up and denied by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  This is a show of support for survivors worldwide. This is a pontifical “WAKE-UP” call to the Holy See.

Emma’s WordPress Blog is called “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland“.  The rules are simple (I hope she forgives me for cutting and pasting):

No 1: Read the pope’s letter

Please do not post a response unless you have read the pastoral letter from the pope — or at least the parts directed at you (eg victims, young people, parents, etc). It is posted here.

No 2: Write your reply

It may be one line, it may match the pope’s 4,000 words — either way, you can get your message across. Feel free to borrow from other letters here if you have trouble articulating your feelings.

No 3: Share your reply

If you are comfortable sharing all or part of your reply, please post it as a comment on “Dear Mr. Ratzinger“. Your letter may inspire others to put pen to paper.

No 4: Post  your reply on Saturday 15th May 2010

 
This is the most important part. DO NOT FORGET TO POST OR EMAIL YOUR LETTER! For the biggest impact, we will send our letters on the same day and show the Vatican Ireland cares about victims of clerical child abuse.

Note: (For you Americans out there, Post=Mail, find a stamp and mail the thing)

Participants are invited to meet at the GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin, at 2pm on Saturday 15th May to post our letters as a group. (If you would like to be sent a reminder for this, please email dearmrratzinger@gmail.com with ‘Reminder GPO’ in the subject line. Your email will not be passed on or used for any other purposes.)

If you can’t make it to the GPO, all you need to do is post or email your letter before 5pm on Saturday 15th May. (Again, for a reminder, please email dearmrratzinger@gmail.com with the word ‘Reminder’ in the subject line.)

Address for letters: Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City
-or-
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano

Address for emails: benedictxvi@vatican.va

No 5: Spread the word

Please pass “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland” on to anyone you know who might be interested in having their voice heard or help friends and family who are not online to get involved in the campaign.

Consider this “Spreading the Word”!  I need a Canadian and an Australian to get the word out in your neck of the woods. 

For those of us that can’t make it to the GPO in Dublin on the 15th because of lack of funding, expired passports, or Icelandic volcanos,  I recommend similar gatherings at post offices around the world.  Talk amongst yourselves and come up with an appropriate location, preferably near a mail box, post box, container approved by your local postal authority or free WiFi hotspot.   

If you are going to meet, let me know where and when and I will spread the word.

Why are you still reading this?  Go to Emma’s Blog, Dear Mister Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland, you have reading and writing to do.

Child Pornography in the Rectory at Lords Valley, Pennsylvania

In case you are one of the people who believe that the worst of the sex scandal in the Catholic Church is over, I have more bad news.  Another priest in the Diocese of Scranton has been reported, this time for child pornography.

Father TimchakAccording to news reports, and this is a story that is just breaking this evening, Father Robert Timchak was in court in Milford to begin answering charges for possession of child pornography and tampering with evidence.  According to news channels in Scranton, the investigation has been ongoing since December 2008 when someone tipped off the Diocese of Scranton that he had child pornography on his computer.

According to Channel 16 in Scranton, Timchak has served as pastor at several Catholic churches in the area, including the Transfigurations Church in West Hazelton, Saints Peter and Paul in Hazelton and most recently Saint John Neumann in Lords Valley

On the St John Neumann website this evening is a note to parishioners that reads:
Due to the recent problems in the Catholic Church,The Church has provided information for any individual that may have questions about the Bishop’s decision in Dallas. Please go to the following web site of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops www.usccb.org.

You will note that the Diocese has not put any information that tells you that your priest has child pornography on his computer nor does it tell you to contact the Pennsylvania State Police if you have information that would benefit law enforcement or the Pike County District Attorney. There is nothing on the website for the combined Transfigurations Church and Saints Peter and Paul in the Hazelton area. No need to let too many people know that a potential predator was in their midst. That is the way the Diocese of Scranton rolls!

I have to ask the obvious question here, why did it take the Pennsylvania State Police 11 months to check this guy’s computer and arrest him? Why did the Diocese of Scranton leave this “priest” in the parish since December 2008? I would love to ask if the Diocese of Scranton went into the community looking for possible victims. I wonder how many families in the parish where close to Father Timchak? Of those families, how many had young boys that were left alone with Father Timchak? Are any of the photos on the computer children of the parishes to which he was assigned?

Once again the Diocese showed the blinding speed with which it deals with potential child molesters wearing Roman Collars.  I imagine it took Bill Genello that long to practice the line “the Diocese has no comment” in front of the mirror in the bathroom. It was, no doubt, Bill Genello that put the brilliant and totally useless line on the church website. In case you are reading this Bill, I did a screen grab to document your referral to an organization that your most recent Bishop, Joseph Martino claimed did not have any authority in his diocese.

I am very familiar with this area. I served mass at Good Shepherd.  I lived in Hemlock Farms from 7th grade through my graduation from high school in 1978. I also lived there during the first two summers when I attended the University of Scranton.St John Neumann draws parishioners from that development. I lived in Hemlock Farms during the time frame where I was abused and raped by Father Gibson.

I am sure that there are a lot of parents in Lords Valley, West Hazelton and Hazelton who are having some very difficult conversations with their children tonight. If I may offer advice, please be supportive and don’t overreact if you child starts to tell you about things that make you uncomfortable. If your child has had a noticable change in personality, attitude, school behavior or has been withdrawn, moody or depressed seek help. I strongly recommend you do not go to the Diocese of Scranton. As kind and gentle as Joan Holmes may seem to you, the Diocese will try to collect information and spin this to their advantage. Do not let them control any aspect of this process, they will turn on you.

The Diocese of Scranton has an adversarial record in dealing with victims and their families over the years. Don’t let them re-victimize you, your family or your community. Believe me when I tell you from first hand experience, they will not make you a priority. They will protect the Diocese, the Diocese’s bank account and the priest before they will do anything for victims.

What I Have Learned in a Year of Blogging

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.

George Carlin

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.