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?   

Senator Scarnati’s Pastor Removed for Allegations of Sexual Abuse with a Minor

kaza resized
Msgr. Charles A. Kaza from the St Tobias website

The Diocese of Eire has removed Monsignor Charles Kaza from St. Tobias Parish in Brockway, PA while an investigation is made into allegations that he sexually abused a minor at St. John The Baptist Parish in Erie in the 1980s.  As of the time I was writing this on 19 May 2019, it is five days since the story broke in Erie News Now and Msgr Kaza is still listed as Pastor.  There is no announcement available on the church website to indicate that there was a potential predator priest at the church and active with local parochial schools.

One of St. Tobias’s notable parishioners is none other than  Senator Joseph B. Scarnati, IIISenator Scarnati is the current President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate and the man who refused to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate that would have allowed survivors of childhood sexual assault a window of opportunity to bring a civil action against the perpetrators of those crimes and the institutions that protected those perpetrators.  He refused to bring the bill to a vote during the last session of the Senate when it seemed that a growing wave of support would tip the scales in favor of establishing a two-year window.

Scarnati Family (2)
Senator and Amy Scarnati with some of their children.  From the Senator’s public twitter account

The Diocese of Erie press release from 18 May is as follows (give it a minute to load): Monsignor Kaza removed from active ministry pending investigation

I hope that Amy Scarnati is talking about this development with her children to determine if they have been potential victims of the monsignor.  The crisis is impacting so close to home, and yet this Senator lacks the spine to allow legislation to go to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate for an up or down vote., I hope the Church, the Insurance lobby and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference are paying you handsomely.  Perhaps they do so with 30 pieces of silver.  Senator, if that reference is lost on you, you might ask your pastor (the one in seclusion) to get you up to speed on the Gospel of Matthew.  I believe you both need a little reading and reflecting.

fd3c96e0-a55f-4dcf-a658-690906edb82b
He’s still listed as pastor as of noon on 19 May

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Awaiting Details of the Bishop’s Fund and End of the Year Reading

There are only a few days left until the Diocese of Scranton releases the information on the Bishop’s Victims Compensation Fund.  I am confident that Bishop Bambera will over-promise and under-deliver to victims and their families. If you plan to make a claim against the Diocese of Scranton, watch their news release page for information.  I expect the lies and blame deflection will flow from Bill Genello’s office as soon as the details of the “Independent Survivors Compensation Program” ooze out of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.

Look for requirements that will disqualify as many people with credible accusations as possible.  If you were raped/molested/harmed by a priest in a religious order teaching in a Diocesan school, you might be out of luck.  The Bishop will probably flick that booger towards the religious order and ignore that the crimes were committed within his curia.  As in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, they will probably offer you the services of an attorney to help you navigate the rules of the fund.  Please be aware, that the attorney being paid by the Diocese will not have your best interests at heart.  If the Diocese is paying the bills, the lawyer is working for the Bishop and not for you.  I strongly recommend that you get your own legal representation, working for your interests and yours alone.

The best bet in Pennsylvania is to enact legislation that opens a civil litigation window, sweeps aside the need for confidentiality agreements, and forces institutions like the Catholic Church to comply with laws protecting children and vulnerable adults.  All victims should have the right to bring a claim in front of a judge.  The format of the compensation funds is stacked to favor the Dioceses.

I have been reading some articles linked from sites like Catholics4Change.org or sent in from readers of this blog (thanks Barb!).  I am going to offer you some links to spike your outrage or just leave you shaking your head at the myopic idiocy of Church leaders.

Abuse Talking Points Interrupt God’s Word 

Can victim funds help heal wounds of Pa. church sex abuse scandal?

NY archdiocese issued suitability letter for priest under abuse investigation

Catholic abuse victims face new obstacle | Editorial

Business as usual in the Catholic Church

Ticking time bombs in the church

Cardinal Wuerl, despite stepping down due to abuse scandal, presides over grand Basilica Christmas Mass

The Cardinals and the Bishops are ending 2018 full of deceit.  I hold out little hope for change when the clock strikes midnight tonight, and we charge headlong into 2019.  Over the last ten years writing on this blog, I have always been in awe of the Church Hierarchy’s ability to be unfeeling, uncaring, unchristian buffoons.  I don’t think they will disappoint in their stupidity in the new year.

BISHOP BAMBERA SHOULD RESIGN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT!

 

A Letter to the President of The University of Scranton: Show Me Your Good Faith and Resolve

Gunster 80s
The University of Scranton Commons in front of Gunster, looking down Linden Street in the 1980’s.  From the McHugh Special Collections, Weinberg Memorial Library, The University of Scranton.  http://digitalservices.scranton.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p9000coll7/id/48/rec/1

In a move that took me by surprise back in August, the incoming President of The University of Scranton, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., directed that the names of bishops of the Diocese of Scranton involved in the Sexual Abuse Crisis would be removed from campus buildings and honorary degrees awarded to those individuals rescinded.  This action was taken after the release of the Pennsylvania Diocese Victims Report detailing sexual crimes by clergy in six of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic Dioceses.

On October 11, 2018, Father Pilarz released an announcement on the establishment of the Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation, and Hope.   In his message, he and the Board of Trustees “commit endowed funds to support efforts to strive together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report.”  He charged the Task Force to “help us harness the full range of resources that The University of Scranton, as a Catholic and Jesuit university can offer the church in this painful but pivotal moment. Their work will imagine and plan how we can respond, in ways both simple and sophisticated, to the needs of God’s people.”

I applaud any action taken to uncover the truth and to expose the complicity of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in protecting predator priests who have been committing sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults for decades. But,  I am suspicious of any action taken by a Catholic organization to address this issue.  The wording of the announcement is benign on its surface.  After reading it a few times, I was struck by what it does not address.   I do not see a clear identification of who is to be “healed, reconciled and granted hope.” He speaks about the church and  University community but nowhere in the announcement is a recognition of survivors.  The words  “victim” and “survivor” are conspicuously absent from the text. Is it the President’s intent to exclude the victims of this scandal?

Earlier this week I wrote to the Father Pilarz to express my concerns and offered a few recommendations. I have done this in good faith with the hope that my Alma Mater is true to it’s Jesuit Tradition.

Spirituality is at the core of our mission as a Catholic, Jesuit institution of higher learning. The chief characteristics embedded in the Ignatian vision include: the concept of the Magis, or a restless pursuit of excellence grounded in gratitude; Cura Personalis, individual attention to students and respect for the uniqueness of each member of the University community; seeking God in all things; liberal education; service of faith and the promotion of justice; and contemplation in action.

I have given the U.S. Postal Service enough time to deliver my letter to the University of Scranton.  I now share the text of that missive with you.

Dear Father Pilarz,
I am writing to you as both a survivor of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton and a member of the University of Scranton Community.  I graduated from the University in 1982 with a B.A. in History.
In response to the findings of the Attorney General’s Grand Jury Report, you took action to rename University buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the bishops who had a hand in the cover-up of sexual crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults. I applauded your initial steps in addressing this crisis.  Now I want you to make an impact beyond the campus of the University.
Your announcement of the establishment of Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation, and Hope in October may be a step in the right direction.  However, I have concerns that I hope you will take to heart.
Your task force needs to include survivors.  Survivors and the families of victims who are no longer with us need a voice at your table.  The Task Force will need to do more than politely listen to the stories and understand the impact on everyone involved. When we speak, it will be emotional perhaps even loud. Sorrow, anger, shame, and embarrassment will break voices and bring tears to eyes.   It may be messy and difficult to bear.  You will need to listen to these stories to be credible in your labors.  Without that input, you cannot possibly understand the depth of the damage to innocence, safety, security, personal relationships, trust, and faith inflicted on children because of these sexual batteries. Simply put, you should not have this discussion without us.
I would like to see the University endow studies that address key issues in this crisis.  I have tried to understand why the abuse happened and why the hierarchy of the Catholic Church covered it up. I have struggled, personally, with the effects of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my eighth-grade religion teacher, a diocesan priest. I stayed silent for more than 33 years. In the eleven years since my initial report to the Diocese of Scranton and the ten years since I publicly revealed the abuse, I have spent hundreds of hours reflecting on areas that deserve investigation and scholarly study.  Here are some recommendations:
  • A study of the factors that lead predators to select particular victims. My discussions with other survivors led me to theories on why we became targets. Most victims were from devout families who revered priests as God’s representative on earth.  Obedience, without question, of the orders given by priests and other religious was drilled into our heads from a young age. Predators use this to their advantage. They seek out children in dysfunctional families (domestic violence, addiction issues, alcoholism) or tragic circumstances (death of a parent or sibling, catastrophic illness or injury in the family). I have a friend whose grooming began when he was 12 years old at his father’s wake.   A study in this area will allow for the identification of at-risk children and inform teachers, adult leaders and family members of potential vulnerability harm.
  • A study on the psychopathology of pedophilia and why the Catholic Church has such a long, tragic history of this mental disorder within the ranks of its clergy. A review of the screening processing for seminaries, for both staff and students, may reveal how potential predators make it through the process undetected.
  • A study on the long-term impacts of the sexual batteries on survivors and their families to include the actions of the Church to marginalize and isolate victims and their families. Denials, strong-arm tactics and attacks on survivors to silence or blame them for the abuse further compounds the damaged already experienced.
In the wake of the abuse I suffered in 1974, I found a place to start over when I arrived at the University of Scranton over Labor Day weekend in 1978.  I began to work out who I was and push out of my very narrow comfort zone.  I enjoyed my classes, I made friends, and I was involved in campus life. I was a student manager for Campus Bowl, and I was selected to be in the Chorus during for Fall Review in 1980 and 1981. I was a student Co-Director for Orientation ’81 working with Professor Cannon and the staff of the Counseling Center out of an office on the third floor of St. Thomas Hall.  I have very good memories of my time at the “U.”  During my Junior year, the priest who raped me when I was 13 years old came into the restaurant in Scranton where I worked as a waiter.  That chance meeting shook me so badly that I stopped going to class and missed some of my campus commitments. I was considering suicide.  A Jesuit, Edward Gannon S.J., summoned me to his office in Memorial Library to sort out what was happening to me. I did not go willingly.  In what turned into a marathon “confession” I told him the story of my abuse.  I spared him no detail.  On that cold winter night, he declared me blameless and offered the only sincere apology I have ever received for the abuse I suffered as a child. His intervention saved my life that night.  Because the conversation was within the context of a confession, I held him to his vow of silence on the matter. In hindsight, I wish I had let him take action.
I am not a social justice warrior.  I do not welcome or seek attention’s center.   I know I am a small voice on the coast, screaming at the vastness of the ocean.  There is a point where if you don’t stand up for something, you stand for nothing.  I came forward out of guilt for those that came after me, shame for keeping my secret, anger for the dismissal of accusations deemed credible by the chancery.  I  am horrified that Catholics seem willing to sacrifice children and reward a hierarchy that is misguidedly abusing their authority to maintain the illusion that their house of worship, their sacraments, and their faith are in order.
I want to believe that the University of Scranton is still a place where people don’t shrink from controversial or uncomfortable topics.  I want to know it is a place where people can stand up and do the right thing even when it is unpopular or challenges the local bishop.  I need to know that it is still the place where faculty and staff care about their students and the greater university community. I want to believe in the University that gave me, and generations of students,  Father Gannon.  I know that the Task Force cannot solve all of the issues in this great crisis. I think that it may be able to take a step in the direction of finding answers and making meaningful recommendations.
As for me, I realize that sometimes justice offered is not always the justice for which we had hoped.  I, as a survivor, will seek the wisdom to know when that justice is enough.
                                                                        Very respectfully,
                                                                       Michael B. Baumann
Copy to:
Patricia Tetreault
Christian Krokus

Any hope I may have that the Task Force will do more than to look inward to “heal” the church is very guarded.  I still consider myself a member of the University of Scranton Community even though I know I am no longer welcome in the Catholic Church.  The findings and recommendations of the Task Force will reveal the true nature and depth of the University’s good faith and resolve.

St. Crispin’s Day

Today, 25 October, is the Feast of St Crispin.

It is also the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years War between France and England.  It was an English victory despite the overwhelming numerical superiority of the French forces that engaged a tired English army.  A turning point in the war, Agincourt represented the beginning of a series of English victories. That moment in history was captured in Shakespeare’s play, Henry V.

Where am I going with this little Cliff Clavin moment today?  Within the play, Henry V, King Harry gives a rousing speech to motivate his beleaguered army in the face of overwhelming odds against the French that day.  I see parallels to the struggle of survivors of clerical sex abuse against overwhelming odds with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and it’s apologists and supporters.  The likes of Senator Joe Scarnati and Catholic League President Bill Donohue come to mind.

While we survivors are vastly outnumbered, and the Catholic Lobby can spend obscene amounts of cash to curry favor (that they do not deserve at any price) with politicians, we can find some comfort in King Harry’s speech to his rag-tag army in the field.

Words have meaning. They can inspire, they can dissuade. For me, this passage from King Harry is my motivational. It helps me to stay engaged in the struggle to force the Catholic Church to admit the truth they adamantly deny.

KING: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters (the Bard will forgive me) need to stay the course and finish this fight.  I will ask you once again, are you with me?  Are your hearts in the trim?

Take it, brave York. Now, soldiers, march away:
And how thou pleasest, God, dispose the day!