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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Author’s note: This is my second attempt at this post. I have tempered my approach, but my outrage has not abated.
A half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie. A lie, you can detect at some stage, but half a truth is sure to mislead you for long.”
I have had two restless nights since the letter arrived in my mailbox. My blood runs a little cold when I see the Diocese of Scranton address in the top left corner of an envelope. This missive was from the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) for the Diocese announcing the Independent Survivor Compensation Program (ISCP). I will let you read my letter. I have redacted my contact information. I have enough virulent church apologists blowing up my email, I will not enable them to contact me at my home.
I have had some responses from others I have shared this letter with, other members of Robert Gibson’s “Lost Boys.” It seems, without my prompting, they are equally outraged by the message and tone.
I am sure Mary Beth Pacuska, the VAC, was very proud of her work. But then again, she is charged with taking information on victims and aiding the bishop in turning that information into a plan of action to silence, discredit and demean survivors who have dared to stand up to the prelate on Wyoming Avenue. I would recommend a title change that allows you to keep your “VAC” acronym. From this side of the conversation, “Victims Adversary Coordinator” sounds more apropos. Let me know Mary Beth, I am dying to get your opinion (sarcasm intended).
Shall we go through the letter? She starts to auger into the earth with her first paragraph of introduction. “I am privileged to work with victims of sexual abuse suffered as a minor.” You have got to be kidding me!? “Privileged?” From my point of view, it would have been my great privilege to never have had a cause to contact that office in the first place. Work with us? That is laughable. Although I initially spoke with Joan Holmes when she occupied that chair in 2007, it is my experience that the office of the VAC is there to protect the bishop and his minions. Interest in the well being of the victim/survivor has proven to be nothing more than a diocesan sham.
The next two paragraphs of the communication are propaganda. Propaganda wasted on an audience that sees through the fiction of Diocesan action touted because they have suffered not only the original crimes committed against them but through the mishandling, bungling and straight up attacks by the diocese. Spare us the bullshit Ms. Pacuska, we are not buying it, and you look all the more of a diocesan pawn for it.
Finally, in the fourth paragraph, she gets to the point of the epistle. Finally! She announces the ISCP, provides no details at all about the program and punts the problem to the administrators of the Diocesan fund intended to placate survivors like me. The best part of all of this is the nugget in the second to last paragraph of this pathetic piece of prose. “Please be assured that this program is independent of the Diocese, completely voluntary and confidential, and will be handled with respect and in a pastoral manner.” The program is not independent of the Diocese because the diocese is funding it. (Maybe I should say that the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton are financing it. That is much more accurate.) The Diocese, knowing the true scope of the problem and the estimated number of survivors/victims they have covered up for decades, is trying to get off on the cheap.
The program is “completely voluntary and confidential.” Sure it is! What I read here is a requirement for a confidentiality agreement. Or, more simply put, no transparency or accountability for the actions of bishops or priests who actively covered the sex crimes committed against children. She says the program will be handled with “respect and in a pastoral manner?” Personally, I don’t think the Chancery for the Diocese of Scranton knows the meaning of the word “respect.” Pastoral manner, that thought is ridiculous! If the lies and deceit offered to me by this diocese since I reported what Robert Gibson to me when I was 13 years old at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg reveals the measure of their “pastoral manner” I am better off without it. If you wish to know what I want, click this link, I have spelled it out for you.
I have a recommendation for the VAC. Mary Beth, are you listening? Just tell us the facts devoid of all the propaganda and flowery support. Save the half-truths and platitudes for your parishioners. They are still swallowing what you and your bishop are offering.
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.
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!
Father Pilarz recommends that anyone who has been victimized by a Jesuit “contact the Victim Advocacy Coordinator at 443-370-6357 or at MARadvocacy@jesuits.org, and appropriate law-enforcement and child-protective agencies.”
I strongly recommend you forego notifying the “Victim Advocacy Coordinator.” They are not there to help victims, they are there to identify threats to the order. “Victim Advocacy Coordinator helped me get the help and support I needed,” said no victim of sexual crimes by Catholic priests ever! The VAC is there to start the initial risk assessment to the church, or religious order, and to begin the process of isolating and intimidating victims, their families and anyone that supports them. You can call me paranoid, but this has been my personal experience, and other survivors have told me the same story over and over again.
If you have been victimized by a Jesuit, call law enforcement, contact the district attorney’s office in the jurisdiction where the crimes took place. <<<<<Contact the PA Attorney General’s Hotline.
I have no reason, at this point, to believe that Father Pilarz is not sincere. After ten years of writing on this blog, I will tell you that the fastest way to come to a dead stop is to trust the church to do the right thing. (The truth is harsh at times.)
Report to civil authorities and find competent legal counsel who will look after you and your interests. The Catholic Church, its orders and its institutions, will undoubtedly be looking out for their own interests.
One final note on today’s blog. In good faith (there is that word again), I composed a letter to the President of the University of Scranton in November concerning his Task Force on Healing Reconciliation and Hope. I sent copies to the two University Professors who co-chair this Task Force. To date, I have not heard a word from either the President of the University or the Task Force acknowledging my correspondence. In his defense, Father Pilarz did have quite a few Alumni Christmas Events to attend all over the mid-Atlantic this holiday season.