Abuse is Abuse

I have been in Houston all week for a work related training seminar.  As a result I have been off the radar and not posting on this blog.  But tonight, the perfect combination of a stable internet connection at the hotel (who knows how long that will last), prediction of rain and no “homework” from the seminar this evening has allowed me to catch up on the blogs I normally review regularly.  One article caught my eye in particular.

A group in the Washington DC area has started a website that is dedicated to “outing” gay Catholic Priests. The site, ChurchOuting.org states that the “site was created to provide you with the opportunity to save LGBT youth from the hypocrisy of priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who are socially, romantically or sexually active gay men, yet stand silent while Archbishop Wuerl and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops increase their dogmatic war against gay families.”

I fully support any effort to arrest the abuse of anyone by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  Hypocrisy in the church,  in whatever form it takes, should be exposed.  I think that the Bishops should be held accountable for their actions and for the actions of those who do their bidding.  I also think that Bishops are fair game if they are demanding a certain behavior of their parishioners and are not applying that same standard to themselves or their subordinates.   I am not fully on board with the idea of outing priests (gay or not) who are faithfully and compassionately ministering to members of their parishes,  no matter what the sexual preferences of those parishioners may be.  To do so would be the equivalent of inflicting the same emotional, spiritual and physical abuse meted out by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  I don’t see this as holding the high ground.

I am left looking at the hierarchy of the Catholic church and seeing just how intellectually and spiritually bankrupt they are.  Compassion and ministry have gone by the wayside.  The church, seems so lost and unwilling to embrace the theology which they purport to preach.  The targeting of homosexuals by the church is an abomination.  For these “men”, these bishops to sit in judgement of anyone is beyond reason.  I wonder how many bishops sitting in the  meeting in Baltimore earlier this week are gay. Should that even matter?   Whether they are sexually active or celibate, they should focus on their Christ’s message of love and acceptance instead of embracing a policy of intolerance and targeting a segment of their parishioners.

These are the same men who allowed pedophiles to prey on children and protected those predators from prosecution.  This is the same church that blamed the pedophile problem on gay priests.  These are men who have lost touch with the basic tenants of their own religion and lost their humanity because they have been seduced by the trappings and treasure that come with position and favor.

The Catholic church is on a course charted to its own demise.   The spiral will continue as long as these old men are blind to the needs of their flocks.  As long as parishioners support these Dioceses that embrace the targeting of any group, the active persecution of those who do not curry favor with the hierarchy will continue.

Is the solution the outing of gay priests?  I don’t know. I am thinking that will make headlines, but it will not make headway.  Casting that net will catch innocent priests along with those who truly are hypocrites.  I am not sure the collateral damage is worth it.   I recommend that parishioner let their pastors know where they stand by cutting off the flow of money into collection plates and saying “No” to the annual donation drives sponsored by the various diocese across the country.  Cut off the money and the head will die.

Abuse is abuse and there should be no room for church sponsored bigotry in any Christian denomination.

The friend of my enemy is my enemy…

By Michael Baumann

I received a comment to an older post about a week ago that had me a little baffled at first.  The comment was from a “D. W. Downey” and it was intended to get me to wonder if  Father Virgil Bradley Tetherow, formerly a priest in the Diocese of Scranton, was framed by Bishop Martino.   It seems that Father Tetherow, who was ordered to refrain from acting as or presenting himself as a Catholic priest, has joined a “Catholic Mission” located within the Diocese of Harrisburg that is not recognized by that diocese. Father Tetherow is now at Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission.   This is now a case of a rogue priest that has found sanctuary and acceptance in a rogue church.

To get you up to speed, Father Tetherow, who also goes by the name Father Gabriel, pleaded out to charges after child pornography was found on a computer he used. To quote from the database of accused priests in the Diocese of Scranton from Bishop Accountability:

Also known as “Father Gabriel.” Tetherow admitted in 2005 that he downloaded child porn while working at St. Ann’s Catholic Church rectory in Tobyhanna, Pa. in 01/05. He was arrested in West Orange NJ while staying at St. Anthony of Padua. Pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal use of a communication facility and was sentenced to two years probation. Case sent to Vatican for review. Privileges were removed when he was found celebrating mass in PA.

Note I said he pleaded guilty.  That will be important in a moment.

The church in which he is now masquerading as a “holy man”, priest, shepherd, spiritual leader is mounting what looks to be a public relations campaign to rewrite Father Gabriel’s past. The Chairman of the church, Dr David M. Drew, O.D, has “looked into the 2005 police charges and found them meritless”. I wonder what kind of investigative credentials Dr. Drew possesses? His findings  seem to be in direct contrast to the facts. I guess when you are the lay leader of a schismatic church you take what you can get when you are shopping for a priest. I wonder what the job requirements may be for this position. It seems that someone who pleaded guilty to a felony in connection to having downloaded child pornography is not disqualified. As long as the incumbent priest will stand in front of Planned Parenthood in full clerical garb, in direct defiance of an order from the Roman Catholic Church, actively intimidating, threatening and insulting the staff, volunteers and people coming to that office, the “Catholic Mission” thinks this “man” is qualified for the job.

While Planned Parenthood is not my favorite organization, I think that one can arrive at the conclusion that a priest with a criminal history that involves child pornography would be the least credible protest leader against abortion. One could make the leap that he supports saving those children so that fresh images of little boys could be available in 5 to 10 years for his perverse pleasure.

One may question the leadership of this church/cult in selecting this particular low-life as their priest. I, personally, would seriously question the judgment of Dr. Drew for choosing and defending a convicted felon. If the good doctor has children, I would be especially worried that he may have his head up his ass in standing by Father Gabriel. I wonder if the administration at Hanover Hospital would have some concerns about one of the doctors who has privileges at their hospital supporting a priest with a taste for child pornography? That kind of indirect  association can’t be good for the reputation of the hospital. I am very happy that I do not live in the area where this guy practices medicine, I would definitely not want to  seek any medical care from any organization that is comfortable with a person  like this on the staff.

As I see it, the friend of my enemy is my enemy. Anyone that stands by a priest who, by his own admission, stands convicted in relation to crimes involving child pornography and allows him a position of trust with access to children is my enemy.  They are the enemy of children and of decency.  Despite what Dr. Drew and his followers at the rogue “Catholic Mission” may say, Tetherow pleaded guilty.  If he was not guilty, he should have fought the charges and sought to have his name cleared.   As much as I dislike the Diocese of Scranton, the actions of Bishop Martino and those who protect pedophiles, I loathe anyone that would consider allowing access to children to a subscriber of child pornography.

Any organization, Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission for example, that accepts this predator and reasons away his criminal behavior as being “without merit” poses a great danger to children.  If you are a member of this congregation/cult you may want to consider joining another congregation/cult that, at a minimum, does not choose a felon with a penchant for child pornography as their spiritual leader.

I find Dr. Drew’s findings “without merit”.  I find the total dismissal of facts to be a clear and present danger to children who live near the church in York, Pennsylvania.  It is just a matter of time!  Which one of the parishioners will sacrifice a child to Tetherow?

If you have a photograph of Father Tetherow, please send it along to me.  I will be happy to get his mug out for the world to see and I would love to get it up on Bishop Accountability so that he can be identified and avoided by the people of York.

More information on Father Tetherow and his troubles at St Ann’s can be found at:

Scranton Times-Tribune article from February 12, 2005
Star-Ledger article from March 18,2005
Scranton Times-Tribune article from March 18, 2005

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.

Father Edward J. Shoback Defrocked!

Defrocked Scranton Priest Edward ShobackArticles appearing in Northeastern Pennsylvania newspapers over the past few days as well as an announcement on the Diocese of Scranton web site confirm that the Vatican has defrocked Father Edward J. Shoback.

Read the stories at:
The Scranton Times Tribune
The Citizens Voice
The Times Leader
Abuse Tracker (where all the coverage is documented)

Sixteen other priests are identified as credibly accused from the Diocese of Scranton.  They are listed at Bishop Accountability.com .  There are others that have been protected by the Diocese that may very well still be abusing children in parishes across Northeast Pennsylvania.

At some point the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton need to stand up and demand that the Bishop open Diocesan records and notify all the parishes that have had pedophile priests assigned of the credible allegations against these monsters.  If Bishop Martino is not willing to do this, he should resign.  The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the District Attorneys for the juristidictions touched by the Diocese of Scranton should start investigations not only into the activities of the pedophile priests that have preyed on children and vulnerable adults in the churches, rectories, summer camps and schools run by the Dioceses but into the actions of the Bishops and their minions to protect these “men”.  Those actions amount to an ongoing criminal conspiracy that put children at risk, used parishioner donations to support the men who should have been handed over to civil authority for prosecution, and covered up their activities.  They have spent millions on settlements, lawyers and public relations campaigns used to isolate victims and give the impression that there have only been a handful of allegations against a very small number of priests.  This is a lie, of course.

It is time to march on the Chancery in Scranton and let Bishop Martino know his days of protecting pedophiles are over.

There is not enough traction

“The Message” is not getting out.

The SNAP Conference will be held in Washington next month so I thought I would gather my thoughts on how I see the current landscape in order to help me determine how I will spend my time at plenary sessions and breakout sessions.  In the two years (almost to the day) since  I reported Father Robert Gibson to the Diocese of Scranton as my abuser I have learned some valuable lessons and I have decided that there are things that we, as survivors of perp priests need to address if we want to get some traction and find some success in effecting change.  The point of this concept paper, manifesto, white paper, whatever you want to call it, is to offer the challenges I have identified and possible solutions for your consideration.  Be aware this might be just the ramblings of someone frustrated with the state of affairs we are in at the moment.

The major challenges I see for survivors and organizations of survivors are as follows:

1. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States, and around the world for that matter, want to keep survivors isolated, quiet and incapable of getting the message that the problem of priests committing a variety of violent, sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults still exists. Bishops will lie, cheat and conceal information that proves that predatory priests operate in their curias and that the hierarchy of the Diocese has protected them. If caught, they will simply say that they didn’t know raping/molesting children was a criminal offense.

2. The public has grown weary with the story.  After high profile cases and reports in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia and the recent findings released concerning abuses in Ireland, the public seems to have the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes to the ongoing story of predator priests.  I have even heard the phrase “post pedophile priest scandal” in relation to the new order in the church.  I must have missed the Pope declaring “Mission Accomplished!” from the back of the “Pope-Mobile”.

3.  The people carrying our message are spread thin and are in a reactive mode rather than a practive mode.  If you are driving your message only when the other side is giving you an opportunity, they are controlling the story.

4. Victims are slow to come forward.  I know this from personal experience. I waited 33 years before I was willing to go public.  I think that many victims did the same kinds of things I did, they looked on line for their perp.  They looked to see if he/she was reported, had died, had gone to jail, etc…  Many look for support from other victims and groups only to find websites with out of date contact information and broken links.  They don’t know how to tell there story so they go the church and tell it.  The church works hard to keep that story under wraps.  Victims of Sexual Abuse should not go to the Diocese. The Diocese will do what they can to protect themselves,  hide the story and lie to the victim.

5. The organizations that do exist seem to lack local organizations  to help support a cohesive plan to help victims and their families.  Coordinated efforts to spread the word, support legislation, and seek justice seem to be inadequate to compete with the resources, power and influence of our adversary, the Bishops and their supporters.

6.  We have not successfully countered the Bishops’ campaign that tells people that we are attacking the church for our own personal gain.  They have painted us as greedy and focused on destroying the Catholic Church in the United States.  It seems that our focus is on leaf-letting parishioners entering the church or writing letters to the editor when the Bishops are using public relations firms, lawyers and intimidation to get there message across. They also seem to believe their own press that the crisis is past.  “All is well, come back to church and bring your check book”.

So what are we to do?

1. Focus the message.  We need to clearly define our goals and set out to reach those goals and measure how effective we are in achieving those goals.

2.  Coordinate and energize our base.  Not only other victims, but those that are sympathetic to our message:  families, groups that are seeking reform in the Catholic Church, legislators, law enforcement, judicial officials, the media, and bloggers.

3. Develop a legislative agenda to help protect children, hold those people responsible for crimes or covering up crimes accountable in both the criminal and civil courts.  Find sympathetic lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to champion this agenda and then do the hard work necessary to get the agenda passed. Make it a crime for an organization to shield a child molester/rapist.

4.  Clearly define what we want our end state to be.  If an organization’s mission does not translate to a tangible achievable end state, it is doomed to fail. It will become a self licking ice cream cone.  It exists for the purpose of perpetuating itself.

5.  Convince the public that the first call a victim should make is to the police or the office of the district attorney.  DO NOT GO TO THE DIOCESE WITH THE REPORT. These are criminal matters for law enforcement and the justice system to deal with.  The bishops will not do the right thing when left to their own devices.  If you haven’t figured that out, you need to go to Abuse Tracker and start reading.

6.  Determine how we will measure success in the interim.  What makes us successful?  We should track:

  • number of perp priests identified
  • indicted
  • removed from ministry
  • convicted
  • number of bishops removed for hiding pedophiles
  • legislation drafted, debated, brought to a vote, passed into law
  • assistance provided to victims and their families
  • number of outreach programs developed
  • seminars conducted with teachers and church workers to help them identify behavior that is inappropriate

There are more metrics we can track, these just rolled off my brain.

7.  Identify who is  accountable to the victims.  Are the organizations that exist today to support victims effective?  If the  leaders of organizations that support victims don’t meet objectives do we have the ability to seek new leadership?  Some are volunteers and we should honor their service.  There are people who draw a salary off donations out there that should be shown the door if they are not successful.  If  lawmakers are siding with the church to deny justice to victims, their constituents should be told and hopefully those lawmakers will be shown the door during the next election cycle.

8. We must stop the practice of civil authority allowing the church to investigate allegations of criminal activity by priests.  The church is not a law enforcement agency and is not proficient in determining the circumstances of crimes.  Leave that to the police, the justice system and investigative reporters.

I see 4 major areas where I think our community should be focusing their efforts.

1. Identifying the bishops, their lawyers, public relations firms, lobbyist and supporters who are enabling the pedophiles to continue to prey on children.  Fighting to expose them, remove them and if appropriate punish them in criminal and civil courts.  They are fighting and winning because we are not fighting with the same level of resolve.  Get this straight in your head, we are fighting an adversary that will employ ruthless tactics to wear us down and defeat our efforts. These bishops have a great deal to lose in terms of power, influence, treasure and status.  They will not go down without a fight.

They will employ tactics to beat us through attrition (wear down our human and material resources until we are an ineffective force) or through disruption (attack our organizational cohesion and effective functioning so that we cannot operate as a coherent whole).  Both defeat mechanisms are designed to break our resolve to continue fighting for the truth, reform and justice.

Right now the Bishops control the battle rythm, we need to seize that initiative and hold the moral high ground.

2. Protecting children and vulnerable adults.  This is where education, awareness and a legislative agenda come into the picture.  The Bishops will only abandon their current strategy when the consequences for their actions are more than they can bear.

3. Engage groups with similar goals.  We need to partner with groups that seek reform in the church, protection of children and protection for victims of crime.

4.  Establish clear channels for victims who need assistance to find the support they need.  We should be supporting each other and identifying resources to help victims and their families deal with the social, mental, physical and legal problems that they face.  We should not be sending these people to the Bishops for assistance because the Bishops are a very big part of the problem.

A last thought and then I will wrap this one up.  If  we truly have a network, we should be able to utilize the network.  We should be able to communicate with each other without having to go through a filter.  We need to shake the cobwebs off the message boards and reestablish communications with each other.  We cannot be effective in getting any message out if we are not communicating with each other.  Organizations  needs to clean up their points of contact to make sure that victims can actually make the initial contact with the organization through a real person.  A little website clean up is appropriate for more than one victim’s rights organization.

We need to have a place for people to submit blog links and post their thoughts.  Kathy Shaw does an excellent job with the Abuse Tracker to keep all of us up to date on stories in the media, but we don’t have a consolidated blog roll for our community.  We need to leverage technology to get our message out.  You know that the Dioceses across the country are spending big money on shaping and communicating their message and they are not doing it by leaflet.  We need to blog, tweet, and really network.  We cannot be a network in name only.

We have a capable and ruthless adversary.  We are not going to be successful if we don’t leverage the resources available to us to effect change and get help for those who need it.   We cannot win if we do not come together as one.  That is the message I will carry to the SNAP Conference in August.  What message are you going to send?

The tyranny of distance and the curse of the Internet

I am frustrated.  Admittedly, some of the frustration comes from a tyranny of distance.  I am in southern Virginia and the diocese that I have an issue with is 400 miles worth of driving north of here.  I would love to have a face to face conversation with the Bishop’s advocate so I could look her in the eyes and see whether she is part of the problem with the Diocese of Scranton, or part of the solution.   I want to meet with the other victims of Father Gibson and victims of other priests in the Scranton Diocese.  I’ll make the drive, but it takes planning and timing.

I am frustrated by the New York legislature, they had the opportunity to do the right thing with the Child Victims Act of New York and yet they still have not passed it.  SNAP had a presence in Albany to lobby for votes.  They asked for photos and people to come to the Capitol to put a human face on an inhuman scandal.  I would have loved to drive to Albany to take part in the event, but I again, it was just too far at a time I needed to be in the office in southern Virginia.  I don’t know how it went nor have I seen any reports or photos of the SNAP event.

I am frustrated with SNAP and the other organizations out there that are advocating for victims.   SNAP is a  national organization, but at the local level they are not always there.  If you look at their website there are  points of contact listed that are no longer active. To use a term my wife, Melissa coined, these sites are becoming “Cob-Websites”. I know that the heads of organizations like SNAP are trying to do the right thing, but I think that they are losing victims who are already hesitant to come forward, by having broken links and out of date contact information.   Nothing is more frustrating than trying to speak for the first time and finding the point of contact you are trying to call is no longer there.  That happened to me 2 years ago when I decided it was time to end my silence.  The name listed on the SNAP website for this part of Virginia was no longer acting as a SNAP contact.

I am frustrated that for many people watching from the sidelines, there is a perseption that this is a Catholic Problem.  It isn’t.  It is a Baptist problem, a Jewish problem, a Mormon problem, and a Lutheran problem.  It is a local, statewide, national and global problem.  If you don’t believe me, take a look through Kathy Shaw’s blog Abuse Tracker.

I recommend that SNAP does what it can to energizes the base .  The tools  to do just that may be right under our noses.  Computers, iPhones, cell phones, blackberries and other electronic devices can be employed to pull us together. The SNAP website offers hints on writing letters to the editor and handing out leaflets.  That is all good stuff.  But why don’t we connect all our blogs together?

A few suggestions:

For the SNAP Conference in Washington, DC over the weekend of 7-9 August why don’t we set up Twitterfalls to track what people are say and see how people are reacting to speakers and break out sessions in real time.  Why don’t we webcast key meetings or speeches to the people that want to listen but can’t make it to D.C.? (That was an idea from Kay Eberling).  Why don’t we have an interactive online community to allow for the free exchange of ideas, strategies, support and discussion?  It could be a central location for blogs, allow people who don’t want to set their own blogs to submit articles when they are ready to do so.  We have Bishop Accountability, Abuse Tracker, SNAP, FACSA and other websites, but they seem to be more for the presentation of information.  We need discourse, interaction and community. We need to work on legislation on the state and federal level.  We need to work together.

We will not succeed as a community in our search for justice and change if we are isolated from each other. So why don’t we use the computers in front of our noses to effect a change and hold the bishops accountable for their sins of ommission as well as their sins of commission.

My Twitter address is OffMyKnees.  I plan on Twittering from the Conference in Washington DC this August.  If you have a twitter account, follow me and I will follow you.  We all need to start having a discussion, if we start with 140 characters at a time, at least we are starting.

Building an Online Community for Survivors of Clerical Sexual Abuse.

I am trying to work out where I want to go with this blog. Now that I am over 50 posts into this little exercise in free speech I am struggling with where to go next. I am trying to find out what I should be talking about and what voice I should use to air those thoughts. I found that screaming and being rude is almost as effective as saying nothing at all. Not that I won’t throw the occasional dig at a certain “Prince of the Church” now and then.

I am reassessing the mission of this blog. I am doing so because I wonder if I am making a difference. I want to do more than to preach to the converted on this topic. Obviously, I am hoping that this blog can help someone either come forward and report the abuse that they suffered, get help, or feel like they are not alone. It has been cathartic for me to write it. That was my main motivation in starting this thread, my own personal form of therapy.

Writing this has also been frustrating in some ways. In addition to writing the posts (and revisting them for corrections and improvements), I try to get the link for this blog out there so people who may not normally run across it would have the chance to see it. In all honesty, I am trying to get a little traction so I can get support (non-monetary, this is not about money) for my efforts to have the truth come to light. I have linked it to CONDRON and Alpha Inventions, which are both tools for discovering and sharing blogs. In a few instances I have seen my work put up on message boards and in Abuse Tracker. Some of my posts are up on Bishop Accountability as well. It is gratifying to see my posts on political sites (just this morning I found it here).

I just don’t know if it is enough. I would love to develop a site that allows for blogs on this topic to be accessible in one location. I was hoping that SNAP or Bishop Accountability would have such a thing, but as of the time of publishing this post there is no such location. As I lamented in a recent post, some of the blogs I read as I was getting to the point of making my report on Father Gibson have gone silent on the net. I don’t know if they grew as frustrated as I have been lately and just stopped writing. I know some have been dealing with litigation and family issues. There are many reasons, all of them valid. I just don’t want the voices to die out.

I saw an article on line at Abuse Tracker that had the headline “As abuse scandals dim, St. Paul lawyer keeps suing” . “As abuse scandal dims…”, that is what the Catholic Church in America and the Vatican want. They want the scandal to dim so they can go back to the good old days. If our voices are silent, they will get their way.

So I will make an offer. If you would like to write a guest post on my blog, send it to me. I will consider putting it up on-line. If you have a blog and you write on this subject either occasionally or exclusively, I will put a link up to your posts.

If you are attending the SNAP Conference in Washington DC in August and would like to talk about how we can keep the voices from going silent I will make myself available. I’m signed up for the conference and have my hotel reservation at the Hyatt in Crystal City. Lets have a conversation. Let me know what you are thinking!

Abuse thrives in an environment of secrecy! Don’t let the Catholic Church succeed in achieving that environment again.