If you are a survivor in the Diocese of Scranton, you will need to look at the Diocese website for the Independent Survivors 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 own 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!
With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August 2018, I have seen a resurgence of visits to this site, thousands of visits reading multiple posts. In the analytics, I can see the search terms people are using, mostly the names of predator priests or a specific Pennsylvania Diocese. While I am happy that people are reading to become more aware of the scope of the problem, I worry that they are not actively engaging in the discussion and, in Pennsylvania, calling their Senators to move legislation forward that will enable all victims of child sex crimes (rape, molestation, abuse…) to seek justice and to allow the true scope of this crisis to come into the light.
To be perfectly honest with you, I did not expect all of this to come back at me as forcefully as it has. For as much as I have talked on this subject over the last ten years in my blog and to reporters for various publications and media outlets, I was not expecting this amount anger, embarrassment, guilt, and grief to well up in me the way it has in the last two months. It just doesn’t end. My partner (should I really be calling her my “girlfriend” in my middle 50’s?), eloquently refers to all of this as “the scab being ripped off the wound”. I have had a lot of sleepless nights and discussions that have caused me to physically shake since the report was released. When I do sleep, the nightmares come back. It has been easier for me to address the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis as a broader subject than to discuss the specifics of my personal experience. Even now, 44 years removed from that horrible nine-month period of my life at age 13, talking about Gibson has a visceral effect on me. All these years later I still have to ask, why did he choose me? What did I do?
I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I am not a complete mess (only partial), I am alive, I have a job, I have a support group, my partner has my back (she always thought Gibson was creepy). My high school classmates are horrified at what happened to me and others they knew. I am not an alcoholic (I probably should be, but I won’t drink out of a bottle I have not opened myself or watched being opened because of Gibson), I am not an addict. I have battled depression for years. And, for the most part, I have been able to function in society. I can count the number of people I truly trust on 2 hands with fingers to spare.
Keeping the secret for as long as I did was the cause of a lot of damage. That secret sabotaged relationships with my parents, siblings, my former wife, children, and friends. It profoundly changed the trajectory of my life and left me doubting every decision and action (personal and professional). Gibson’s voice is the voice of doubt, dissension, and depreciation in my head to this day. I cannot shake him off.
In the wake of the Grand Jury Report, the emails and phone conversations all seem to come down to one question: What do I want out of all of this? To date, this is what I have come up with: (In no particular order, I am spit-balling here)
Bishop Joseph Bambera needs to resign with immediate effect. As Vicar of Priests in the 1990’s under Bishop James Timlin, Joseph Bambera returned “Father Ned” (Robert J. Gibson) to a rectory in the Diocese. Bambera let a known pedophile back into the world where he was caught grooming a child again. It is a quintessentially American concept that those who have the ability to change things, to protect the vulnerable, also have the responsibility to do so. In this, Joseph Bambera fails completely, all the while falling back on the excuse that he was following Bishop Timlin’s orders. As I have said on this blog before, I have no confidence in Joseph Bambera’s ability to credibly lead the Diocese of Scranton because of his complicity in Robert Gibson’s case and others.
I want all Catholic Cardinals and Bishops in the United States to offer their resignation to the Vatican. The Pope should accept the resignations of any of those prelates who have had any involvement in a sexual crime against a child or vulnerable adult or were involved in covering up such activity or campaigning to defame a victim that has come forward to report rape, molestation or abuse.
I want the U.S. Attorneys across the country to investigate and bring charges against the Dioceses that conspired to move predator priests across state lines to “move the problem”. Personally, I was taken across state lines to New York and Florida by Gibson. The Diocese knows this. I think that the Dioceses and the US Council of Catholic Bishops represent a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the RICO Statute (18 U.S. Code, Chapter 96). Let the Federal search warrants flow!
I want the “facilities” that held Predator priests, such as the Vianney Center in Dittmer, Missouri, investigated for their role in hiding these men. They are complicit in moving them across state lines and may have violated Federal Law.
I want the Diocese to turn over all files in the Dioceses’ “Secret Archives” to Civil Authorities for review to determine what the Dioceses actually knew. I want the truth. I would love to see Robert Gibson’s (Father Ned) file. The Diocese only admits to Gibson having six victims. I have spoken to more than six that could tell me his modus operandi.
I want to see the file on me at the Diocese of Scranton. I am sure that there is a file cabinet in the Victims Assistance Office that contains a folder with my name on it. Before the shredders start to overheat, I want to know what is in my file. In the last week, I had someone claiming to be a Diocesan Priest who may have known my family back in the 1970’s asking for information about my parents. If I were paranoid, I would say this could be an effort by the Diocese to profile me in advance of potential civil action if the window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate passes and is signed by Governor Wolf. I would also like the Diocese of Scranton to admit that they use the Victims Assistance office to collect information on victims to allow the Diocese to develop a risk strategy to protect themselves.
I want to see all four recommendations proffered by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report to be adopted into law. I will not accept the Church’s offer of a Victims Fund. That is part of a risk strategy to minimize financial liability on the part of the church and does not serve justice. If they wanted to protect their interest, they should have protected the children and not the predators. You reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7) I do not buy the calls of poverty and threats of bankruptcy. The recommendations in the Grand Jury Report are:
Change the criminal Statute of Limitations for all sexual crimes committed against children
Open a civil window for victims
Enact criminal penalties for those who fail to report child abuse
Restrict the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements
I want the people who write to me to tell me that I should be thinking about the priests who are innocent and doing “God’s work” in the community and the negative impact on them as a result of all the publicity to stop. REALLY?! Thousands of children and vulnerable adults worldwide over decades, centuries, millennia who have been targeted by priests in the church and you want me to worry about Father ______________ (fill in the blank) and how he is coping with all this? Why are the “innocent” priests not standing up en masse and calling for the removal of church leaders who are part of the problem? Why are they not screaming at the top of their lungs calling for reform? Why have they stood by silently when they have had information or suspicions that children were at risk? Innocent Priests? SHOW ME!
I want to know what the University of Scranton and other Catholic colleges and universities are going to do to foster a discussion on this issue, listening to all points of view on the crisis and leading the way on educating the Church on the history of sexual crimes committed. I want them to develop a way forward to protect the most vulnerable among us. If all you are going to do is rename buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the Bishop involved in the cover-up you are only paying lip service to the problem. I am challenging the President of the University of Scranton, my alma mater, to stand up and be an agent of change. I am willing to talk to you and represent the victims and survivors. I am part of the University of Scranton Community (Once a Royal, always a Royal) and I demand that you take a stand more substantial than renaming dorms in the upper quad. If you are not willing to do this, let me know where I can return my diploma.
Actis formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica. This is an action item for the Diocese of Scranton. I want out. I want my name off the rolls. I want the Diocese of Scranton to coordinate with the Diocese of Brooklyn and make the break with me permanent and official. I am no longer a Catholic, and I want official acknowledgment in a document signed by the Bishop himself. You should also do this pro bono. (So much Latin! My Jesuit education is showing again.) I am not going to pay an indulgence for this service. I have a spot on the wall where my diploma from the University of Scranton currently hangs that may be available soon.
I want the parishioners of Catholic Parishes to understand that they are funding the protection of predator priests. Many of these guys are still on the payroll even if they have been laicized. Are you happy that you may be paying for a golf membership for a pedophile? The members of the Catholic Church should stand up and demand both accountability and responsibility from their leadership.
And, more than anything else, I want to be done with this. I want to put this down and go back to a quiet life. I want to be able to turn out the lights on this blog (I am sure the boys in black on Wyoming Avenue want that as well). If you think for a moment, dear reader, that I enjoy this, you are out of your mind. This is physically and emotionally exhausting. I am angry at the lies, I am mad at the way I have been treated both as a 13-year-old and as an adult who reported the crimes committed against me. I am angry that people still rally behind those who protected pedophiles at the expense of their victims. I am tired of the lies and the attacks on the character of survivors to advance a false narrative that the Catholic Church is doing everything they can to address the issue. They are doing everything they can to stick to their risk strategy.
That is my list for now. I am sure I will come up with more items as I think about all of this.
Senator Lisa Baker (R) has been identified as a key vote on window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate that would allow victims of child sexual assault the ability to take civil action against the people and organizations that have been covering up abuse for years. At this moment, we think she is a “No” vote going forward. That means that she supports the denial of justice to all victims of child sex abuse, rape, and molestation.
Is she your Senator? If yes, pick up your phone and call her office at (570) 675-3931. Her constituents are from Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming Counties. Attached is a spreadsheet where you can see the specific municipalities.
Calls/visits from her constituents would be incredibly helpful for the movement to pass the two-year window.
She seems to support a fund by the Catholic Church to pay restitution to victims. The fund will only perpetuate the silence the church has been seeking. It also denies justice to those outside of the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis.
I am the second son of an Irish-American Catholic family. My older brother was given the name of my father. My beautiful, devout mother named me after Michael the Archangel. Today, September 29, is the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel.
In Catholic Angelology, Michael is one of God’s storm troopers. He appears several times in the Book of Daniel. In the New Testament, it is Michael the Archangel that leads God’s armies against the forces of evil (Book of Revelation 12:7-9). He is seen as a protector which is why he is the patron saint of police officers and paratroopers, among others. Michael is also the angel of death, he is the one who gives souls the chance to redeem themselves before passing. Was my mother arming me with the shield of Michael?
My mother has never called me by any name but Michael. There are precisely two people who are important to me that call me “Mike,” my younger sisters. Seeing that I nicknamed my youngest sister “Bitsey” when I was three years old, I am lucky she does not address me with something more profane. My other three siblings have always called me Michael.
When I received my first communion in 1968, my maternal grandmother gave me a small wooden statue of Michael the Archangel. Oddly enough, I still have it 50 years and a dozen moves later. Over time the wings of the statue have broken off. No amount of glue would keep them in place and, eventually, they vanished. I think the statue stayed with me all these years because he has given up his wings. As the photo shows, he still has some fight left in him.
In the Easter Virgil of the Roman Catholic tradition, Michael alone is named out of all the angels and archangels. The Roman Catholic prayer to St. Michael asks the Archangel to protect the church from evil. The prayer is as follows:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle;
be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do you, O prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and the other evil spirits
who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls.
In some dioceses, this prayer is being invoked to help protect the church from the attack coming from people like me. I think those people should be careful what they pray for.
As I have stated before in another blog post, I no longer consider myself to be a Catholic. I do not believe in God. I think there is an evil that resides in men who rape children. I think that the bishops and church officials that protect these monsters are the defenders of that evil. My question to them is simple. Do you want to be transparent and honest with me or would you prefer to wait to try to redeem yourself with my namesake? Your call, Excellencies. If it helps with your decision, I will remind you that I am not the angel of death.