The Feast of St. Michael, the struggle continues…

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.

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The Saint Michael the Archangel Statue that was given to me by Nana on the occasion of my first communion in 1968.

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.

 

 

 

Proof of Bishop Timlin’s Cover-Up and Possible RICO Violation

Exhibit A,  for your consideration.  On Groundhog Day in 1998, Bishop Timlin, in his capacity as the Bishop of Scranton, removed the priestly faculties of the Diocese in the case of Robert Gibson for “reasons of health” (wink, wink!).  Is it common to remove the priestly faculties of a man who has a legitimate physical ailment?  If you go back through the files I think that every pedophile/sexual predator removed from his parish/diocesan posting for sexual abuse probably has a similar letter for “reasons of health”.   I suspect that you will find that across the country and around the world because that was the way the coordinated actions of the Church Hierarchy worked.

timlin-decree-on-gibson

 

By affixing his signature and seal before a witness, James Earley (who also signed the document), Bishop Timlin, actively and with full knowledge of credible accusations of Gibson’s sexual crimes, set out to deceive the parishioners of Gibson’s previous assignments, the Diocese of Scranton and the Catholic Church as a whole.  He did so in an official church document.  This is nothing short of fraud and conspiracy to protect a pedophile.

In fact, if you gather all the letters removing the priestly faculties of the men credibly accused  of sexual misconduct, molestation and child rape I think you may have a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Case.

18 U.S. Code § 1961 or “RICO” is a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.  I believe the Diocese of Scranton qualifies as an “ongoing criminal enterprise.”  The fact that the Diocese moved Gibson across state lines to a church run center in Dittmer, Missouri satisfies the “interstate” conspiracy portion of the statute.

I think the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Pennsylvania needs to get active and involved.

The University of Scranton Takes Action

US_Seal_3DA letter by was released by the President of the University of Scranton, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., to the University on August 20, 2018, concerning the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  It outlines proactive steps being implemented at the  “The U” as a result of the findings presented by the Grand Jury.  Some of the actions include the renaming of buildings named after bishops in Scranton implicated in the report as covering up abuses and rescinding honorary degrees conferred on those bishops.  The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Members of the University Community,

 The recent release of more than 1,300 pages of grand jury proceedings detailing sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania and failures by Church leaders in responding to these situations is justifiably generating international attention and outrage. Since the report’s release last week, the University has considered how best to respond to the deeply disturbing report and to past honors and recognition it has bestowed upon individuals named in it.

Earlier today, I consulted with a group of administrators, faculty, alumni and student leaders to recommend a course of action to the Board of Trustees. This afternoon, the Board met in special session and unanimously approved our recommendations.

With sympathy for and in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will rescind honorary degrees and rename campus buildings recognizing Bishops Jerome D. Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick, and James C. Timlin. As documented in the report, these Bishops covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm’s way.

Buildings previously named for these three Bishops will be renamed as follows:

McCormick Hall will be renamed MacKillop Hall in honor of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart and who publicly exposed the sexual abuse of children by a priest. In her life, she faced persecution and excommunication, during which she was assisted by the Jesuits until later being absolved. Pope Benedict XVI named Sr. Mary Australia’s first saint in 2010.

The name on Timlin House will be removed and Mulberry Plaza, the complex in which the building is located, will be renamed Romero Plaza in honor of the late Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who will be canonized by Pope Francis on October 14. Murdered in 1980 while saying mass in San Salvador, Archbishop Romero remains an inspiration to millions, including many on the University’s campus who have made the moving pilgrimage to El Salvador.

Hannan Hall will be renamed Giblin-Kelly Hall in honor of the late Brendan J. Giblin ’06 and William H. Kelly Jr. ’93.  Brendan was a graduating senior at Scranton and o-captain of the swim team when he was tragically killed while on Spring Break in Panama City.  Bill worked for Bloomberg, LP in Princeton, N.J. and their affiliate, Bloomberg Tradebook LLC, in New York City. On September 11, 2001, Bill attended a conference at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center, Tower One, and was killed in the attack that destroyed those buildings. Since Bill and Brendan died, their family and friends have devotedly kept their memory alive, transforming tragedy into good in support of future students at Scranton.

In choosing to honor St. MacKillop, Archbishop Romero, Brendan and Bill, we hold up the example of their lives as a reminder always to be a voice against abuse and violence no matter the cost, to champion the poor and oppressed, and to treasure the bonds of friendship and community that are at the heart of The University of Scranton.

These actions are important, but the gravity of the information we now know demands even more of us. As a Catholic and Jesuit university founded by the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will 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. As a university community, we look forward to working with the people of the Diocese to assist in facilitating discussions and reflection in the long but hopeful process to rebuild trust and find peace. In support of this initiative, the University is devoting resources to advance the programs and projects that emerge from our collaboration.

Additionally, I recognize that stories from the past two weeks can trigger painful memories for members of our campus community who themselves are living with the lifelong scars of sexual abuse. Please be assured that the staff of the Counseling Center and Campus Ministries are available to help students and that the University’s employee assistance program is always available for faculty and staff.

On this journey, I ask that you pray for the healing of all victims of sexual abuse and their families and that you pray also for the people of the Diocese of Scranton and the Universal Church.

Sincerely,

Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.

President

For the first time since a lengthy confession with Edward Gannon, S.J. in his library office at the University of Scranton in 1981, I feel a little bit of the weight being taken off of me.

This is a significant start to an open dialogue on the depths of the problem of covering up sexual crimes committed against children and a way forward to protect children and vulnerable adults in the future.

As a member of both the University of Scranton and the Survivor community, I am proud of my university for taking these initial decisive steps.

Michael Baumann, ’82

 

 

 

Dialed the number. Now I wait…

Since my last post, I have spoken briefly with an investigator.  I am looking forward to a more in-depth interview with him.  He initially offered to meet me here in Virginia until he realized that I was much further south than he expected.  Contact has been made.  He seems to be working a very large case load for the Diocese of Scranton, which is not surprising at all because the bishops there were protecting a number of predator priests.

I will let you know when a more detailed interview is conducted and I will pass any information that is made available to me.

If you share an experience similar to my own within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I urge you to contact the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-888-538-8541 .

The Answer to “What is it going to take?”

I am writing this from the low country of South Carolina.   A break needed to assess where I am and where I am going.   I am also working on a project that I will keep under wraps for the time being.  The first steps are proving to be very challenging.

After the post  from July where I asked the question “What is it going to take?” I did not hear crickets, but I also did not hear a lot of consensus.  Most of the comments were via email to this blog and, as a rule, I don’t publish the contents of email unless I have the permission of the correspondent.

I keep coming back to the same basic conclusion.  We, the community of survivors, don’t trust each other.  I am sure someone with a lot more education in psychology can explain all this.  In fact, I would love to hear the explanation.

What I have discovered is that there are divisions within the community that baffle me.  There seems to be a concern that someone’s abuse is more important, more devastating, more valid than another.

There is no criteria to determine who is a survivor and who is not.  There is no experience barometer to determine who had it “bad enough” to be in the “club”. I almost hesitate to say the word “community” anymore.  I really don’t think there is one.  There is no network, there is no organization because we cannot come to a definition of who can be considered a survivor.  And that serves the interests of the predators and the institutions that have protected them.

It is not a competition. It is a very destructive game of “I had it worse than you”.  Can’t we agree that is awful, devastating, damaging and life altering?   It is completely confusing to me that the people who should have the most empathy for survivors are other survivors.  And yet, that is where I find the most intensely judgmental collection of individuals who are often very vocal when anyone offers an opinion other contrary to the “norm”.

If this is the game, I don’t want to play anymore.   I have better things to do than sit around comparing stories of abuse and the levels of devastation caused by that abuse.   I will leave that sorting to someone else.

It is not all SNAP’s fault either.  We can wax poetic about how screwed up an organization, any organization may be.  We can waste our time affixing blame.  Or we can get organized, concentrate on the predators and the institutions that protect them and move forward.  At some point this has to stop being about individuals and it has to start being about something greater.

If we are to have that kind of community of survivors, we must not sit in judgement of each other, we must work together to change the environment that has allowed predators to target children and vulnerable adults.  If we cannot do that, we have already failed.

It seems that what it is going to take is empathy for each other. Once we have that we can start to be more organized and focused on changing the conditions that allow an environment for abuse and criminal conspiracies to protect predators to exist.

 

 

 

 

 

What is it going to take?

I wrote a blog post in February, 2013 titled “Is there a Survivors’ Community” in which I was looking for answers from survivors about our community, our way forward and who speaks for us.  In May,2013 I expressed my frustration in another post, “Crickets, Silence on the net…” that I did not hear from anyone in the survivor’s community.  According to the analytics I see on this blog, plenty of people read the original but no one offered their thoughts.

Here we are again and I am wondering why we can’t move forward.  I am wondering what the factors are in keeping us separated, unorganized and losing ground in efforts to change legislation and have society take the problem of sexual abuse and rape of children and vulnerable adults seriously.

A reporter contacted me a while back on a story concerning a priest accused of molesting a young boy.  He had already published the story but wanted my feedback.  He had used a quote from SNAP for the article, the same inane drivel that the National Director of that organization generically applies to any and all cases of abuse on which he is queried.  It made me wonder.

What is it going to take?  What would it take to get a coherent message from the survivor community to articulate the message that children and vulnerable adults are at risk from predators who enjoy a certain level of top cover from institutions who are more concerned with a risk management strategy than with the protection of those who need it most?  Is there a way that the message can be successfully crafted and articulated?  Can it be molded into a strategy that allows for the development of stronger laws to protect victims and enable the predators and their protectors to be held accountable both criminally and civilly?   Can we develop a voice that is institutionally agnostic and not narrowly focused on the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of American, Penn State or any other notorious institution with a history of child sexual crimes?

The other side of this argument is well-organized and well-funded.  Despite the fact that organizations like the Catholic League are notorious for spewing lies and portraying victims as predators or being responsible for the abuse inflicted upon them,  we have no credible organization, at the national level, that can present a coherent case for the need for change in legislation, education, institutional culture, and society in dealing with predators who prey on children.  We have no credible counters on Fox News to the Bill Donohues of the world.

We don’t need shrill fundraisers who only seem to hang around looking for the next donation to pay the salary or travel expenses for the next hit and run media opportunity. (It must be convention time again.) We need serious people who can step up and credibly do the work.  We need to actually network the survivors of child sexual abuse, their supporters, law enforcement, the criminal justice system and the legislatures in all the states to move in the direction of making the punishment so vile for crimes of this nature for both the predator and the institution that protects the predator that there is no where for the predator to find a safe haven.

As with many stories, the public eventually gets weary and loses interest.  That is what institutions like the Catholic Church want.  They want everything to blow over, go away, disappear.  The predators want that as well so that they may return to the business of grooming their next victim.  Perhaps it is time to find our national voice, our national strategy, our universal calling to actually effect a long-lasting change.  The shrill voices from Chicago and St. Louis have proven that they are not up to the task.   Who will step up?

Are you still out there?

 

Reunion

ImageThe last time I had gone to a reunion, the great terrible secret was still under wraps.   I had gone with 2 purposes, one of them was to find out if Gibson was still alive and destroying lives.  The second was to try to exorcise the memories of what had happened.   I was unsuccessful.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend(2014)  I found myself pulling into East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  It has been a while.  The last time I was in the area I was meeting with the District Attorney’s office in Monroe County to go over the events that occurred in 1973-1974.  After a one night stay, I left to return to my life in Virginia.

 Now I was back.   My great terrible secret is no longer a secret.   Not long after arriving at my hotel and meeting up with a friend, I made the trip up the hill to see how the years had changed Notre Dame High School.  As it was the weekend, there was no activity on top of the hill.  Over the years I have discovered that people had nicknames for the round chapel building that looms  in front of the classroom building.  I had referred to it as “the Silo” for years.  Others have called it the “trash can” or the “pill bottle”.  The chapel contained within had been used, at least during my time at the school, for quiet  meditation, small masses, a quiet place to sneak off with a “significant” or “not so significant” other, or a place to get high.  For me it was the location of a couple of significant beatings from “Father” Robert Gibson to keep me in line.  One such beating was interrupted by Sister Beatrice, at least temporarily.  After looking around for a few minutes, I had my fill,  it was time to move on and see the rest of town.

Stroudsburg looked essentially the same.  Although the addition of a couple of hookah bars, a head shop or two and some empty store fronts were definitely not of the late 70’s, early 80’s vintage I remember.  Everything changes.  At least there is activity on Main street.  There are many small towns that can no longer boast of that.

The reunion was on Sunday at the Barley Creek Brewery in Tannersville near Camelback Mountain.   It was a perfect spot to have a gathering of about half of the class of 1978. While nervous about what kind of reaction I would get knowing that some of these people knew about what had happened, I had to walk up and see what would happen.   For the most part, the conversations that turned to the subject of Father Gibson were supportive. More than one person felt the need to tee up their own personal horror on the subject, which was fine.  I think that anyone who wanted to say something about the matter, did so.  If someone still has something to say, email me here.

A couple of the comments from people struck me.  Two different classmates wondered aloud about why the priests didn’t just have sex with each other.  Why did they go after children?  My response is that it was not about sex.  It was about power, control, dominance and ego.  Gibson took advantage of his position as a Pastor and a teacher to control his victims.  I don’t know if he was gay.  Frankly, I don’t care.   A gay priest does not necessarily equate to a pedophile predator.  No, all those years ago it was about control and terror.  It was about getting off on the knowledge that he could do what he wanted, when he wanted with the victims he groomed with little fear of consequence.  Besides, he had the Diocese of Scranton, Bishop Timlin in particular, there to cover his mess, move him to a new crop of victims and allow him to start over.  He had institutional backing.

There was no illusion of love or care.  There was only threats of retaliation and physical harm if the victim looked like they were going to tell someone about what he was doing.

I left the reunion feeling a little better.  I was not treated differently.  It was funny to me how quickly the social order reestablished itself in the group.   Even after 35+ years we fell in with those we survived high school with.  Although this time, the illusion of  the masks we hid behind in the school on the hill seemed to be a little less visible.  Will I go back to another reunion?  I am not sure.  There has been a lot of water passed under the bridges I had burned all those years ago.   I am grateful that I saw as many old friends as I did.   A note for the people who were on the same page as me in the yearbook, thanks for your support.  I had heard from all three in the years after my revelation.  You are all gentlemen and I proud to still have you as friends.  For the three women who were also very supportive over the years (all three were at dinner after the reunion), I wanted to thank you as well. You all have helped me understand that I was not at fault for what happened all those years ago.  There were some pretty amazing people in that class.

For the matriarch of “the family”, I can never hope to repay you for all you have done for me since the first day of 8th grade.   My world would have been completely and tragically different without your support, friendship and wisdom.  You had a profound influence on a lot of lives and I think it is time you understood that.  I know I am not the only one who has let you know that recently.

Here’s to the Class of 1978!