Is the PA House Judiciary Committee Chairman Protecting An Abuser?

There is a fight going on in the State Assembly in Harrisburg.   House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico is opposed to Window Legislation that would allow a window to open for civil cases to be brought against pedophiles and other sexual predators who have committed crimes against children and vulnerable adults.    Marsico is a Catholic, so it is logical that he would like to protect his church.  Well, not really logical, perhaps it is understandable that he would bow to pressure from his church.

But I am thinking that there may be a more personal reason here.   A priest by the name of Guy Marsico was credibly accused of abusing a child and removed from ministry in the Harrisburg area.   Is it possible that Representative Ron Marsico is protecting a family member who would stand to face civil action if a window was opened?  This may not be political.  It could be very personal, family business.  I wonder what, if any,  the familial relationship is between the House Judiciary Chairman in Harrisburg and the  former priest assigned to St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Rohrerstown?

That would be a fairly huge conflict of interest and a slap at survivor’s of sexual abuse as children if it turns out that the peoples’ representative is putting the interests of a predator family member ahead of the protection of children and justice for victims of prior abuse.  I would love to know the answer!

House Bill 342 needs to get an up or down vote on the floor of the Pennsylvania State Assembly.

First Conviction of a Catholic Bishop…

Robert W. Finn

Buried in the news, during this political season, was an article in the New York Times that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kansas City was convicted at a bench trial on one misdemeanor charge and not guilty on a second charge, for failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls.  He was sentenced to two years of probation.  He could have been sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

But here is the kicker (there always is one in these cases)… His conviction can be expunged (“Process by which record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from the state or Federal repository.” Black’s Law Dictionary) if he complies with all the conditions of his conviction. Those conditions, outlined by the presiding judge, include strengthening training for clergy and administrators on child abuse reporting and recognizing child pornography; creating a $10,000 victim counseling fund (surely that will be paid for by the parishioners who are still donating money and not by the convicted prelate); drawing up an approved list of treatment providers (Servants of the Paraclete?); and maintaining an ombudsman (job title change for the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator?).

Finn’s case was set for a trial by a jury.  That changed yesterday when the prosecutors and defense attorney avoided the jury trial yesterday when the  submitted 69 paragraphs of stipulated facts in a bench trial.   The bench trial allowed for victims to be spared the pain of testifying and will help protect their identities.  In exchange for his cooperation in the case, authorities agreed not to file an indictment against a second-ranking diocese official, Monsignor Robert Murphy, who had reported his suspicions to the police.

My question…  Since he has been convicted, will the hierarchy of the church remove him from his position?   Will he do the right thing and step down?  Don’t hold your breath!  When they move to expunge his record, it will be like nothing ever happened and they will act accordingly.

Read the article at:

New York Times

The Kansas City Star – Kansas City.com

Boston Globe

RCC Playbook III – The Church is the Real Victim!

The Church is the Real Victim

There is nothing more offensive to me personally as the defensive tactics embraced by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  In this installment of the “Playbook,” we will take a look at how the RCC spins the sexual crime crisis to make the RCC look like the victim.  Ignore the RCC  sex crisis, banking crisis,  involvement in murders and kidnappings, Vatican leaks, gay witch hunts, reprimand of nuns to deflect attention away from the sex crisis, loss of parishioners, the arbitrary closing of parishes, insensitive detached and out of touch leaders.  Ignore it all!   The real victim here is Catholicism.   (Adjust your sarcasm dials and buckle in.)  And the ALLEGED victims of sexual abuse are the source of all the woes of the church.

1. Alleged Victims are hell-bent on the destruction of the church.  The hierarchy of the church and the ultra-conservative groups that support it are painting the goals of survivors being solely focused on the destruction of the church.  They contend that we will not be placated until the Bishops’ Chryslers, their summer houses, and their extravagant lifestyles are destroyed.   They want to tell the faithful that victims of abuse want to tear down schools and churches, destroy parishes and bankrupt the church until god (lower case intended) is banished from society.

Groups like the Catholic League spit out statistics in support of such claims on a regular basis.  Those statistics, for the most part, are unsubstantiated.  When I wrote to the point of contact at the Catholic league to fact check a particularly virulent rant from Bill Donohue (Catholic Hater in Chief), there was just no reply.  I guess when you are spinning propaganda to support your local Archbishop the truth is not required.

2. The media is picking on the Catholic Church.  You hear this everywhere a church leader or the head of some ultra-conservative church organization or group of church apologists get together in front of a microphone. This is all a vast left-wing conspiracy. The best article I have read in this vein is by John P. Martin called “Church scandal hits close to home.” The article stands on its own merit.  I first read this article while keeping up with Susan Mathew’s Blog,  Catholics4Change.  It first appeared on Philly.com.

Bloggers Note:  Do you think if the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and it’s shills would be getting negative media attention if they were not so wholly inept, involved in protecting predator pedophiles, running corrupt banking systems, punishing nuns for doing good work, covering up kidnappings of teenagers and funding the extravagant excess of the princes of the church?

3. Trial Lawyers are keeping this issue alive!   If you read the Catholic apologists’ blogs and press releases from groups like the Catholic League, you would discover that the “scandal” is being perpetuated by the likes of Jeff Anderson and Marci Hamilton. Their spin is that the trial lawyers and scholars are trying to keep the scandal alive for their own personal enrichment.   “There is really good money in those settlements.”    Anyone look at the stable of lawyers, PR guys, media consultants and risk management types in the employ of various dioceses, religious orders and Catholic organizations lately?  By some accounts, the cost of defending Monsignor Lynn ran upwards of $11 Million!  I think, in fact, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is keeping Trial Lawyers (and PR guys and media consultants) alive.  Just a thought…

4. These crimes are the work of homosexuals bent on the destruction of the church.  Let’s just blame it on gay priests.  I have covered this before.  Simply put, just before you are gay, does not mean you are a pedophile.    The church would like you to believe that the “gay subculture” in the priesthood is from where this deviant behavior emanates.   But, if this was true, can someone explain to me about the priests who have preyed on girls?  You see, with the excuse generators that operate in many of the Chancery buildings around the world it is really true that the devil is in the details.  I would imagine that there are gay priests in the church who are doing God’s work and looking after parishioners without trying to slide their hands inside an altar boy’s cassock.

5. The behavior of these pedophiles is a direct result of the excesses of Vatican II and the liberalization of Catholicism.  Once again the boys in the curia are counting on the gullibility of parishioners that blindly follow their roman collared handlers.    People, if there are documented cases of pedophilia in the church dating back before Vatican II, which ran from 11 October 1962 until 8 December 1965, how can blame the “liberalization of the church”?  Put down the church bulletin and the letter from the bishop on the annual fund drive and think.  Canon law has articles covering crimes against children by clergy going back hundreds of years.   This crisis is not a post-Vatican II product.  This kind of behavior and the cover-ups by the church have been going on for centuries.  It is built into the fabric of the clergy to protect their institution and avoid scandal at all costs.   Even if it is at the expense of a child.  The big difference today is that we have social networks that can reveal the true nature of those who will commit heinous crimes against children and those institutions that will protect those predators.

The next installment will cover the methods employed by the bishops of the church to keep priests one step ahead of the sheriff or two steps outside of the jurisdictions that could prosecute them.

The RCC Hierarchy Playbook, Part I

While glancing at my WordPress.com dashboard I noticed that this will be my 200th post on this blog.   I am amazed I have stuck to it this long, although my posts have been less frequent as events in my personal life demand my attention.  For this post I am beginning a series on the Catholic playbook.  These are the strategies that the Church and its apologists use to downplay the sex crisis that continues to play out around the world.   I have been keeping notes over the last five years on reactions to media stories, blogs similar to mine and message boards.   There are too many to do in one sitting so I will try to do them in installments.  I think you can safely say that these strategies are employed by any organization that takes a risk management approach of covering up and denying instead of being proactive and forthright.   The RCC has been using these tactics for centuries.  (That’s right, this sex crisis is not the result of Vatican II as the very conservative zealots will have you believe).

Here is installment 1 of the RCC Hierarchy Playbook:

It is in use again.  The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) hierarchy is pulling out their playbook on how to spin their position on the myriad of crises in which the church is embroiled.  The good old boy network has been fostering corruption, scandal and criminal activity for centuries.  Why would it be any different in the 21st century.

In the wake of the conviction of Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia, the hierarchy’s public relations goon squads are trying to minimize damage in the media, isolate other potential “crisis hotspots”, and brainwash “the faithful” that all is well and that the one holy catholic and apostolic church is on solid footing, just as St. Peter placed it.  You can keep coming to church and filling the collection plates.

The playbook is predictable and  predatory.   It can be broken down into several broad categories.  We start with: ( I shouldn’t have to say this but…  sarcasm runs amock in this post).  (If you are a Diocesan Spokesperson, try to keep up, I try use a lot of one syllable words, if you get confused you can use the google machine.)

Paint the Victim as a Predator

1. Victims are only looking for money!   Greed is one of the deadly sins.   The hierarchy of the church must have people believe that the victim of sexual crimes committed by priests, nuns or lay representatives are only out for a quick, large payday.   Gloss over the damage done by the predators who enjoy the top cover of the church while targeting victims for their own pleasure, that is not relevant!  Father “Fill in the Blank” is not called to account for his actions, crimes and deceptions.  No, we can’t have that.   Let’s go after the victim who has carried his/her great terrible secret of violation for years or decades.  We lurk in the shadows for years for the opportunity to litigate and force the church to pay for sins it did not commit.    The victim is the bad guy in his/her search for justice.

2. Victims will bankrupt us.  Ignore the palaces, art work,massive princely mansions, the expensive cars, summer retreat spots, first class flights to Italy and land used to hide pedophiles in Catholic minimum security facilities.   Ignore the vast resources of the Catholic Church worldwide.    Wealth that is beyond the comprehension of most mortals is not to be considered.   Cardinals and bishops have had the audacity to claim poverty in the face of claims that substantiate their complicity it protecting pedophiles in their attempt to protect the church from scandal.  Dioceses have attempted to use this tactic in court but have failed.   They will cry out that they have to close schools and parishes to pay for settlements and awards to victims of predators that they have shielded.  Funny, it would seem that the best way to avoid scandal is to not create one!   But I digress.  Has it ever occurred to anyone in the hierarchy of the church that predator priests, by their actions and in total disregard for the good of the church, continue to prey on children and vulnerable adults and open that organization to scrutiny, penalty and sanction?   Can I have a big “DUH” from the congregations?

3. Victims of sexual abuse are likely to be abuser as well.  Make me the new monster!  There is no proof of this, but the church and their apologists take this out for a spin on a regular basis.  Paint me as the new threat to children and vulnerable adults!   Once again the church needs you to suspend belief in the overwhelming evidence of institutional cover ups and re-victimization.  Never mind that priests, nuns and lay members of the church have abused their positions of power and were given refuge, financial support and the institutional blessing of the church while victims were ostracized and painted as monsters.    Urges, surely the victims have them and seek the same carnal pleasures that they were forced to comply with.   Really?!  Again, the church is lying to protect its treasure.  It relies on the blind stupidity of the parishioners who believe everything they are told.

AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE:

4. The Priest is only guilty of being seduced.  No kidding!  You would be amazed at the number of times this has been thrown at me by “Good Catholics” and  priests.  It was my fault that he raped me.  I tempted him, I led him down the path to this.  Let’s for a moment suspend belief in reality that sexual activity with a minor under the age of consent is, at a minimum, statutory rape.  Let’s for a moment suspend the logical notion that children who have not gone through puberty are generally not sexual creatures.  Let’s suspend belief that an adult man is unable to distinguish between right and wrong.   These acts, in my specific case, were not tender, passionate acts.  They were brutal, criminal acts that resulted in injuries to my person, my well-being, my psyche.  They stole my innocence, my faith, my trust and my ability to deal with the everyday world around me.   At age 13, I assure you, I did not seduce a priest.  He raped me, repeatedly.  They were acts of violence.  Acts of intimidation, dominance and depravity.  Anyone who can embrace the idea of a child seducing an adult in this manner has, in my opinion, a seriously flawed thought process.

The next installment will be: “There is nothing we can do about it”

If you want to add to the discussion, feel free to comment…

Fund Drives and the Ghosts of Pedophiles Past

I received a letter in the mail not long ago from the “2009 Annual Campaign” for Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  The campaign has a theme, “Celebrating Today… Preparing for Tomorrow”. As with all fundraisers, the letter came with a glossy brochure full of information on projects to be accomplished, scholarship assistance programs in need of support and the required breakdown of the recognition levels that accompany donations.  For only $10,000 you can have your name on the Cornerstone Society list!  (Act now!)

I understand that the school has requirements that exceed the money collected in tuition.   On the one hand, there are kids that need support to attend school and new computers always seem to be in short supply.  On the other hand, this was the place where I was singled out to be raped by my 8th grade religion teacher, Father Robert Gibson.  I was roughed up by the same priest in the chapel of this school and the nun that walked in on that event simply walked away.  This was the school where other students were targeted by other priests, either on the grounds or at events such as school retreats to the Fatima Center.  The documentation on the priests involved is pretty extensive.

In case you were wondering who the priests were, they are Father Robert Gibson, Father Peter Crynes (at the Fatima Retreat Center)  and Father Christopher Clay.  Those are the three priest who have been documented with histories of abuse and a connection to the school.  In the case of Peter Crynes, a reader who posted comments to this blog stated he was assaulted by Father Crynes at the Fatima Center.  Most recently, another priest who did some substitute teaching at Notre Dame Elementary School was charged with having child pornography on his computer. Father Robert Timchak is awaiting adjudication of his case in Pike County.  You can search for other predator, pedophile priests at Bishop Accountability.

My dilemma is this. do I simply shred the information on the fundraising campaign along with the request from Catholic Charities in Wilmington (How the hell did I get on that mailing list?) and be done with it?  Or do I write a letter explaining my reasons for not taking part in the fundraiser for the school?

I think it all comes down to one thing.  The Diocese has not been forthcoming with information on the predators it has long protected.  The Diocese and the parishes involved with the school have not actively sought out victims and tried to minister to there needs.  There has been no meaningful public acknowledgement of the damage done and the families torn apart.  There has been no acknowledgement of the faith destroyed and the trust lost.    There are, most likely, more of these monsters who are finding refuge in the secretive workings of the Chancery.  Until the Diocese of Scranton, the Catholic Church in the United States and the Holy See accept their responsibility and are held accountable for their role in the victimization of children and vulnerable adults, donors should decline any request for donations to any institution that is part of the Roman Catholic system.

Cut off the funding and the hierarchy will have to face the fact that they have forgotten their mission and have focused and all the earthly trappings that go with power, position and privilege in the Catholic Church.  If reforms are not implemented at all levels, the secrecy and the abuse that thrives inside that secrecy will continue.

If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to send your donation dollars, I recommend your local food bank.

Irish Radio Talking Notes (Part II of Adventures in Irish Radio…)

As I mentioned in my last post, I was invited to participate in a discussion on the Report by Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, also known as the “Murphy Report” for a radio talk show on NewsTalk in Ireland.   I was thrilled to be asked to be on and very happy to listen to a great discussion moderated by the host of The Wide Angle, Karen Coleman.  The focus of most of the conversation was on the other two guest during the hour-long segment.  Marie Collins and Father Thomas Doyle dominated the conversation, and rightly so. Marie Collins is a clear voice of the survivors’ movement in Ireland and her story is compelling and heartbreaking.  Father Doyle has paid a significant price for his steadfast support for survivors and campaign to bring the church around to correct the problem. Believe me, I was pretty nervous in the company of these two powerhouses, fearing that I would sound like the “American Idiot” on the radio waves of my family’s ancestral home. Of course, even at my most incoherent I think I would be more convincing than the bishops who claim ignorance of the law and actions of their subordinates.

I did prepare for the show by reading Section I of the Murphy Report and skimming through Section II.  (Cut me a little slack, the report is over 800 pages long.)   I reread a summary of the Ryan Report from last summer and I listened to a few  podcasts of the show.  Ms. Coleman, the presenter,  is no slouch!  She is a formidable interviewer who does not sound like she would tolerate a guest who was not prepared for the topic at hand.  After discussing the report and my nerves in advance of the show with my wife, she suggested I prepare some talking points and try to relax.

As I said in my last post, I think I was on air for about a minute, maybe less.   For the record I am not complaining about my short contribution, I actually thought it was pretty amusing.  Ms. Collins and Father Doyle were articulate and effective spokespersons for those of us who seek  the truth and a real change in the church.  I was happy to listen to both of them.  When the Podcast of that broadcast becomes available you will understand just how well they spoke on behalf of survivors.  The people I spoke with at “The Wide Angle” treated me very well and were very professional.  They did a great job producing a show on a very volatile subject.

I decided to put my talking points into a post, no sense in wasting them!   So here they are:

  • My heart breaks thinking about all the  thousands of victims of sexual crimes committed by the clergy.  While the numbers are horrific, they are, unfortunately  not a surprise.  I am still amazed that Catholics are surprised by findings in reports that reaffirm over and over that the church has done little to protect children. What reports like this bring into sharp relief is that there is a failure by people who could have chosen to do the right thing and chose, instead,  to do nothing.
  • I understand the physical, emotional and spiritual damage done by pedophile priests and compounded by a church hierarchy that empowered these predators through a culture of secrecy and deceit.  I grow more weary of listening to bishops lament about how shocked and saddened they are.  I am not buying it.  They knew, they have known all along.  For these men to claim ignorance of the acts of their subordinates or to claim that they did not know that sexual abuse/attacks/rape of children was a crime is insulting.  These men are as responsible as the predator for every child molested after the first “credible” report has been received and no action was taken.
  • It is still happening, we should not be talking about this problem in a historical context.  Not only are people coming forward to report abuse that occurred years ago, there are still children who are being put at risk or are actually suffering abuse by clergy.  While the church would love to declare an end to the scandal and try to put it behind them, they are still enabling predators to operate within their ranks because they still cling to an atmosphere of secrecy.  Abuse thrives in a culture of secrecy.
  • Sexual predators need to be identified and held accountable for their actions.  They should not live in relative comfort, being supported by funds donated by parishioners while the church takes no action to hold them accountable for their heinous actions.  The church needs to turn them over to the authorities.
  • Bishops and other church officials who have been actively involved in protecting and supporting these monsters need to be immediately removed from their positions.  Where it is appropriate and feasible, they should be prosecuted for obstructing justice and aiding and abetting the abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
  • The church is simply using a risk management strategy that has been proven to be a failure.  That strategy is based on secrecy, bullying victims and attacking anyone who challenges their authority.  As long as they are in a position of supporting lies and deception they are putting children and vulnerable adults at risk.
  • The hierarchy of  the church will not change until they are forced to pay a price so dear that they will have to stop the current practice of blaming victims and protecting predators.
  • Things will not change as long as parishioners continue to financially support the people who allowed this cancer to fester.
  • Civil authorities cannot abdicate their authority to protect children and vulnerable adults.  Police and the judiciary must conduct investigations into allegations of abuse. You would not allow organized crime to investigate itself.  Why give the church a pass?

I have some thoughts on the damage this causes to generations of the victims’ families, but that will be pretty personal and lengthy.  I will develop that as a separate post.

During the discussion of the Murphy Report, the silence from the Vatican has been deafening. Where is the Pope?  Where are the priests who are willing to stand up for their flocks?  Where are the parishioners?  When is it all going to end?

Letters, we get letters…

By Michael Baumann

I get some fascinating comments and mail at times.  Some of my posts have elicited some very insightful comments others have brought out the kind of venom that really makes me wonder about the smallness of the writer.  One such writer has been trying to get my ire up over the case of Father Gabriel Tetherow, a priest who pleaded out to charges related to child pornography on church computers at Saint Ann’s Parish in the Diocese of Scranton.  That priest, forbidden by the Diocese of Scranton to wear clerical garb or conduct himself in public as a priest, is now affiliated with the Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission in York, Pennsylvania.  The Diocese of Harrisburg does not recognize that “Mission.”  Saints Peter and Paul is a throwback to the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church.

I have had two posts in this blog about Father Tetherow and this “Mission,” and I have had some very volatile responses to my blog as a result.  The author of most of the negative comments was a person who goes by the name “D.W. Downey”. He has been particularly vocal in his support for Father Tetherow.  So vocal in his support for this priest with a penchant for child porn, that he decided to take the tact of calling victims of sexual abuse responsible for inviting the attacks.  This individual claimed to be a former “Flight Officer” in the Navy.  I must say up front that in my 23+ years of Naval service I became very familiar with the unique language used by those who served, and this individual was not using the vernacular of someone who served honorably, in any capacity, in the U.S. Navy. Hey D.W., I’ll show you my DD214 if you produce yours!

The email this individual wrote was pretty pathetic.  I would imagine that the narrow-minded, inappropriate and uninformed comments are not the norm for Catholics as a rule.  But I think the comments he made are not far off from the thought process of those who apologize for and support those priests that have been exposed as dangers to children.  These apologists for pedophile priests are so intently focused on blaming everyone else for the crimes of these priests and attacks on the “mother church” that they will say anything to try to bring the critics of the Catholic Church’s handling of the child sex abuse scandal into a pitched battle of personal attacks. The writer naturally blames me for my complicity in being raped by a priest (see the text of his latest email below).

I thought I would pass along “D.W Downey’s” latest email gem as an example of the idiocy of those who will go to any length to try to discredit survivors and critics of the church.   You can draw your own conclusion from “D.W.’s” latest epistle to this blog.  Here it is:

“You have to examine your own conscience.  The fact of the matter is the great majority of those being abused by the homosexuals who have invaded the Catholic Church since the 1960s have a degree of moral guilt for their participation in these perversions.  The adult perverts have the greater sin but their “victims” are not altogether free from any moral responsibility. They are old enough to recognize the near occasion of sin and remove themselves from it.

The Catholic Church is a greater victim from these homosexual predators than most of the young men who are publicly airing their stories. Possessing no faith, they have lied themselves into seminaries and religious orders for no other purpose than to use the cover of the Catholic Church for their own immoral ends.  They have established networks throughout religious orders and diocesan bureaucratic structures that actively provide cover for their own.

You have, without sufficient evidence, made assumptions and accusations based upon those assumptions against Fr. Tetherow, that you have no right to do.  And I think very little of for doing it. Your analysis is superficial, immature and self-serving.

Downey”

downey789@yahoo.com

I won’t spend a lot of time responding to this email.  For one, the writer has most of his “facts” wrong.  Secondly, I suspect that “D.W. Downey” is a pen name for someone who does not want to sign his/her/their real name to their work.  Finally, I think this individual has so entirely convinced him/herself that Father Tetherow is innocent, despite his guilty plea, that anyone who says otherwise (no matter what the evidence says) is following a strategy of personal attack. The truth be damned.

I believe “D.W. Downey” is a homophobic Catholic ideologue.  He/she also seems to infer that all of the problems in the church were spawned by Vatican II. If you follow this logic, you would think there were no instances of sexual abuse of children before the early 1960’s. Of course, that abuse is well documented. If this is reflective of the opinion of parishioners at the “Mission” that harbors Gabriel Tetherow I fear for the safety of the innocent children who are members of the mission or live the area of York where this group of breakaway Catholics gathers. Perhaps the local authorities should keep a close eye on the leadership of this flock and their “shepherd.”

Something good has become of all this, though.  A photograph of Father Gabriel from the internet has been included in Database of Credibly Accused Priests in the United States at the Bishop Accountability website along with information on his assignments and the crimes he was charged with as a result of his activities.