Confirmation of What I Knew Already

Returning from an event in Northern Virgina, I decided to call the Diocese of Scranton and get confirmation that Robert Gibson had died.  I identified myself and asked for the office that could help me confirm that a priest, formerly of the Diocese, had passed away.  I was transferred to another office and, once again, I identified myself and request confirmation that Robert Gibson had died.   After a pause, the woman’s voice changed, and she told me that she would not discuss the matter with me.  I asked for her name, and she hung up on me.

Not too long ago I had been assured by the Chancellor that I would be notified of his death.  Apparently, that was another hollow promise.  Shocking!

This morning, after the call to the diocese that was terminated abruptly by a diocesan employee, I sent a  note to the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator,  I received a terse response from the Diocese:

Mr. Baumann,

 Please be advised that Robert Gibson died on Sunday, May 27, 2012.    

 Teresa Osborne

Chancellor 

                                              DIOCESE OF SCRANTON

Teresa Osborne                             

Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer   

Phone: 570-207-2216             Fax: 570-207-2236

Email: Teresa-Osborne@dioceseofscranton.org

It is amazing to me that this organization could not even grant me a confirmation of his death without misbehaving.  For them, they must be relieved that he is passed and the mistaken impression that this is over.

Can someone,(Bishop Bambera), explain to me why his staff is openly hostile to victims of priests that served in his diocese?  Can someone perhaps teach a little compassion?  For the record, I identified myself and spoke in a courteous manner to the woman on the phone who refused to identify herself.  Perhaps the Bishop should, at a minimum, have his staff trained in proper phone etiquette.

But I do have confirmation.  The Diocese still doesn’t get it.  It really is time for Pennsylvania to change the law and allow all the victims to seek to bring the coverup committed by the Diocese of Scranton into the light.

 

Just for the record,  Robert J. Gibson’s Parish assignment history is located at this hotlink.

Assuaging their own grief…

I have to admit that sometimes I get really angry over some of the comments that are sent in that, on the surface, seem to want to offer me encouragement but, in fact, are supportive of either the man who raped and beat me or others like him.   They are most likely sent by well-meaning people who are not willing to admit that their church is guilty of harboring predator priests as well as other criminal activity.  Or they are unwilling to allow that their precious “Father Bob” or “Father Gibson” was a predator who indulged his perverse fetish of raping prepubescent boys as his way to  get off.  (Excuse me for being blunt.)  (Robert Gibson’s assignments as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton are listed here.)

A case in point, I received an email from a reader in response  to a reply I left to a comment on a recent post.  The original comment was from a friend who was angry that the man who had officiated at her wedding and baptized her children was also the man who sexual preyed on her junior high school classmates (yes, that is an intentional plural).  The conflict was weighing on her. 

I was also conflicted for years because the same man who had raped and beat me numerous times was responsible for getting my father into an alcohol rehab program during my freshman year of college.    The man was a bit of a hero in my family for a long time.  I heard about it for years and I seethed at the accolades being offered for him.    He used this magnanimous act of pastoral kindness to keep me quiet, keep me in place, keep me from telling my great terrible secret.    It was quite a shock to my parents when I finally told them some of the things that happened all those years ago.  Acts of sexual predation that the Diocese of Scranton deemed credible based on other reports on the same “priest”.  Acts that I know were committed on more children than the Diocese of Scranton cares to admit.

The email I received was a little over the top.  I read it once and it bothered me so I walked away from the computer.  When I read it later I was upset.  The next day I was just angry.  I wrote several responses, deleting one after another until I was able to find a way to temper my  anger.  I am not sure that I was completely successful.

The sender of the email stated that she had gone to Missouri to see Father Gibson.  In her words (Sic):

 He was a vegetable of a man in bed. He is completely unable to speak or respond. I knew it was him because they told me that was the man in the bed; but I didn’t recognize him. He is an emaciated shell of a person. He is enduring an empty, lonely, desolation of a life.He cannot speak or comprehend. He is Completely cut off from human interaction.  It is an empty room with nothing but a bed.

Where the wheels came off for me in this email were statements like (sic):

But I knew Robert Gibson. I believe he would choose to suffer like this. I believe he was so ashamed. I believe he was pained at what he did to you.  

        When he dies. ….. And my sense it will be soon… Robert Gibson will make it a priority to help you heal. He was a monster to you. He knew that, but he was not able to control his urges. They call it pedophilia.

Did you ever have urges that you could not control?

Michael… I hope and pray (and I do still pray) that you are somehow able to find peace. If there is a God, then I know that Robert Gibson deserves to suffer for what he did to you. I knew him. He had goodness along side the horror that he showed you.

You will be free soon. Your pain is something I cannot grasp. But you will wake up one day and realize you can breathe. That means Robert Gibson has died and begged our Lord to protect you and comfort you. I hope then you will be free.

Let me answer each of these examples in turn.  I don’t believe he would choose to suffer.  He enjoyed what he did, he liked the power, he liked being dominant and he got off on it.  It sexually excited him.  Did he have regrets or did he lament his actions?  We have no way to know.   His only regret was probably that he got caught.  But even then there was no consequence of note.  The Diocese was more about preventing scandal and keeping the parishioners in the pew for the Sunday morning magic show and tithing.   They moved him to Dittmer, one step ahead of the authorities that should have prosecuted him.

He is going to make me a priority after he dies?  Interesting concept!  If you buy into the “heaven hypothesis” (thanks Maria, I really like that expression) you would think that this man would not get past St Peter.  He would probably be on the express train to hell, along with Bishop Timlin and his band of cronies who put themselves above the welfare of children in the Diocese of Scranton. 

My favorite…  “Did you ever had urges you could not control?”.   If you are insinuating that I have had urges to molest, rape or harm in any way, a child, the answer is “NO”!   I get this more often than not from the church apologists/zealots, in fact it is one of the church defenses against survivors/victims of sexual predators wearing Roman Collars.  They want us to be identified as predators.  They want us to be seen as subhuman and threatening.    Do not, even for a moment, put me in the same category as Robert Gibson, rapist of children.  

He had goodness along side of the horror that he showed you.”  Really!  At what point did the “goodness” manifest itself?  Or perhaps he did “good” things to keep up the facade of being a caring priest in order to separate his next victim from the herd.   Tell me, how do you reconcile the fact that he had all this evil along side of the goodness he showed you? 

The idea of Robert Gibson ascending to the right hand of the “father” upon his death is absurd.   If there is a “god”,  I would suspect that miscreants like Gibson are not destined for any reward in the after life. 

I am sure when he does die, he will be buried with the full vestments of the church that turned its back on his victims.  I am sure he will have a funeral befitting a man of “god”. I am sure he will be heralded for his goodness and sent to his “maker” for his eternal reward.  That will be the final act in the church’s deceit.  I doubt his victims will be invited to send him off with the “honors” he truly deserves.  I am sure that Diocese will wait for a while to tell his victims that he has died so that there will be not interference with his priestly funeral. 

His death will not set me free.  I am already free, I have the truth.  I have spoken that truth and others have also stood up to say that they were also targeted by Gibson.  Some have done so publicly, others have done so privately.   As soon as our great terrible secrets were shared, we were all free.  He has no power over me.  His death will not result in my rebirth.  To give his life, his basic ability to pump blood and draw breath, power over his many victims is ludicrous. He is just a pathetic life form. 

For those concerned about a possible road trip to Dittmer to see Gibson for myself, I did make the run down I-64 from my home in Virginia to Louisville, Kentucky.   While the overhead signs encouraged me on to St. Louis, I did not venture past my Kentucky destination.   Gibson is not worth the gas.   To all my friends who wrote to me out of concern of what a trip to Missouri would do to me, fear not.  I would not do anything stupid.  I would not lower myself to commit an act of violence like Gibson did repeatedly to me and to many others.  If I was going to burn gas to make a scene, it would be to go to Scranton and engage the leaders of the cult in the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue. 

Remember, my dear readers, if you are currently tithing or contributing to the Catholic Church, you are perpetuating the hierarchy that has put children and vulnerable adults in danger.  You have been supporting a corrupt organization that has moved far away from the “faith” it purports to espouse.  Your tacit support makes you complicit in their actions. 

NDHS Class of ’78

There has been a flurry of emails in the past couple of weeks from some of my classmates at Notre Dame.  My blog was discovered by a friend from  NDHS class of ’78 and she has been spreading the word.  I alluded to her email a few posts ago.  She thought that she may have been the last to know about the events that were taking place under our noses at the school on the hill in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania all those years ago.  Despite having gone public with the information in 2008, some 30 years after my departure from the tarnished halls of Notre Dame, there are people who are surprised to learn about what was happening during the 1970’s at the school and in the parishes that provided the student population.

I, for one, have no nostalgic love for my old school.  What to some may be the location of academic and athletic milestones and accomplishments was for me a reminder of treachery, abuse, lies and deception.  When I went to Stroudsburg in 2008 to speak with an Assistant District Attorney for Monroe County about Gibson, I arrived in town early enough to drive by my alma mater.  As I came up the hill, the familiar shape of the school chapel began came into view and my stomach flipped.  It had been one of the few times since my graduation in 1978 that I had been up there.  Unlike some of my classmates, the only fond memory I have of the building was leaving it for the final time after graduation.  I lost my yearbook a while ago, no doubt on one of my many Navy moves over the years. 

I do have good memories of classmates and friends in the classes that surrounded my graduating class.  Having been in a family that had 5 of 6 children in NDHS at one point I knew a lot of people, at least as acquaintances. Granted, the school only had an enrollment of only about 250+ students in grades 7 – 12 while I was there.  Until recently, I was unaware that some of those friends and acquaintances were keeping a similar great terrible secret to my own.  While the Diocese of Scranton will admit to only 4 Gibson victims, my list keeps growing with 2 more in recent weeks telling me that they were targeted.  I now know that there are multiple survivors in the NDHS alumni community. 

People are telling me that they had long wondered about Gibson’s mannerisms and arrogance.  One in particular indicated that his name often came to mind when they read an online story from the Pocono Record’s website about a priest being credibly accused or arrested.  And, for the record, I did talk to the Pocono Record on a few occasions after the story broke in the Scranton Times Tribune in September of 2008.  They declined to run a story because both Gibson and I no longer lived in the area.  That shortsighted editorial decision neglected to take into account that more of his victims were, indeed, still living in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

What I do see from behind the dashboard of this blog is a renewed interest in Gibson.  I am seeing a significant increase in the number of search engine queries for his name and either a camp, school or parish he was either assigned to or associated with included in the search.  I am seeing referrals from Facebook (I do not have an account for a number of personal and professional reasons) and other sites.   I am also getting emails, some of them are supportive, others are acknowledgements of what happened to other people all those years ago.  No one is really surprised by the predator, but there is shock at the revelation of what was really happening all those years ago.

With the news coming out of a Grand Jury Room in Philadelphia about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia protecting pedophile priests and trying to cover up their crimes, I suspect that there may be some traction for legislation in Harrisburg designed to allow survivors to seek justice and determine how the various dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania  protected  priests, perhaps hundreds of them,  over the years.  I think it would be great if the Notre Dame Alumni community supported that effort and their classmates and friends who are now trying to get to the truth.  You may be surprised by who has been keeping a great terrible secret.

Only Four, I Think Not…

Four.  That is the number of victims of Father Robert Gibson to which the Diocese of Scranton has stipulated. Four.

I don’t get it.  I cannot believe that the Diocese of Scranton continues to stubbornly stick to that number.  I have corresponded with survivors, family members of survivors, classmates of survivors, as well as friends.  I have spoken to officials at Notre Dame High School.  The number grows a little higher every time I get an indication that someone is looking for Gibson on Google.  Sometimes an email arrives a few days later, sometimes a comment appears.  The number I have is Fourteen.  Of course, I have names to go with the digits.  That is still a very low number.  Given the number of parishes, schools and camps he had access to and the number of years in his predatory prime, this man probably had victims that numbered in the hundreds.  He probably tried to groom or isolate more than that.  This man was prolific in his criminal sexual behavior against minors.  Against children!

Four?  I think not!  And the Diocese of Scranton knows it.  Someone in the diocese has access to his “secret” files.  Someone can go in and get a feel for how many complaints were submitted.  I bet the vast, overwhelming  majority of those were covered up.  Someone knows about the settlements and the confidentiality agreements that had everything to do with protecting the Bishop and the Diocese and nothing to do with protecting children, searching for victims and getting Gibson out of ministry and into the hands of the criminal justice system.  I know of one, the survivor told me himself.

Someone in the Diocese of Scranton has the names of other victims.  The Victim’s Assistance Coordinator gave me a name of another victim along with his contact information. (Not the one I alluded to in the previous paragraph.)

I have responded to emails, phone calls and blog comments from classmates of mine, from classmates of my siblings, from siblings of other potential survivors and from parents of Gibson’s other targets.

The magic number is not FOUR.  The Bishop of Scranton needs to come clean, now.  Not only on Robert Gibson, but on at least TWENTY-FIVE identified Catholic Priests and lay officials of the diocese that have credible allegations of criminal sexual assault on boys, girls and vulnerable adults.  Former Bishops have covered up and moved these monsters around the diocese allowing them access to fresh pools of potential victims.  The Bishops, only concerned with keeping allegations quiet and victims isolated, showed a reckless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of children in the diocese by moving Gibson and other monsters just like him from parish to parish.  And when the heat was too much, they moved Gibson to Missouri.  They put him in a Catholic “safe house”.  He is still there in Missouri, outside of the jurisdiction that could have tried him for the rapes and sexual assaults he committed over his career.

Just as a recap from a post I did in October 2008, Robert Gibson’s history of assignments:

1959-65 Scranton, PA St. Paul, 1510 Penn Ave. Priests: John J. Vaughan(Vicar Forane, Dean), Joseph F. Ryan, Joseph R. Doggett(’59), Francis A. Conlan(’60-62), Robert J. Gibson

School: 7 Sisters of the I.H.M. 1 lay teacher 484 pupils High school: 10 Sisters of the I.H.M. 280 pupils
Mission: St. Clare’s School: Sisters of the I.H.M. 7 Lay teacher 1 2215 Washington Ave. 401 pupils.
1966-67 directory not available (

1968-1970 Stroudsburg, PA St. Matthew’s, 200 Brodhead Ave. Priests: Thomas J. Cawley,Robert J. Gibson, John J. Bendik

St Matthews School: 7 Sisters I.H.M. 2 lay teachers 311 pupils Missions: St. Luke’s, Stroudsburg; St. John’s, Bushkill; St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap

1971-1974 Stroudsburg, PA St. Luke’s, 906 Main St. Priests: Francis G. Barrett, Robert J. Gibson In residence: John J. Bendik Mission: St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap.

St Matthews School, East Stroudsburg, Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School.

1975-82 Brodheadsville, PA Our Lady Queen of Peace Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Jonas, Holy Family.

School:  Still associated with St. Matthew’s and Notre Dame

1983 Conyngham, PA St. John Bosco Priest: Robert J. Gibson

1984-95 Canadensis, PA St. Bernadette Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Promised Land, Our Lady of Fatima

1996 -1997 Kingston, PA St. Ignatius, 339 N. Maple Ave. Priests: F. Allan Conlan, Glenn E. McGreary, Joseph B. Wilson In res., Robert J. Gibson Chapel—St. Ann’s

1998-2008 Unassigned or leave of absence.  In the case of Fr. Gibson, he was sequestered in the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri and now is reported to be in a hospital in the Ditmer area.  The report is from the Diocese.  I do not put much stock in the word of the Diocesan spokespeople, they seem to be accomplished liars.

The latest contact was from a family member of a probable victim of Gibson.  He came after me on the timeline.  I can’t help but feel a little responsible. I didn’t stop him.  I didn’t kill him when I had the opportunity. I didn’t turn him in, he had me completely terrorized.  I know intellectually that it was not my fault.  But the voice in my head hasn’t processed that yet.

Postscript: My middle son is one of the most brilliant minds I have ever known (from his mom’s end of the gene pool).  He was counting on his hands as my oldest son’s “love interest” was quizing him on the classic movies he should be familiar with as a modern, well healed male in the 21st century.  He was counting off the movies he had seen from her extensive list in binary (his world seems to spin on a slightly different axis, and that makes him a force of nature).

When he got to 4 I started laughing.  If you are as smart as he, you know what finger “4” is on when counting in Binary.  That knowledge in hand, so to speak, I would like to offer something to the Diocese of Sranton.  I got your “four” right here.

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.

Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School

A recent comment to this blog recommended that I return to Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania to speak to the faculty about my experiences.   To quote the comment:

“I think you would be welcomed at Notre Dame because you have an important story to tell. You are part of this family. You would put a human face on the abuse problem. It is so painful to read some of what you have written but it is important that the truth be told.”

ndms front with chapelLets get this clear from the start, I would not be welcomed back to Notre Dame to speak on the subject of the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of a Catholic Priest associated with the Diocese of Scranton and the school. Bishop Martino and the Diocese would never grant the school permission to offer such an invitation, even if the current school administration wanted to extend such an offer to me.

 The last thing the Diocese wants to do is to shine a light on a perpetrator that once stalked the halls of the school searching out his next victims. It would be bad for Bishop Martino, Bishop Timlin and just about all the clergy that have a connection to the school at the time that Gibson was raping children who attended the school or were members of the St. Luke’s, St. Matthew’s and Our Lady Queen of Peace Churches. (Monsignor Bendik must be cringing over his days at St Luke’s in Stroudsburg) Any publicity that would follow would surely not be good for the Diocese and would provoke a discussion that they are simply unwilling to have with teachers, administrator, parents, students, parishioners or the local population.  They would have to stipulate to the fact that they had more than one abusive priest in the school over the years and that these priests went on to abuse at other parishes and schools in the Diocese. 

It is simply not in the interest of the Diocese to tell the truth, own up to the past and do the right thing.  This would be a bad business decision.  The only thing the Diocese wants is for people to keeping pay tuition to the schools, tithing to the parishes and donating to the Bishop’s annual fund.  As I have said before in this blog, at some point it stopped being about God, doing the right thing, taking responsibility to inform the parishes of predator priests and seeking out the other victims.  It stopped being about morality and doing what Christ taught. The business model is reflective of the Catholic Hierarchy, but it is not very Christian in its practice. The terms Catholic and Christian are, at times, mutually exclusive.

I have no current association with Notre Dame High School.  I do recieve the periodic cards coinciding with significant dates in the Catholic Calendar and the typical requests for donations from Alumni.  I move the cards directly from my mailbox to the shredder and I can say, with absolute certainty, that I will never reply to a fund raising/donation drive that would benefit the school.

In regards to being part of the “Notre Dame Family”, I feel no such sentimental attachment to the place.  I do not feel the least bit nostalgic about my 5 years at the school.  To be honest, those were some of the darkest days of my life.  Why on earth would I romanticize that experience?  If anything, that “family” is pretty dysfunctional given all the secrets kept within those halls since the “70’s.

I did enjoy seeing classmates at the reunion a few years ago and I keep in contact with a couple of those classmates by email.  I have corresponded with some of my contemporaries who were at the school from 1973-1978.  Some were in my class, others were in the same year as my older brother or my three sisters. ( My youngest brother did not attend Notre Dame.)

I would consider attending another reunion if one were held.  I am not sure how my classmates would react to me after they became aware of my efforts to publicly expose Father Gibson for what he really was.   As for teachers, most of them are long gone from the school by now.  My 9th grade English teacher, Mr Jeffrey Lyons, is the current principal, his wife, Ms. Linda Lyons still teaches physical education there and  Mr. John Musyt is also still with the school in the Guidance Department.  I was able to determine where a couple of the nuns (Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) have ended up. Sister Marilyn Grosselfinger is at St Raymond’s School in East Rockaway, New York and Sister Kathleen Joy Steck is at St. John the Evangelist School in Binghamton, New York. To be honest, I was not one to form attachments to faculty for very obvious reasons. (Do not take away from this paragraph that I think any of these people knew of Father Gibson’s activities at the time.)

I have been back to the Notre Dame Campus twice since my graduation in 1978. The first time was when I went back for the reunion in 2004, the second time was the night before I went to see the Monroe County District Attorney in September 2007. All I needed to see was the chapel looming at the top of the hill and my stomach flipped. I have no desire to go up that hill again.  It would take an extraordinary invitation for me to return to that place. I have no plans to show up unannounced and uninvited to embarrass the school or cause a media event.  

 I don’t make any promises to that end with the Chancery, Our Lady Queen of Peace Church and rectory or the Cathedral in Scranton.  Those locations are fair game. (The Pocono Record wouldn’t cover the story. They declined to look into the story a couple of years ago, citing a lack of local interest since Gibson was in a facility in Missouri and I was living in Virginia. This was exceptionally shortsighted since more victims live in Northeast Pennsylvania. Such are the decisions made in a small town newspaper.)

I do not know and will probably never know who knew anything about Gibson and his “predisposition” for boys at Notre Dame.  The more I learn in talking to other victims of Gibson and people who have had similar experiences with other perps, the more I am convinced that there were people who knew what he was doing and chose to turn a blind eye and others who suspected something was not right and  failed to report what they suspected.  I would not be surprised if there were actual concerns raised.  I would also not be surprised if the Diocese  quietly kept the reports under wraps. 

After thinking about it, the school on the hill is not a place to which I see myself returning any time soon.

Threats and intimidation

Over time, Gibson became much more controlling and aggressive.  He was less likely to “soften” me up with alcohol and much more forward when he had the opportunity to get me alone.  His initial caring words and expressions of god’s love and understanding that what we were doing was good and right and part of the way god allowed him to express his love for “his boys” turned very menacing.  The more I resisted or tried to fight him off, the more physically and emotionally abusive he became.  I think he was determined to break me.  I am not ready to get into more detail on the actual acts he committed at my expense.  In the back of my head I am afraid that the salacious details would be the equivalent of porn for perp priests.  I also don’t think at this point it is information that I can just put out there.  I am not there yet.

The threats were subtle at first.  He would tell me that no one would take the word of a child over that of a priest.  Anything that I would say would be the product of an over active imagination and disregarded.  He told me I would be severely punished for telling lies.   Any allegations made would motivate  my mother to send me away.  He always seemed to infer that he had her passive permission because priests had a special station in life.  It was his privilege and therefore no one would do anything about the situation on the outside chance that they believed me.  But, rest assured, I would not be believed.  He told me the nuns and lay teachers at the school would not do anything and the other priests would support him.  After all, they all had their “favorites” as well.    I was suspicious and afraid of anyone on the staff of the school.  Whether it was rational or not, I became convinced that people were aware of what he was doing to me and that they had no problem with it.  I would look in disbelief at the people in the schools office when he would take me off campus during the school day.

The nature of the threats changed rapidly.  Since he was a powerful and well loved pastor he could expel me and my siblings from Notre Dame and St. Matthews Elementary school without anyone challenging him. He was above reproach.  His word would be good enough to remove us all from school.   He told me that my siblings would hate me for having to attend a public school and leaving their friends behind. My parents would be humiliated,  my mother especially, since she had gone to Gibson for pastoral counseling.   More sinister threats of taking advantage of a younger sibling or of beatings began as he tried to keep me under his control.  Finally, it came down to telling me that if I spoke out and told anyone, I would disappear and never be found.  I would simply be erased and, after a short while, no one would give my absence a second thought.   I was only in my first year at the school and I would soon fade from the collective memory of those at the school.  It was clear that I was expendable.

I was completely terrorized by his words.  He knew it!  I could not believe that all of this was true, but at age 13 I had no way to know for sure that it was not the truth.  This he also knew and exploited.  What was true was that all of this seemed to be about power and control.  The fact that he got off on it seemed to be an extra benefit for him.

I’m sure he told my mother that he was acting as a mentor and offering opportunities for me to do interesting things on my own with a good male role model.  He exploited her as clearly as he had exploited me.  Much to my horror, she would allow him to take me on overnight trips, one lasting as long as a week.  He took me to the new rectory when it was completed.  It was  his own personal pedophile pleasure palace and masturbatorium.  He would talk about the rectory as a great personal accomplishment.  He took me  to New York “to see some plays” and to  Walt Disney World.  On a couple of occasions he took me off school grounds during the school day for “pastoral counseling”.  I went along, I was too frightened to put up a fight or tell someone what was happening to me.

I am curious about how long it took him to perfect this intimidation on other children.  Did this start before the seminary?  Was it something he slowly came to?  How soon after entering the seminary or being ordained did he identify his first victim?  How many victims did he have?  Did he focus on just boys or was he an equal opportunity abuser?  The Diocese of Scranton says that they had 4 reports including mine.  I think that the Diocese is so lacking in credibility that they cannot be believed. I don’t think I will ever have answers.  Those that know don’t have the stones to tell the truth.

I would like to think that I successfully broke away from his control at the beginning of my freshman year in high school  I have some doubts about that, though.  It is as likely that I was simply getting too old for his perverse tastes.  Sullen preteens turn into unmanageable, moody teenagers.   I grew over that summer and I was determined to get so active in the school that there would be no opportunity for Gibson to get me alone.  Hiding became less about being invisible and more about being out in front of the crowd, in plain site.  It made it harder for him to cut me from the herd and back under his grip.

I can only assume he moved on to someone else.  I lived with the ever present fear of him coming back for me, I would break into a cold sweat anytime he would show up at the school.  I was always off balance if I knew he was in the school building.  His presence at the school gradually became very infrequent.  I think he kept tabs on me to make sure I was not going to make trouble for him.  What was worse than the fear of him coming back for me was the guilt that comes with knowing that if he had moved on to a new target, I was responsible. I had not tried to stop him by turning him in or killing him.  Believe me, I wanted him dead in the most heinous way possible.  I agonized over that for decades. Any victim that came after me was my responsibility.   I am still haunted by it.  To date, the other victims of Gibson that I have spoken with came before me on his time line of preying on children.   I am afraid of the day when I talk to someone who was a victim of  Robert Gibson after the fall of 1974.  I don’t know how to ask for them to forgive me for not being stronger and turning the bastard in.  I don’t know that I could look them in the eye.   I could have done something, anything and they would have been spared the pain, betrayal and anguish.  Their lives would not have suffered a similar oblique as the one in my life at that point.

Intellectually I understand that this is not rational, that I was a child in a horrible situation that was out of my control.  That does not take away the guilt nor does it help me sleep at night.  Even 35 years later, I wake in the dead of the night sometimes and the thoughts are there as a reminder.  Sometimes it seems like it all happened yesterday.

My relationships with my parents and my siblings went downhill in 1974.  I became quiet and withdrawn at home.  I wanted nothing more than to wish away high school and get out of the Poconos.  College was to be my liberation.   All energy was focused to that end.  Those who knew my family probably thought this was all related to my father’s drinking.  This made sense, the truth however was much more sinister.  It was a good cover, so I used it.  It was easier to be the brooding son of an emotionally abusive alcoholic father than the sexual play thing of a pedophile priest.  Afterall,  I had been told, very convincingly, that no one would believe me and that the price to pay for telling the story would be higher than I could bear. I believed that for over three decades.   What a horrible price I have paid for keeping that secret!