First descent into hell

I knew something was wrong.  I was supposed to spend the night at the rectory.  The reason for the stay has long ago left my mind.  Instead of getting on the East Stroudsburg School District bus in front of Notre Dame that would take me to East Stroudsburg High School to allow me to transfer to the bus that would take me up state highway 402 to Hemlock Farms, I boarded the bus that would head to Brodheadsville.  Pleasant Valley School District emblazoned on the side of the bus.  It would drop me off at the Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.

Stepping off the bus, I walked across the street to church property. I approached the trailer and knocked, no answer. I went to the church but it was also locked. I looked for his car, it was not there. My initial thought was that he was detained somewhere so I would just wait. He would be back soon. I started doing my homework on the steps to the trailer. Time went by and it began getting dark. I was growing more concerned because I was not from this area. My home was 45 miles or so north of Brodheadsville. Did I have the right night? Was I supposed to be here? Where was he? Had he forgotten about me? My mother was going to be furious if she had to come all the way from Portage Lane to get me. I am sure I would pay for this all the way home and for weeks later. There was a pay phone across the street. I needed to make a call. Checking my pockets and book-bag revealed that I had no change. The 15 cent call was beyond my grasp. I dialed “0” for operator but it required the change to connect. I tried an emergency number, but you could only connect the call by having the coins slide into the coin slot. (it was 1974, and the phone technology was limited)  The phone was useless to me. It was getting darker and the only light I had was on the telephone pole. You know the kind of light fixture you see on rural roads near business or barns. Large, white and insulting to the darkness of a moonless Pennsylvania night. I was getting cold and very nervous about my situation.

Around 8:30 pm, about 5 hours after the bus dropped me off,  an older couple was driving by and saw me standing there looking agitated. They had seen me earlier but thought nothing of it. They stopped and asked me if I needed help. I told them that I was supposed to stay at the rectory and that I did not know where Father Gibson was.  They were parishioners of the church and knew Father Gibson.   They took me to their home and started making phone calls. Finally, near 9 o’clock, contact was made with Father Gibson. The gentleman who had picked me up wanted to call my parents and have them come get me. I did not want to call my mother because of the trouble it would bring. The woman decided to take me to the rectory. There was an animated conversation between the couple as she loaded me in the car for the 5 minute ride to the rectory.

When I arrived, Gibson seemed a little out of sorts. He had glazed eyes and was not really finishing his sentences. I knew this look. My father was an alcoholic. My mind began normalizing all that was happening. Reinforcing that all men of a certain age dove into a bottle at the end of the work day (or before their work day, during their work day or instead of their workday). I could handle it. I would just be quiet, go to bed and let him sleep it off. At least I was inside and had a small single bed in a tiny room in the trailer to hide in. I was relieved that I would not have to tell my mother anything about the events of the evening. He started by offering me a drink.  He had juice, soda and iced tea.  I opted for the juice.  I noticed that it tasted a little strange but thought nothing of it because it was not the brand my mother would buy.  I really wanted to go to bed but he was pretty insistent on talking about what had happened and watching TV.  He said he had loss track of time and how sorry he was.  He kept asking me to not tell anyone.  That was the first time he made that request.  There were many more to follow.  He offered me more juice.  I accepted.  I was starting to feel a little odd.  I rationalized that it was a rough night and that I was tired.  I finished the juice.   He was quick to refill the glass.  I really just wanted to go to bed.  I was suddenly very tired.  “Here, this will help you sleep” .  I drank about half the glass and then things went foggy. 

I woke up in the small room.  My clothes had been removed.  I was somewhat aware of my surroundings, but everything was a little out of sorts.  I could hear him walking around the trailer.  I heard him come into the room and I felt his weight on the bed as he began to rub my back.  I was not able to move and at first the contact was comforting.  I thought I just was coming down with a bug.  Slowly it dawned on me that he was also undressed. His hands ranged over me  and I knew that this was not what I wanted.  I could not move, I could not make any noise.  I could tell that there was something really wrong about all this.  He whispered to me that I would be better in the morning and that he would take care of me.  He rolled me over on my back and I could tell that he was erect.  I did not understand all of what was happening at that moment. He masturbated over me.  At some point I passed out again. 

The next morning I woke up in my underwear on the bed.  The sheets were different.  I showered, dressed and wondered what the hell had happened the night before.  Did I dream all of it?  He acted completely normal, offering to stop at the bakery on the way to the school.  As I left the trailer I noticed two empty bottles of Vodka on the kitchen counter.  I remember getting into his green car (I think it was an Oldsmobile).  He was very chatty, I was completely the opposite.  Did I imagine everything?  Looking back, to a naive 13 year old who had not discovered much about sex at that point, my memories far exceeded my knowledge of masturbation at the time. 

He pulled into the parking lot at school and wished me a good day.  As if nothing was out of the ordinary.  He told me to go in, he would follow in a few minutes, he had some papers to look over in his car.  I walked into school in a daze, I was completely off balance.   

That was the first descent into hell for me.  It would not be the last.  On that morning my innocence and my soul started to be destroyed.  Everything changed, nothing was ever going to be the same again.

An Open Letter to Bishop Joseph F. Martino, Diocese of Scranton

Bishop Martino,

During January and February 2009, we exchanged letters on the topic of Father Robert J. Gibson who, as you are well aware, sexually abused and raped me as a 13 year old child in the rectory of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania , while on vacation at Walt Disney World and on a trip to New York City.  All of these events took place in 1974 when I was an eighth grader or rising freshman at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.   As of this writing, I am still not satisfied with the action taken by you or your representatives on this matter.

From my vantage point, I see the Diocese of Scranton as a significant player in the policy of excusing and enabling the sex crimes committed by pedophile priests in your curia.  I believe that your administration and the administration of Bishop Timlin and the previous bishops of Scranton buried reports, prevented and delayed reports to civil authorities to outlast the statute of limitations.  I believe that the bishops acted in a blatantly criminal and arrogant manner to obstruct justice.  I have no doubt that victims came to the Diocese and sought help, justice, and guidance.  I am sure that many feel, as I do, that they were betrayed and violated all over again.

You and your predecessors had ample opportunities to act swiftly to protect children and vulnerable adults and to limit the number of victims of priests who were acting outside of the law and the church.  The bishops of Scranton, the chancery, the priests who have known about the actions of their brother priests and did nothing but look the other way all failed the victims, the parishioners of the Diocese and their God.

Perhaps your time in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia tempered your attitude towards victims.  All of Pennsylvania’s Catholic Diocese share a common legacy of secrecy and deceit. I see your administration as a continuation of an arrogant, self-serving attitude by those who feel entitled by their position to act any way they see appropriate to secure the secular trappings that accompany high office in the Roman Catholic Church.  At some point it stops being about God, doesn’t it?

Based on our correspondence, your writings, public statements and my observations of your actions in your Diocese through media outlets that cover you, I am convinced that you selectively choose those moral issues that you so vehemently champion.  Your zealous defense of conservative Catholic positions seems out of step with your Diocese’s deafening silence when it comes to the issue of the priest sex scandal. It must be effortless for you to compartmentalize your positions.  It must be simple to attack people and matters that are external to the walls of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.  It is alright to use the tactics of a bully on the likes of Senator Casey, Vice President Biden, and James Calderone or to threaten to close the doors of the Cathedral on St. Patrick’s Day if the parade isn’t your liking.  You must enjoy the thought of calling the administrators and faculties of the Catholic Colleges and Universities to task on health and diversity issues or to storm into a church forum and attempt to dictate the votes of the parishioners in accordance with your views.  Why, then, do you remain silent in your pastoral letters, actions, and statements about the epidemic of sexual crime/abuse within your own diocese?  Why have you taken no action against those that have committed these heinous crimes?  Why have you taken no action against those in your diocese who turned the other way or actively sought to cover up or delay reporting the sex crimes committed against children, adolescents and vulnerable adults in your diocese?

On a very personal level, I have not been satisfied with the treatment I have received while dealing with your Chancery.  Your responses to my letters and the responses from your representatives indicate that your diocese remains unwilling to take the serious actions required to safeguard the children of your diocese from predators wearing Roman collars.

You have failed to adequately answer my questions on actions taken against Father Gibson to include canonical proceedings to defrock him.  Were he to die today, I have no doubt that the Catholic Church would give him a funeral where his great works as a priest would be celebrated.  I am sure the names of his victims will never be mentioned. For the record, I have more names than the four unnamed victims stipulated to by you through your representatives.  I am sure that he will be carried to his grave in a manner befitting an exalted and faithful servant of God.  That will be a lie perpetuated by you!  I doubt we, his victims, will be notified of his death or invited to the celebration of his priestly life.  That would not be in keeping with your Diocese’s business model.  I would show up, to pay my last respects.

Why has the Diocese of Scranton failed to notify the parishes and schools to which Father Gibson has been assigned of his admitted actions?  There are more of his victims out there  who may have run across Gibson at any one of his assignments including  St Paul’s Parish in Scranton, St. Clare’s School, St Matthews in East Stroudsburg, St. Matthews School in East Stroudsburg (now known as Notre Dame Elementary School), Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, St. Marks in Delaware Water Gap, St. Luke’s in Stroudsburg, Our Lady Queen of Pease in Brodheadsville, Holy Family in Jonas, St. John Bosco in Conyngham (my, that was a short 6 month assignment), St Bernadette’s Church in CanadensisMonsignor McGugh Elementary School and St. Ignatius in Kingston. You just don’t want to be bothered by all the mess that would accompany those victims coming forward.  I’m sure your staff found his love of alcohol an excellent cover story for his removal from at least one of these assignments.  You would rather they remain silent and isolated.  You care nothing of the damage done to their lives, families and their faith.  Multiply that damage by the number of other victims of the other priests that your Diocese has protected over the years, and you will begin to see the magnitude of the problem.

What steps have been taken to determine if others knew of Father Gibson’s crimes but turned their backs or enabled him to continue abusing? I cannot believe priests in residence at rectories where Father Gibson lived did not find his obsessions with boys as odd. One other victim told me that a priest, still in service to the diocese today, walked in on them while Father Gibson was molesting the boy and simply left the room. A nun walked in on a heated, very physical argument in the school chapel between myself and Father Gibson. No action was ever taken. Turning away is easy. All evil needs to thrive is for good people to do nothing.

The Bishops and Auxiliary Bishops, the Chancellors and the Episcopal Vicars who have held office in the Diocese of Scranton knew of the actions of this priest and far too many others.  You are all complicit in the crimes that have been committed by your lack of action.  Is not a sin of omission still a sin? Is there not one person of moral character among you that is willing to stand up and say this was a terrible wrong?

You have extended an invitation for me to meet with you.  At this time I must politely decline that invitation.  Traveling to Scranton to meet with you would be a complete waste of my time.  I do not need to be the next target of your bullying.  My greatest fear, however, is that you would enjoy the salacious details of the rapes, molestation, and abuse I suffered at Father Gibson’s hands.

I do hope that someday we will have the opportunity to meet.  I would love to know what kind of man would protect monsters like Father Gibson.  In the meantime, when you are saying mass in a chapel, your  Cathedral, or any of the churches that Father Gibson defiled through his deviant, immoral and criminal activities, I want you to think about the children you have failed, the families that have been wrecked and the souls destroyed because men like you did nothing.  At the moment of consecration, I want that flash of consciousness of the suffering of the victims of your priests to come over you.  Then perhaps, you will understand.

Very respectfully,

Michael Baumann

Fear and Doubt

Thirty-five years later and I still have moments of terror.    He had shown up in my life while I was in college and caused me to panic, the flight instinct kicking in and sending me into a spiral.  He was always there in the back of my head and in the forefront of my concern that he would show up at something,  a wedding, a reunion, or a funeral.  So I avoided almost all of them.  I attended Marie’s funeral just about a year after our graduation.  Otherwise, I had no intention of making an appearance at any location that could possibly result in a chance meeting . Reunions seemed to represent the best opportunity for a face to face meeting. I did not attend a Class of 1978 reunion until just a few years ago.    The  25th reunion of the Notre Dame High School Class of 1978 was held in 2004.  Apparently math was not our strong suit.  I decided to suck it in and go.  He was not there.  I did not yet know that the Diocese of Scranton had him hidden in Missouri. To be honest, I wanted to go and find out that he had died.  I wanted to know that he had gone on to hell.   I asked Mr. Lyons about him in casual conversation, but he did not seem to know where Gibson was at the time.

I am not alone in the fear of a chance encounter.  Some of the other survivors that I have spoken to have expressed fear that he would attend a function.  In a recent email that I received,  the writer expressed fear that Gibson would show up at a family member’s funeral.  As if losing a loved one is not bad enough, the fear of seeing the potential  molester of  a  sibling at a family funeral eclipses the the grief for the loss  and sets you on edge.   Gibson is a consuming force, still compounding the damage after all these years. Moving the abuse beyond the victim to other family members.  Some people have even expressed a desire to physically harm their perp.  The fear welling to hate, the hate eating away at the soul. Damage, years after the physical violation ended.  He never really goes away.  The Diocese has told me that he is an addled old man suffering from dementia in a hospital in Missouri.   Price Memorial Hospital in Eureka Missouri is where he is alleged to be an in-patient.  Forgive me if I sound like I don’t believe everything that the Diocese of Scranton has told me.  You know, they do not have a good track record for being completely truthful when it comes to one of the 25 or more  sexual molesters/rapists or abusers that have operated with impunity in the Diocese of Scranton over the years. Many of them enjoying the protection of Bishops who should have known better.  Bishops that should have taken decisive action to stop the abuse and seek out victims who needed the help and comfort of their church.

My wife pointed out to me that the doubt that nagged me about proving my story to be credible was the voice of Gibson in my head, even after 35 years.   That voice that could crash any holiday, freeze me in my tracks and cause me to question any good thing that came my way.  That is one way he has paralyzed me for years.  (There are more, I will get to them.) Even when I had a letter from the Diocese that declared my allegations to be credible, I was convinced that it just was not enough. It is never enough, it is always in the back of my head.

Bishop Timlin’s Precept and Decree on Father Robert Gibson

In February  1998, the Bishop of Scranton was the Most Reverend James C. Timlin.  He was the man who should have been  responsible for taking action to protect children who were the victims of predator priests in his diocese.  He seems to have been a complete failure.  He oversaw the diocese’s mishandling of a high visibility case involving Father Robert Caparelli.   Who knows how many other complaints against other priests he kept quiet during his tenure?   Bishop Timlin is currently Bishop Emeritus in Scranton.

Bishop Timlin issued two documents dated 2 February 1998.  The first was a precept.  A precept is a command to an individual that enjoins that person to do or not do something, especially in order to compel obedience of a law, regulation or directive.  In this case the precept ordered Father Gibson to stop representing himself as a Diocesan priest and to stop wearing clerical attire.

Bishop Timlin's Precept to Father Gibson in February 1998
Bishop Timlin's Precept to Father Gibson in February 1998

The second document was a decree that ordered Father Gibson to cease all ministerial activity. Oddly enough, the decree was issued for reasons of “health”. Reasons of Health? Is that what they call it at the Chancery when a priest has been accused of and admitted to molesting and raping children?

Bishop Timlin's decree terminating Father Gibson's ministry
Bishop Timlin's decree terminating Father Gibson's ministry

It is almost comical that the precept and the decree were both issued on Groundhog Day. I wonder if the Chancellor stuck his head out the window that morning and saw six more victims lining up to file reports.

I would imagine these documents enjoyed a very limited release as to not allow the parishioners, the police or the press to find out that the Diocese of Scranton was hiding another pedophile. By the time these documents were issued, Father Gibson had already been removed from the Diocese and, more importantly, the jurisdiction that could have sought criminal penalties against this monster. Father Gibson was sent to the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri.

This was a continuation of the Diocese’s policy of keeping things quiet and secret. You would think that they would have learned after the Father Caparelli case came to light in the 1990’s. Father Caparelli was convicted of sexually molesting boys and died in prison of AIDS in 1994. Is it possible that the diocese had a more prolific child rapist on its hands in the person of Father Gibson? We don’t know because the veil of secrecy still protects Father Gibson.

When are they going to learn? When are the parishioners in the Diocese of Scranton going to start holding there church leaders to account for their actions? More importantly, when are the public safety and judicial organizations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania going to step in and dismantle this criminal conspiracy aimed at protecting pedophiles?

The Tip of the Pedophile Iceburg

Bishop Accountability lists 16 accused and/or convicted sexual predators in the Diocese of Scranton.  News articles that included interviews with Diocesan officials list as many as 9 more who’s names are being kept from the public.   If you look at the database for accused priests for Pennsylvania, the number listed is 192. Imagine the depth of the problem if they all had 5 victims, 10 victims, 15 victims. Do the math and be as sickened by this as I am.

From personal experience, I know that the list is not complete.  I had to work to get my perpetrator priest listed.   The Diocese of Scranton had known of his activities as early as the 1990’s, at least that is what they will admit to.  With the knowledge that he was dangerous, they kept his name quiet and sequestered him in a facility that caters to the housing of priests who probably should be in the state prison system.  How many other priests are they sheltering?  How many of those priests are in parishes or parochial schools right now with access to children?

I want to believe that the majority of priests serving in parishes are doing good work, that they are following a call to service.  But I also think that priests are choosing to not speak up and challenge a system that victimizes the most vulnerable of the church’s followers.  Not only children (of both sexes) are at risk but, vulnerable adults as well.  To do so would put them at odds with their bishops and would perhaps negatively affect their ability to be effective.  I also believe that there are priests that have made reports but those reports were kept quiet and no action was taken.  Those priests have an obligation to force the issue in whatever manner is necessary to protect children and force their diocese to do the right thing.   

There are priests that saw what was going on and made the conscious decision to not do the right thing.  They had knowledge, either first hand or from credible sources but have chosen to keep that information quiet.   Some of those men are now in positions of authority.  I am not sure how they sleep at night.  Imagine a Monsignor who as a young priest decided to take no action when he encountered another priest sexually abusing a child.  How can a man simply turn around and leave the room closing the door behind him?  The more I hear the stories from other victims, especially from those who have the same perpetrator as I, the more clear it all becomes to me.  These people have no shame, they have no honor and they have no right to call themselves men of god.  I know who you are, I know what you have concealed in order to get ahead.  Others do as well.  Remember that when you look out on the congregation on Sunday.  More and more of those eyes know the truth.

The Diocese of Scranton keeps it’s dirty little secrets by offering small settlements, stipends, or garnishment of the perp priest’s retirement check.  In order to garner such a settlement, it is their practice to have the victim sign a confidentiality statement, no doubt they want to keep the victim silent or to have them parrot that the settlement was completed amicably.  They are quick to point out that Statutes of Limitations have expired and that they have no obligation to help those who need help.  No obligation?  Seriously, how can they actually say that?

I have been told that Father Gibson is a sick man.  No kidding, you really think I haven’t known that for years!  They want me to feel sorry for him because he allegedly suffers from dementia.  Perhaps the gods are prepping him for his special place in hell.  I feel nothing for him, no sympathy, no compassion, no need for revenge.  My anger is solely reserved for those who knew what was happening and did nothing.  They are the true enablers of evil and they are hiding behind roman collars and the good intentions of parishioners who have chosen to remain blind.

The church is dying.  The pope recently lifted the ex-communications of priests who actively deny the holocaust and spout antisemetic statements as vile as any skinhead.  Gutsy move for a pope of German lineage!  I wonder if that apple did not fall far from the family tree.  The only way to save Catholicism from the fools that currently run the church in Rome and in Dioceses around the world is for the laity to take a more active role,  allow for the ordination of women and allow priests to marry.

How many more children and vulnerable adults will be sacrificed on the altar of religious power and influence before the laws of this country are modified to enable victims to have their day in court and to see justice done?  One more is too many.

Drafting a Letter to Bishop Martino

I am working on drafting a letter to Bishop Martino to address the particulars of my “experiences” with Father Gibson when I was 13.   This has been a difficult letter to write because it not only addresses the nature of the abuse but because I want to also ask him why no investigation has ever been conducted in the 18+ months since I made my initial report.   I have many more questions for him, and I truly believe answers will not be forthcoming.  

Obviously the drafting the letter is taking much of my limited down time at night.   One of the things I have been asking myself is “why are you bothering in the first place with such low expectations?”.  If nothing else, the people wearing blinders on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton will have the information that they should have collected as part of the investigation they should have conducted.  I don’t want to be accused of not providing information to the Bishop to inform his decision on what  action would be  appropriate in dealing with the problem.   I suspect that action verbs are not in vogue in Scranton.

If you have advice or recommendations on how I should focus the letter, I would be glad to hear it.  Leave a comment or send me an email.

The Face of My Abuser

I finally downloaded the drivers to get my HP “All in One” to work with VISTA on my laptop. Once I had the scanner working I was able to scan a photo of Father Gibson out of the 1976 Notre Dame High School yearbook. He was listed as the Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania in this edition of the yearbook. I graduated in 1978, my yearbook is long gone, the victim of a move I made at some point in my Naval career.

Anyway, here is the face of my nightmares:
Father Robert J. Gibson