I saw a couple of quotes by Elie Wiesel that are relevant to the discussion on the continuing sex abuse crisis and the inability of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to do the right thing.
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
I think I could say this until I am blue in the face. Abuse thrives in an atmosphere of secrecy. If you are silently standing on the sidelines waiting for the “Church” to do the right thing, you are complicit in the cover-up of sex crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults. If you continue to tithe to the church, fill the collection plate and fund the diocese, you are lending material support to leadership that is actively campaigning to prevent justice for victims of abuse. If you are not challenging your bishop, your pastor or your parish council about the damage inflicted, for decades, upon the most devout and vulnerable families of the church you are silently in solidarity with the people who have allowed these crimes to be covered up.
What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
I have heard all the excuses. People are supporting their own parish, not the bishops. That is really not the case, and if that is your position, you are lying to yourself. Change can come from within. If that is the case, why hasn’t it happened? We don’t have that problem in our church! Are you sure about that? Isn’t the “church” more significant than just your parish backyard?
An editorial by the National Catholic Reporter released on 9 November is worth the read. You can find it here:
A vote on window legislation that will allow victims of sexual abuse when they were children to pursue justice that has been denied to them by a statute of limitations that protects predators. The Republicans in the Senate are seeking a course of action that will protect institutions, like the Catholic Church, who have been complicit in the protection of pedophiles in order to avoid scandal and protect the church. Innocent child victims be damned.
Four separate Grand Jury Reports have concluded that there is an institutional culture that protects pedophiles in the Catholic Church. The Republican Senators getting ready to vote against legislation, based on recommendations from the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, that would grant the right for victims to seek redress in a civil court are reaffirming the culture of protecting pedophiles and support for the continued victimization of children and vulnerable adults in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Others have more eloquently addressed what is going on in Harrisburg. I offer a couple of links to articles you may be interested in:
With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August 2018, I have seen a resurgence of visits to this site, thousands of visits reading multiple posts. In the analytics, I can see the search terms people are using, mostly the names of predator priests or a specific Pennsylvania Diocese. While I am happy that people are reading to become more aware of the scope of the problem, I worry that they are not actively engaging in the discussion and, in Pennsylvania, calling their Senators to move legislation forward that will enable all victims of child sex crimes (rape, molestation, abuse…) to seek justice and to allow the true scope of this crisis to come into the light.
To be perfectly honest with you, I did not expect all of this to come back at me as forcefully as it has. For as much as I have talked on this subject over the last ten years in my blog and to reporters for various publications and media outlets, I was not expecting this amount anger, embarrassment, guilt, and grief to well up in me the way it has in the last two months. It just doesn’t end. My partner (should I really be calling her my “girlfriend” in my middle 50’s?), eloquently refers to all of this as “the scab being ripped off the wound”. I have had a lot of sleepless nights and discussions that have caused me to physically shake since the report was released. When I do sleep, the nightmares come back. It has been easier for me to address the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis as a broader subject than to discuss the specifics of my personal experience. Even now, 44 years removed from that horrible nine-month period of my life at age 13, talking about Gibson has a visceral effect on me. All these years later I still have to ask, why did he choose me? What did I do?
I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I am not a complete mess (only partial), I am alive, I have a job, I have a support group, my partner has my back (she always thought Gibson was creepy). My high school classmates are horrified at what happened to me and others they knew. I am not an alcoholic (I probably should be, but I won’t drink out of a bottle I have not opened myself or watched being opened because of Gibson), I am not an addict. I have battled depression for years. And, for the most part, I have been able to function in society. I can count the number of people I truly trust on 2 hands with fingers to spare.
Keeping the secret for as long as I did was the cause of a lot of damage. That secret sabotaged relationships with my parents, siblings, my former wife, children, and friends. It profoundly changed the trajectory of my life and left me doubting every decision and action (personal and professional). Gibson’s voice is the voice of doubt, dissension, and depreciation in my head to this day. I cannot shake him off.
In the wake of the Grand Jury Report, the emails and phone conversations all seem to come down to one question: What do I want out of all of this? To date, this is what I have come up with: (In no particular order, I am spit-balling here)
Bishop Joseph Bambera needs to resign with immediate effect. As Vicar of Priests in the 1990’s under Bishop James Timlin, Joseph Bambera returned “Father Ned” (Robert J. Gibson) to a rectory in the Diocese. Bambera let a known pedophile back into the world where he was caught grooming a child again. It is a quintessentially American concept that those who have the ability to change things, to protect the vulnerable, also have the responsibility to do so. In this, Joseph Bambera fails completely, all the while falling back on the excuse that he was following Bishop Timlin’s orders. As I have said on this blog before, I have no confidence in Joseph Bambera’s ability to credibly lead the Diocese of Scranton because of his complicity in Robert Gibson’s case and others.
I want all Catholic Cardinals and Bishops in the United States to offer their resignation to the Vatican. The Pope should accept the resignations of any of those prelates who have had any involvement in a sexual crime against a child or vulnerable adult or were involved in covering up such activity or campaigning to defame a victim that has come forward to report rape, molestation or abuse.
I want the U.S. Attorneys across the country to investigate and bring charges against the Dioceses that conspired to move predator priests across state lines to “move the problem”. Personally, I was taken across state lines to New York and Florida by Gibson. The Diocese knows this. I think that the Dioceses and the US Council of Catholic Bishops represent a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the RICO Statute (18 U.S. Code, Chapter 96). Let the Federal search warrants flow!
I want the “facilities” that held Predator priests, such as the Vianney Center in Dittmer, Missouri, investigated for their role in hiding these men. They are complicit in moving them across state lines and may have violated Federal Law.
I want the Diocese to turn over all files in the Dioceses’ “Secret Archives” to Civil Authorities for review to determine what the Dioceses actually knew. I want the truth. I would love to see Robert Gibson’s (Father Ned) file. The Diocese only admits to Gibson having six victims. I have spoken to more than six that could tell me his modus operandi.
I want to see the file on me at the Diocese of Scranton. I am sure that there is a file cabinet in the Victims Assistance Office that contains a folder with my name on it. Before the shredders start to overheat, I want to know what is in my file. In the last week, I had someone claiming to be a Diocesan Priest who may have known my family back in the 1970’s asking for information about my parents. If I were paranoid, I would say this could be an effort by the Diocese to profile me in advance of potential civil action if the window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate passes and is signed by Governor Wolf. I would also like the Diocese of Scranton to admit that they use the Victims Assistance office to collect information on victims to allow the Diocese to develop a risk strategy to protect themselves.
I want to see all four recommendations proffered by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report to be adopted into law. I will not accept the Church’s offer of a Victims Fund. That is part of a risk strategy to minimize financial liability on the part of the church and does not serve justice. If they wanted to protect their interest, they should have protected the children and not the predators. You reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7) I do not buy the calls of poverty and threats of bankruptcy. The recommendations in the Grand Jury Report are:
Change the criminal Statute of Limitations for all sexual crimes committed against children
Open a civil window for victims
Enact criminal penalties for those who fail to report child abuse
Restrict the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements
I want the people who write to me to tell me that I should be thinking about the priests who are innocent and doing “God’s work” in the community and the negative impact on them as a result of all the publicity to stop. REALLY?! Thousands of children and vulnerable adults worldwide over decades, centuries, millennia who have been targeted by priests in the church and you want me to worry about Father ______________ (fill in the blank) and how he is coping with all this? Why are the “innocent” priests not standing up en masse and calling for the removal of church leaders who are part of the problem? Why are they not screaming at the top of their lungs calling for reform? Why have they stood by silently when they have had information or suspicions that children were at risk? Innocent Priests? SHOW ME!
I want to know what the University of Scranton and other Catholic colleges and universities are going to do to foster a discussion on this issue, listening to all points of view on the crisis and leading the way on educating the Church on the history of sexual crimes committed. I want them to develop a way forward to protect the most vulnerable among us. If all you are going to do is rename buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the Bishop involved in the cover-up you are only paying lip service to the problem. I am challenging the President of the University of Scranton, my alma mater, to stand up and be an agent of change. I am willing to talk to you and represent the victims and survivors. I am part of the University of Scranton Community (Once a Royal, always a Royal) and I demand that you take a stand more substantial than renaming dorms in the upper quad. If you are not willing to do this, let me know where I can return my diploma.
Actis formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica. This is an action item for the Diocese of Scranton. I want out. I want my name off the rolls. I want the Diocese of Scranton to coordinate with the Diocese of Brooklyn and make the break with me permanent and official. I am no longer a Catholic, and I want official acknowledgment in a document signed by the Bishop himself. You should also do this pro bono. (So much Latin! My Jesuit education is showing again.) I am not going to pay an indulgence for this service. I have a spot on the wall where my diploma from the University of Scranton currently hangs that may be available soon.
I want the parishioners of Catholic Parishes to understand that they are funding the protection of predator priests. Many of these guys are still on the payroll even if they have been laicized. Are you happy that you may be paying for a golf membership for a pedophile? The members of the Catholic Church should stand up and demand both accountability and responsibility from their leadership.
And, more than anything else, I want to be done with this. I want to put this down and go back to a quiet life. I want to be able to turn out the lights on this blog (I am sure the boys in black on Wyoming Avenue want that as well). If you think for a moment, dear reader, that I enjoy this, you are out of your mind. This is physically and emotionally exhausting. I am angry at the lies, I am mad at the way I have been treated both as a 13-year-old and as an adult who reported the crimes committed against me. I am angry that people still rally behind those who protected pedophiles at the expense of their victims. I am tired of the lies and the attacks on the character of survivors to advance a false narrative that the Catholic Church is doing everything they can to address the issue. They are doing everything they can to stick to their risk strategy.
That is my list for now. I am sure I will come up with more items as I think about all of this.
Senator Lisa Baker (R) has been identified as a key vote on window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate that would allow victims of child sexual assault the ability to take civil action against the people and organizations that have been covering up abuse for years. At this moment, we think she is a “No” vote going forward. That means that she supports the denial of justice to all victims of child sex abuse, rape, and molestation.
Is she your Senator? If yes, pick up your phone and call her office at (570) 675-3931. Her constituents are from Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming Counties. Attached is a spreadsheet where you can see the specific municipalities.
Calls/visits from her constituents would be incredibly helpful for the movement to pass the two-year window.
She seems to support a fund by the Catholic Church to pay restitution to victims. The fund will only perpetuate the silence the church has been seeking. It also denies justice to those outside of the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis.
I am the second son of an Irish-American Catholic family. My older brother was given the name of my father. My beautiful, devout mother named me after Michael the Archangel. Today, September 29, is the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel.
In Catholic Angelology, Michael is one of God’s storm troopers. He appears several times in the Book of Daniel. In the New Testament, it is Michael the Archangel that leads God’s armies against the forces of evil (Book of Revelation 12:7-9). He is seen as a protector which is why he is the patron saint of police officers and paratroopers, among others. Michael is also the angel of death, he is the one who gives souls the chance to redeem themselves before passing. Was my mother arming me with the shield of Michael?
My mother has never called me by any name but Michael. There are precisely two people who are important to me that call me “Mike,” my younger sisters. Seeing that I nicknamed my youngest sister “Bitsey” when I was three years old, I am lucky she does not address me with something more profane. My other three siblings have always called me Michael.
When I received my first communion in 1968, my maternal grandmother gave me a small wooden statue of Michael the Archangel. Oddly enough, I still have it 50 years and a dozen moves later. Over time the wings of the statue have broken off. No amount of glue would keep them in place and, eventually, they vanished. I think the statue stayed with me all these years because he has given up his wings. As the photo shows, he still has some fight left in him.
In the Easter Virgil of the Roman Catholic tradition, Michael alone is named out of all the angels and archangels. The Roman Catholic prayer to St. Michael asks the Archangel to protect the church from evil. The prayer is as follows:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle;
be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do you, O prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and the other evil spirits
who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls.
In some dioceses, this prayer is being invoked to help protect the church from the attack coming from people like me. I think those people should be careful what they pray for.
As I have stated before in another blog post, I no longer consider myself to be a Catholic. I do not believe in God. I think there is an evil that resides in men who rape children. I think that the bishops and church officials that protect these monsters are the defenders of that evil. My question to them is simple. Do you want to be transparent and honest with me or would you prefer to wait to try to redeem yourself with my namesake? Your call, Excellencies. If it helps with your decision, I will remind you that I am not the angel of death.
A friend emailed me a link to an article reporting that Professor Barry Kuhle stood up and turned his back on Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton during the Bishop’s remarks at the inauguration of the Father Scott R. Pilarz S.J. as the new President of the University of Scranton.
The article reported that Professor Kuhle’s sister was sexually assaulted by a temple leader in her pre-teens. She committed suicide in 2007 and the day of the inauguration would have been her 42nd birthday.
Professor Kuhle has called for Bishop Bambera to resign in the wake of the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. I would like to add my voice to that call.
Bishop Bambera has admitted to returning Robert Gibson to a parish by order of Bishop James Timlin. He should have known better. His defense is that he was following Timlin’s directions. If he had a moral backbone, he would have turned Gibson over to the police. Gibson was subsequently caught grooming another boy after Bambera released him back into the Diocese.