The Feast of St. Michael, the struggle continues…

I am the second son of an Irish-American Catholic family.  My older brother was given the name of my father.  My beautiful, devout mother named me after Michael the Archangel.  Today, September 29, is the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel.

In Catholic Angelology, Michael is one of God’s storm troopers.  He appears several times in the Book of Daniel.  In the New Testament, it is Michael the Archangel that leads God’s armies against the forces of evil (Book of Revelation 12:7-9).  He is seen as a protector which is why he is the patron saint of police officers and paratroopers, among others.  Michael is also the angel of death, he is the one who gives souls the chance to redeem themselves before passing.   Was my mother arming me with the shield of Michael?

My mother has never called me by any name but Michael. There are precisely two people who are important to me that call me “Mike,” my younger sisters.  Seeing that I nicknamed my youngest sister “Bitsey” when I was three years old, I am lucky she does not address me with something more profane.  My other three siblings have always called me Michael.

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

When I received my first communion in 1968, my maternal grandmother gave me a small wooden statue of Michael the Archangel.  Oddly enough, I still have it 50 years and a dozen moves later.  Over time the wings of the statue have broken off.  No amount of glue would keep them in place and, eventually, they vanished.   I think the statue stayed with me all these years because he has given up his wings.  As the photo shows, he still has some fight left in him.

In the Easter Virgil of the Roman Catholic tradition, Michael alone is named out of all the angels and archangels.  The Roman Catholic prayer to St. Michael asks the Archangel to protect the church from evil.  The prayer is as follows:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle;
be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do you, O prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and the other evil spirits
who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls.

In some dioceses, this prayer is being invoked to help protect the church from the attack coming from people like me.  I think those people should be careful what they pray for.

As I have stated before in another blog post, I no longer consider myself to be a Catholic.  I do not believe in God.  I think there is an evil that resides in men who rape children.  I think that the bishops and church officials that protect these monsters are the defenders of that evil.  My question to them is simple.  Do you want to be transparent and honest with me or would you prefer to wait to try to redeem yourself with my namesake?  Your call, Excellencies. If it helps with your decision,  I will remind you that I am not the angel of death.

 

 

 

What has changed in 10 years?

A little over ten years ago I notified the Diocese of Scranton that I had been sexually assaulted by the Reverend Father Robert J. Gibson. That was my first misstep.  I realized that the Diocese was in no way interested in the truth and continued to lie about the extent of the malignancy of pedophilia that was being neglected at the expense of innocent children of devout Catholic families. It is the Bishop’s job to avoid scandal after all.

For ten years I asked for the truth and was met with silence, disdain, and inaction on the part of the obdurate Bishop and chancery on Wyoming Avenue in the “Electric City.”  Even in the wake of the damning Grand Jury Report released by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, the focus of the current bishop of Scranton is not upon the vile allegations contained within the report but on the  Annual Fund Drive that brings money into the Diocesan coffers.   Yes, Bishop Bambera, your “priorities” are in order.

In the weeks that have passed since the release of the Grand Jury Report, I have received dozens of emails with links to articles about the lack of action on the part of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church with an emphasis on the current prelate of Scranton.  Here is a sampling:

Diocese Priests Pay $3.7 Million+ to Victims of Sexual Assault (For the record, not a penny of the #3.7 million has found its way to my pocket.)

Class action lawsuit is filed against all PA Catholic dioceses and their bishops

As Scranton bishop looked on, abusive ‘Father Ned’ got new assignment 

This last article had my immediate attention because the priest referred to as “Father Ned” was, in fact, Father Robert J. Gibson.  Robert Gibson was my perpetrator. And now it comes out that Bishop Bambera, a canon lawyer in his own right, was the Vicar of Priests at the time that Bishop Timlin was deciding the fate of Father Gibson.  Knowing full well what kind of a man “Father Ned” was, Bambera returned him to ministry at the order of Timlin.  The concept of a “zero tolerance” policy within the Diocese of Scranton seems to be a little flexible.

It seems that Bishop Bambera knows almost as well as I what a monster Robert Gibson was.  And yet he sent him back to a parish where he could once again prey on the innocent.  And that is what he started to do once again.  Well done, your Excellency.

I have often been asked what I want out of all this.  I have long ago given up on the Diocese telling the truth.  But right now, on the top of my list is my demands is for the tenth and current Bishop of Scranton, Joseph Charles Bambera, to submit his resignation to the Vatican and step down immediately.

I have more demands. But for now, Bambera, the man who should have done the right thing and kept Gibson from having access to children, has to go.

What has changed in ten years?  Absolutely nothing.

The University of Scranton Takes Action

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

Dear Members of the University Community,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.

President

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

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

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

Michael Baumann, ’82

 

 

 

Another Report Coming on Roman Collar Crime in Pennsylvania

Penn Live is reporting that another Grand Jury is about to release a damning report on the Catholic Church’s dirty little secrets regarding the rape and sexual assaults on children and vulnerable adults.  Will this make the people of Pennsylvania stand up and say it is time to confront this issue and the organization that has been providing cover for the criminal acts of priests?   I don’t think it will matter.

You can read the article at PENN LIVE!

If the boys in black at the Chancery Building in Scranton aren’t sweating, they should be.Scranton Chancery

If something is not done, I won’t be surprised if people start taking matters into their own hands.

I would like to know why many survivors, including myself,  who contacted the office responsible for conducting the investigation were never called in for an interview.  As I wait to read the report, I know that no matter how damning it may be, it is only the tip of the iceberg.   I also know that all the Bishop’s lawyers will do everything in their small minded power to bury all of it.

It may be time for torches and pitchforks!

The Passing of a Predator Priest

I don’t post here very often anymore. But when an email arrived in the early morning hours this past Friday with a link to a story on PennLive.com about the death of a prolific Archdiocese of Philadelphia pedophile I felt the need to pass the information along.

brzyskiJames Brzyski, alleged to have had more than 100 victims while a priest in the Archdiocese during the 1970s and 1980s died in Texas a few days ago.   The Archdiocese sent him to “treatment” (read that as hidden from civil authorities by the Archdiocese) after being credibly accused of sexual assault.  He walked out of treatment and left the ministry.  The Archdiocese only told parishioners that he departed for “medical reasons.” Like most predator priests in Pennsylvania, he was neither charged or prosecuted for his sex crimes against children because of the statutes of limitation.

Brzyski was living in the Dallas, Texas area when an investigative reporting team from The Philadelphia Inquirer found him. He declined a request to be interviewed.  Within a month of being discovered, he was found dead at the Super 7 Motel in Fort Worth.  You can read the article from the Inquirer here.

I want to send my condolences to his victims.  The truth and extent of his crimes may have died with him.   I know from personal experience that the death of the priest who raped children brings a broad range of emotions for a survivor.  There is relief that the monster is dead. There is also anger that he made it out of this life without having to answer for his sins,  face his victims or pay for his crimes.  What may be potentially worse for survivors is the knowledge that the Archdiocese is breathing a sigh of relief that another of the pack of wolves they have protected and supported for years is no longer causing a scandal for the church.

When  Robert Gibson died in 2012,  I was numb, confused and angry.  Not so much at him, but at the Diocese of Scranton for choosing to shield him, deny the truth and not make the simple decision to protect children.

The death of James Brzyski tears the scab off the wound for all his victims and their families.  His death does not make the pain any better, it just makes it different. If you were one of his victims, reach out.  Don’t shoulder this burden alone.  What he did to you was not your fault.

I do not believe in heaven or hell. I don’t have the option of wishing he would burn in hell along with the rest of the Roman collar criminals.  I would like to see the wrath of the survivor community come down on those in the hierarchy of the church that protected monsters like James Brzyski.  I really don’t care if that justice is awarded in a courtroom or on the streets.

Link to the section on James Brzyski in the Grand Jury Report on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Dallas News Report on Brzyski’s death

 

 

 

Dialed the number. Now I wait…

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

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

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

Dial the number…

I have a healthy skepticism when it comes to anyone actually prosecuting the institutions that have made it a business practice to support and protect pedophiles that groom, sexually abuse and rape children within that institution.  There is a risk calculation, no doubt, that guides these institutions to deny claims of abuse, attempt to discredit victims and protect the predators.

In the post prior to this one, I put out information released by the Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse (FACSA). They are looking for victims of sexual abuse to dial in, regardless of how long ago the abuse took place.  It is imperative that we document the files on the institutions that protected predators and turned a deaf ear on victims.

The Attorney General’s office in Harrisburg has a Sexual Abuse Hotline, 1-888-538-8541. I called the number on Monday morning. I had a recording tell me that the line was not in service.  I tried later in the morning and was surprised to have a live person answer the phone and take my information.  She told me the name of the investigator looking into the Diocese of Scranton and said she would pass my information along.  I will wait and see if anyone contacts me.  If they do I will let you know.  I do not expect much, but I would like to document the file against the Diocese of Scranton.

If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a child (under the age of 18) within the state of Pennsylvania, you should call the hotline and make a report.  The person answering the phone will give you the name of the investigator for the Diocese(s) that are applicable to your particular circumstances.

PA-diocese-map

Within the Dioceses in Pennsylvania there have been at least 292 credibly accused priests. That, to me, seems to be a low number.  In my case, the Diocese of Scranton admits to only (!) four victims of my predator. I know that number is low.  Ridiculously, insultingly low.  These predators were prolific.

If you have a story to tell, now is the time to do so.  Please call the number,  1-888-538-8541 and be heard.

I guess we shall see where, if anywhere, this will lead.

***Disclaimer: the misspelling of “Alltona” on the map was embedded in the .gif file I pulled from the Diocese of Harrisburg’s website.