Many changes…

This is a blogospheric (a new word is born) place holder. 

The last few months have seen many changes in almost every aspect of my life.  I will probably get to most of them in the coming weeks.  I have some things to say, some things to think on and some goals to accomplish and I will use this blog to help me sort it out. 

For some reason, even though I have not posted regularly in the past few months, the number of readers coming to the blog has not really fallen off.  I don’t really understand that, but that will probably sort itself out. 

I am going to start taking a separate tact here for a while.  It will focus on surviving and not being a victim.  I will be working on things to help me put baggage down and move on.  I am widening the aperture to get a bigger perspective.  No longer will I be throwing “blog rocks” at stained glass windows. although I will be happy to point out the folly and failure of the Catholic’s hierarchy. 

There is a fork in the road and I am taking it (Yogi Berra will forgive me).

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.

The emails have not stopped

I have been trying to sort out so many things in my brain over the last two months.  Writing posts did not make the top of the list.

I have a list of topics for posts that need some attention.   There was a great post on Tim Fischer’s blog “Altered Boy” that talked about the holidays.  I wanted to riff off of that and add my own personal talent at torpedoing the holiday season.  Never got to it.

The news never stops coming of priests committing sexual crimes and dioceses spending more time pointing out that they are unjustly spotlighted when there are other cases of abuse in other religions.  Deflection, right out of the Vatican playbook.  I wanted to comment on that.   Never got to it.

Legislation is pending in Virginia to extend the statute of limitations on sexual crimes. I let myself down on that one. I will get to it, and soon.

The emails don’t stop coming.  That is not a bad thing.  It can be stressful and heartbreaking when you read the email from a survivor who has sent me his or her story.  A story not shared with a spouse, family or a close friend.  It is shared with me by someone who I have never met, but with whom I am permanently connected.  In some cases, the great terrible secret remains only now I am a party to it.  Some of them are Robert Gibson’s victims.  (Note to the Diocese of Scranton, While you claim that he has had 4 victims, I have spoken to many more than that.) The most recent was an altar boy who Gibson groomed at the parish that proved to be his last. He used the same games, the same manipulations he used on countless others.

On the plane from San Diego to Atlanta the other day, I received an email from a Notre Dame classmate who stumbled on this blog. There was an offer of support (gratefully accepted) and a mention that, as an adult, there were questions about odd behavior on the part of Gibson. That so many people consistently tell me that they thought he was odd is very telling.

I have a lot to catch up on. Many topics need to be addressed, and more questions need to be asked. I will try to be more consistent in my postings. In the meantime, I still want to hear from survivors and people who are willing to stand up to protect children, even when the Catholic Church seems to be incapable of doing the right thing. The crisis continues, whose side are you on?

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.

Contact Policy and Information

I spoke recently with someone who contacted me through the kind offices of another blogger.  The person wishing to speak to me was concerned about sending a comment to this blog and having it automatically post on the internet with their personal information available to anyone who may be reading the blog.  It took some effort for him to get me the message that he wished to speak to me privately.  After talking to him on the phone, I understand and will respect his request for confidentiality.

I want to let readers of this blog know that I review all comments that come to this blog before they are posted on line.  I have to approve the comment before it goes up on the blog and I have the ability to edit the comment to remove personally identifying information. If a reader sends me a comment that they do not want posted on the blog, I do not post it.  I have been contacted by several people looking for information on how to report a pedophile.  I have spoken to people who are not ready to come forward.  I try to provide support and put them in contact with someone that can assist them with whatever issue they are dealing with.  I recommend contacting your local SNAP chapter, the District Attorney or police for assistance.  I do not recommend contacting the diocese (any diocese), despite their protestations to the contrary, they have no vested interest in assisting victims.

Please be assured that I will not reveal any information that a reader wishes to keep confidential.  I strongly believe that I should never compound the harm on a victim of a sexual crime or their families.  If you wish to contact me you may leave a comment on any post to this blog or send me an email at mbbaumannblog@gmail.com. I will respond to you directly.

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.