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.

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 .

Reunion

ImageThe last time I had gone to a reunion, the great terrible secret was still under wraps.   I had gone with 2 purposes, one of them was to find out if Gibson was still alive and destroying lives.  The second was to try to exorcise the memories of what had happened.   I was unsuccessful.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend(2014)  I found myself pulling into East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  It has been a while.  The last time I was in the area I was meeting with the District Attorney’s office in Monroe County to go over the events that occurred in 1973-1974.  After a one night stay, I left to return to my life in Virginia.

 Now I was back.   My great terrible secret is no longer a secret.   Not long after arriving at my hotel and meeting up with a friend, I made the trip up the hill to see how the years had changed Notre Dame High School.  As it was the weekend, there was no activity on top of the hill.  Over the years I have discovered that people had nicknames for the round chapel building that looms  in front of the classroom building.  I had referred to it as “the Silo” for years.  Others have called it the “trash can” or the “pill bottle”.  The chapel contained within had been used, at least during my time at the school, for quiet  meditation, small masses, a quiet place to sneak off with a “significant” or “not so significant” other, or a place to get high.  For me it was the location of a couple of significant beatings from “Father” Robert Gibson to keep me in line.  One such beating was interrupted by Sister Beatrice, at least temporarily.  After looking around for a few minutes, I had my fill,  it was time to move on and see the rest of town.

Stroudsburg looked essentially the same.  Although the addition of a couple of hookah bars, a head shop or two and some empty store fronts were definitely not of the late 70’s, early 80’s vintage I remember.  Everything changes.  At least there is activity on Main street.  There are many small towns that can no longer boast of that.

The reunion was on Sunday at the Barley Creek Brewery in Tannersville near Camelback Mountain.   It was a perfect spot to have a gathering of about half of the class of 1978. While nervous about what kind of reaction I would get knowing that some of these people knew about what had happened, I had to walk up and see what would happen.   For the most part, the conversations that turned to the subject of Father Gibson were supportive. More than one person felt the need to tee up their own personal horror on the subject, which was fine.  I think that anyone who wanted to say something about the matter, did so.  If someone still has something to say, email me here.

A couple of the comments from people struck me.  Two different classmates wondered aloud about why the priests didn’t just have sex with each other.  Why did they go after children?  My response is that it was not about sex.  It was about power, control, dominance and ego.  Gibson took advantage of his position as a Pastor and a teacher to control his victims.  I don’t know if he was gay.  Frankly, I don’t care.   A gay priest does not necessarily equate to a pedophile predator.  No, all those years ago it was about control and terror.  It was about getting off on the knowledge that he could do what he wanted, when he wanted with the victims he groomed with little fear of consequence.  Besides, he had the Diocese of Scranton, Bishop Timlin in particular, there to cover his mess, move him to a new crop of victims and allow him to start over.  He had institutional backing.

There was no illusion of love or care.  There was only threats of retaliation and physical harm if the victim looked like they were going to tell someone about what he was doing.

I left the reunion feeling a little better.  I was not treated differently.  It was funny to me how quickly the social order reestablished itself in the group.   Even after 35+ years we fell in with those we survived high school with.  Although this time, the illusion of  the masks we hid behind in the school on the hill seemed to be a little less visible.  Will I go back to another reunion?  I am not sure.  There has been a lot of water passed under the bridges I had burned all those years ago.   I am grateful that I saw as many old friends as I did.   A note for the people who were on the same page as me in the yearbook, thanks for your support.  I had heard from all three in the years after my revelation.  You are all gentlemen and I proud to still have you as friends.  For the three women who were also very supportive over the years (all three were at dinner after the reunion), I wanted to thank you as well. You all have helped me understand that I was not at fault for what happened all those years ago.  There were some pretty amazing people in that class.

For the matriarch of “the family”, I can never hope to repay you for all you have done for me since the first day of 8th grade.   My world would have been completely and tragically different without your support, friendship and wisdom.  You had a profound influence on a lot of lives and I think it is time you understood that.  I know I am not the only one who has let you know that recently.

Here’s to the Class of 1978!

Reply to CatholicCulture.org’s Misunderstanding of Torture

This morning I read an article on-line from CatholicCulture.org on the United Nations probe into torture and the Vatican.  I find it amusing that the UN, the world’s most ineffective organization, is creating theater of the absurd with the Holy See, the world’s most recalcitrant organization.

The piece I was reading, written by Phil Lawler, wanted to express the author’s opinion that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal did not go far enough in their discussion on the legal position that the Vatican is only responsible for sexual abuse by priests that occurs within the territorial limits of Vatican City.     Mr. Lawler wanted to add a few more points on his own.  The first of which is:

“First, while sexual abuse is reprehensible, it isn’t torture, as that term is ordinarily understood. If the UN expands the definition of torture to encompass other forms of cruelty, it could erode support for the existing pact, which is based on an international accord that this one particular form of behavior—torture—should be stopped.”

How nice of him to admit that sexual abuse is “reprehensible”.  Not torture?  That is another matter altogether.  While I may not be a Harvard graduate (I only graduated from a Jesuit University), I can read a dictionary.  Depending on which dictionary you are reading, either online or a more traditional bound volume, torture is defined as “the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something”[1]; “anguish of body or mind, something that causes anguish or pain, the infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure”[2]

Mr. Lawler, I will say that you are completely wrong on the first point.  The sexual abuse I suffered at the hand of Robert Gibson was torture.  Over the nine month period when the sexual crimes were committed against me he was, in fact torturing me for his own perverted pleasure.   He was causing severe pain and violating my 13-year-old body in an effort to coerce my cooperation, my silence and to punish me for rebelling when I did so.  I can assure you, based on my first-hand experience, he derived a great deal of sadistic pleasure from the power he was exerting over me.  He employed both physical abuse and rape (as if there is a difference to anyone but the apologists for these monsters)  as well as threats and psychological tactics to keep me in line and submissive to his actions.   When I fought back, he threatened me with death until death ceased to be an issue with me.  He then resorted to threatening retaliation against my siblings if I did not comply.   Mr. Lawler, does this not fit the definition of torture as it is “ordinarily understood”?  If it does not, please enlighten me with the correct definition.

His second point:

“Critics of the Church charge that sexual abuse by priests was widespread because of Catholic teachings and Vatican policies. But the UN would be setting a bold and dangerous precedent if it claimed that religious beliefs promulgated in one place (in this case the Vatican) were the cause of criminal acts in another.”

Tell me, Mr. Lawler, if the culture of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not allow for a blind eye to be turned on the problem of priests raping children and vulnerable adults, what did?  I am waiting for the typical “we did not know it was happening, and when we found out we took action”, “it was gay priests doing these terrible things” or the ever popular “this was all a result of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s societal attitude towards exploring sexuality.”

We know that priests were moved around frequently to avoid prosecution and to keep their activities hidden from parishioners.   The lack of action, other than to conceal the predators, is widely documented.  Sorry, you will lose on that one.  The Catholic Church is amazing in its ability to conjure excuses, blame the innocent and claim aggrieved status because they are being picked on when other institutions are not held to the same standard.  None of these excuses allow the hierarchy of the church to abdicate their accountability for protecting these predators.

Gay priests are not the problem!  Let me say that again.  Gay priests are not the problem!  If they were how do you explain the girls that have been victimized over the years?  Pedophile priests are “the problem”.  They like children because they like the power of their position and they get off on the terror they inflict on the most innocent.  They like torturing them.  (There is that pesky word again) .

As for the alleged issue of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s, that argument seems to ignore the documented cases of clerical abuses for decades prior to the 1960’s.

His final point:

 “Finally, does the UN want to be in the business of deciding which religious doctrines are acceptable, and which encourage anti-social behavior? (Some people consider circumcision a cruel procedure; would the UN commission entertain a claim that it is torture?) The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups pressing the UN for action against the Vatican, argues that the Church engages in “psychological torture” by banning contraception.”

The classic deflection!  Who does the UN think it is judging the Catholic Church?  Mr. Lawler, are you reducing the rape of children and vulnerable adults to “anti-social behavior”?  Really?!  It is criminal, immoral and inhuman.   Anti-social is the least of the descriptors for the kinds of harm done to children by predator priests.  But Catholic apologists have to minimize the most heinous and point at the shortcomings of others to dismiss the torturous behavior of those priests (over 6,000 credibly accused and listed on Bishop Accountability.org).  On top of it all, let’s throw circumcision or the abortion issue on top of this to totally deflect the discussion away from the elephant in the room.  What a lame non-point to be made!  That elephant in the room is the church’s inability to deal with the problem of predator priests raping, almost at will, with the knowledge that the church will do anything to avoid scandal, even if it means that children will be victimized, repeatedly, and the predators will enjoy the protection of the bishops.

I don’t want the UN to go after the Vatican.   It is a fool’s errand.  I want to go after every bishop who turned a blind eye to the torture, rape and beating of children and vulnerable adults.  Those “men” are responsible for the culture of protection that these predators operated within.  The individual dioceses throughout the world who condoned and concealed these predators while vilifying the victims need to be held accountable.

It is not a matter of religious doctrine being acceptable or not.  It is a matter of an institution conspiring to conceal “Roman Collar Crime” in order to keep the funding stream coming in.  And it does not matter if the institution is a Catholic Diocese, a Baptist Church, a Jewish Synagogue, Penn State University, the Boy Scouts of America or any other entity.  We should, as a society, be standing up and saying the rape of children is wrong. (I know that may be a wild idea to some.) We should be saying the institutional protection of pedophiles is wrong.  We should be holding predators and their protectors responsible, criminally and civilly.

We should be in The International Court of Justice in the Hague prosecuting these people for crimes against humanity.  Bernard Law and others like him should be in a cell.   The United Nations is uniquely positioned to make noise and do absolutely nothing.   The Vatican may be embarrassed (although I do not think they understand the concepts of shame or accountability) but all they have to do is wait for the noise to stop.  The UN is only good at making noise.

Mr. Lawler, I would have responded to your article on your site but you have to be a donor to voice an opinion and that pretty much guarantees that you will hear nothing but rave reviews of your “cogent” argument.  Personally, I can’t imagine you getting it any more wrong.

Dear readers, you do not have to make a donation to make a comment to this site, unlike the rules at CatholicCulture.org. I don’t take donations, there is no place on my blog that will enable you to send me money.  I will be honest and say if you are off topic or are spouting vitriol on either side of the argument I will edit or delete.  But I will not charge you a nickel to offer your thoughts.

[1] Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torture?show=0&t=1399470363

[2] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition principal copyright 1993

Is there a Survivor’s Community?

The past year has seen some spectacular events that have given some hope to survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands pedophile predators in our society.  Indeed this crisis knows no borders and is not limited to those of a certain faith.  We have seen the conviction of a Catholic Bishop for covering up sexual crimes committed against children, the conviction and imprisonment of Jerry Sandusky for committing those crimes and a monsignor in Philadelphia for carrying out a program of protecting pedophiles at the expense of innocent children and parishioner’s money.   Large institutions still are willing to sacrifice the innocent in order to protect the privilege of the few at the top and to prevent scandal from coming to light.

For me personally, I have had to come to grips with the death of the predator who counted me as one of his many victims.  He was prolific throughout his life in targeting boys in dysfunctional family situations from alcoholism to catastrophic illness.  He hid behind his Roman Collar and he found the protection of a Diocese that was willing to move him around to different parishes and ultimately out of the diocese and the state to keep him safe from prosecution.

With the announcement that the Pope has offered his resignation, something not done in over 600 years, just as the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa” has aired on HBO (see the promo here), I wonder what the future of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church will be.   I can safely say that the entire College of Cardinals who will be voting in the next few weeks were elevated to helm of their respective curiae by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI.  In a word, they are very conservative in the mold of the men who hoped to shape their church by selecting Cardinals who shared similar conservative outlooks on the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

The one piece of the puzzle that continues to vex me is the Survivor Community.  The community that speaks for the victims.  There isn’t really a strong confederation of groups in the United States that networks survivors and promotes an agenda in the State Capitols.  There is no larger, worldwide organization that stands up for the survivors, that is a solid united front for the people who have been neglected all these years.

At this point I will say, again, that I don’t think SNAP is effective because its national leadership seems disconnected from the rest of us.   The organization is not a network, despite its name.   There is a vocal element out there that feels that the organization is an arm of the Catholic Church because of the way it is formed.  They base this claim on the letter that follows:

snap incorporating paper

Personally, I am not convinced this is a smoking gun.  I think this was more of the birth of an organization that did not know how to chart its own course at its genesis.  But I will let you come to your own conclusions.

During the last week I have been having a heated electronic correspondence with another survivor who has accused me of rolling over on the survivor community and stunting a dialogue between us.   I have been accused of many things in the past few years from all sides of this issue.  But, as much as I hate to admit it, my correspondent has got me thinking.  We talk about a survivor community as if it really exists.   We talk about networks but we are not networked as a community.

I need to know what the expectations of survivors are (I hate the word victim).  I need to hear the thoughts of others with similar experiences on what needs to be done.  I need  to know what expectations are out there.   If we are going to be a community, a network there is needs to be a common philosophical and pragmatic basis to gather the various groups into a confederation, an alliance or a coalition.

There are a lot of egos in this community.  Mine to be counted among them.  There has to be a way to come to some kind of accord in order to optimize the talents, energy and, if need be, the anger that resides within the universe of survivors and their supporters.

If no accord can be reached, is there another way to harness the energy of survivors to achieve tangible goals for our society so that we can remove the veil of protection that pedophiles in large institutions have enjoyed in the name of saving the reputation of those institutions?  I have said it before and I will continue to say that I had to keep my great terrible secret alone for all those years, my perp had help keeping his.

My questions are not rhetorical, I need to know.  I need you to tell me.  I think we all need to have the discussion in a civil manner.  But the discussion needs to be had, by the entire community, if there is really a community out  there.

I am waiting to hear from all of you.

RCC Playbook II — There is nothing we can do about it.

This is the second in a series of posts on the tactics in play from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and its apologists (the Catholic League of Extraordinary Idiots comes to mind).

There is Nothing We Can Do About It

There are  three variants on this one.  All have the same effect of the church assuming the “Heisman” position in an attempt to keep victims away.

The church is using these tactics to wash their hands of responsibility for the actions of their priests, nuns and lay people who have used their positions and stations to commit physical and sexual assaults on children and vulnerable adults.

This is the plausible deniability strategy practiced by the church in their attempt to shut down victims or organizations within the church who are looking to hold the hierarchy to account for the crimes committed, literally, in the name of God.

1. We’re sorry, but the statutes of limitations have passed.  Lawyers are quick to point this one out on behalf of the diocese.   “We would love to talk to you, ease your pain, express our deep condolences and regrets, but I see that the SOL’s for both criminal and civil actions have expired.  Here, have a mass card and a copy of our Notice Regarding Sexual Abuse of a Person Under Eighteen Years of Age by Ordained or Lay Personnel of the DiocesePlease leave through the side door and consider a donation to our annual fund drive to support our retiring vocations!”  Bottom line here is that once the statutes of limitations have run out, they have no vested interest in working with victims or their families.  There is no acknowledgment past the “credible report.”  There is no investigation, there is no review under Canon Law.  There is no consequence.  It is like it never happened.

2. The alleged crimes took place before our policy was in place.  Bummer Dude!   I hear what you are saying about Father (insert name here).   But what happened to you happened before our policy came into effect.   We can’t retroactively give a damn about your particular instance. If we did that, we would have to pretend to care about all the other victims of all the other priests we have hidden retired.  That Notice Regarding Sexual Abuse of a Person Under Eighteen Years of Age by Ordained or Lay Personnel of the Diocese information we gave you as we hustled you out a side door in number 1 (see above), sorry buddy, you predate that.   So, too bad.  Please do not disturb the senior citizens coming into the cathedral, church, or chapel who have bequests for the church written into their wills.  We would prefer that they remain oblivious to what is going on.   The bishop does need a new Chrysler, the current car is almost 3 years old (gasp).

3. He’s dead, he can’t defend himself against these charges.  Inevitably, a victim of abuse who has remained silent for decades will come forward.   Often, even if the claim is credible, parishioners and the hierarchy of the church will attack the victim for “trying to soil the good name of Father (fill in the blank).   “Why don’t you let him rest in peace!”  “You are only going after someone who cannot defend himself.”

In my case, my perp (what do I call him?)  died in May.  In June I received the first volley of the “let him rest in peace, you are trashing the reputation of a deceased man of god” email.  It starts!  Suspend the fact that he was a prolific abuser/molester/rapist.  Forget the fact the Diocese of Scranton had him locked away for a dozen years.  Forget that he was sent to “rehabilitation,” and he started grooming his next victim as soon as the backs of his handler were turned.

The variation on #3 is the “he is an addled old man suffering from (insert malady of age here)” who cannot remember what he did.”    The diocese, in my case, wanted to garner sympathy for him with me because he was suffering from dementia. Sorry, sympathy is not a commodity I offer wholesale.

The culture of this institution is such that no change is possible as long as the hierarchy is not held accountable. Either from within the church or from civil authority.  This morning, word from a courtroom in Philadelphia was that Monsignor Lynn was sentenced to 3-6 years for his crime of failing to protect a child from sexual crimes committed by a priest known to the diocese as an abuser (not the word I really want to use).   This is a start.  Justice came at a heavy price to the victims and a heavy price to the parishioners whose donations (even if they didn’t know they were footing the legal bill) funded the $11 million + defense costs.

I have been asked if I thought the sentence was reasonable and I think it was.  I have to believe in the justice system, the alternative is just not acceptable.   That said, Monsignor Lynn should pay for his complicity, but he is taking a bullet for those who wear purple or red.  I would like to see the bishops and archbishops who have been playing a shell game with pedophiles for decades to have a day in court and, if a jury convicts, sentenced accordingly.   I recommend that Bishop Timlin, late of the Diocese of Scranton be moved to the front of the list.  This country needs to send a message that Roman Collar Crime will not be tolerated in any form.

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.