Father Pilarz recommends that anyone who has been victimized by a Jesuit “contact the Victim Advocacy Coordinator at 443-370-6357 or at MARadvocacy@jesuits.org, and appropriate law-enforcement and child-protective agencies.”
I strongly recommend you forego notifying the “Victim Advocacy Coordinator.” They are not there to help victims, they are there to identify threats to the order. “Victim Advocacy Coordinator helped me get the help and support I needed,” said no victim of sexual crimes by Catholic priests ever! The VAC is there to start the initial risk assessment to the church, or religious order, and to begin the process of isolating and intimidating victims, their families and anyone that supports them. You can call me paranoid, but this has been my personal experience, and other survivors have told me the same story over and over again.
If you have been victimized by a Jesuit, call law enforcement, contact the district attorney’s office in the jurisdiction where the crimes took place. <<<<<Contact the PA Attorney General’s Hotline.
I have no reason, at this point, to believe that Father Pilarz is not sincere. After ten years of writing on this blog, I will tell you that the fastest way to come to a dead stop is to trust the church to do the right thing. (The truth is harsh at times.)
Report to civil authorities and find competent legal counsel who will look after you and your interests. The Catholic Church, its orders and its institutions, will undoubtedly be looking out for their own interests.
One final note on today’s blog. In good faith (there is that word again), I composed a letter to the President of the University of Scranton in November concerning his Task Force on Healing Reconciliation and Hope. I sent copies to the two University Professors who co-chair this Task Force. To date, I have not heard a word from either the President of the University or the Task Force acknowledging my correspondence. In his defense, Father Pilarz did have quite a few Alumni Christmas Events to attend all over the mid-Atlantic this holiday season.
In a move that took me by surprise back in August, the incoming President of The University of Scranton, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., directed that the names of bishops of the Diocese of Scranton involved in the Sexual Abuse Crisis would be removed from campus buildings and honorary degrees awarded to those individuals rescinded. This action was taken after the release of the Pennsylvania Diocese Victims Report detailing sexual crimes by clergy in six of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic Dioceses.
On October 11, 2018, Father Pilarz released an announcement on the establishment of the Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation, and Hope. In his message, he and the Board of Trustees “commit endowed funds to support efforts to 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.” He charged the Task Force to “help us harness the full range of resources that The University of Scranton, as a Catholic and Jesuit university can offer the church in this painful but pivotal moment. Their work will imagine and plan how we can respond, in ways both simple and sophisticated, to the needs of God’s people.”
I applaud any action taken to uncover the truth and to expose the complicity of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in protecting predator priests who have been committing sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults for decades. But, I am suspicious of any action taken by a Catholic organization to address this issue. The wording of the announcement is benign on its surface. After reading it a few times, I was struck by what it does not address. I do not see a clear identification of who is to be “healed, reconciled and granted hope.” He speaks about the church and University community but nowhere in the announcement is a recognition of survivors. The words “victim” and “survivor” are conspicuously absent from the text. Is it the President’s intent to exclude the victims of this scandal?
Earlier this week I wrote to the Father Pilarz to express my concerns and offered a few recommendations. I have done this in good faith with the hope that my Alma Mater is true to it’s Jesuit Tradition.
I have given the U.S. Postal Service enough time to deliver my letter to the University of Scranton. I now share the text of that missive with you.
Dear Father Pilarz,
I am writing to you as both a survivor of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton and a member of the University of Scranton Community. I graduated from the University in 1982 with a B.A. in History.
In response to the findings of the Attorney General’s Grand Jury Report, you took action to rename University buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the bishops who had a hand in the cover-up of sexual crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults. I applauded your initial steps in addressing this crisis. Now I want you to make an impact beyond the campus of the University.
Your announcement of the establishment of Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation, and Hope in October may be a step in the right direction. However, I have concerns that I hope you will take to heart.
Your task force needs to include survivors. Survivors and the families of victims who are no longer with us need a voice at your table. The Task Force will need to do more than politely listen to the stories and understand the impact on everyone involved. When we speak, it will be emotional perhaps even loud. Sorrow, anger, shame, and embarrassment will break voices and bring tears to eyes. It may be messy and difficult to bear. You will need to listen to these stories to be credible in your labors. Without that input, you cannot possibly understand the depth of the damage to innocence, safety, security, personal relationships, trust, and faith inflicted on children because of these sexual batteries. Simply put, you should not have this discussion without us.
I would like to see the University endow studies that address key issues in this crisis. I have tried to understand why the abuse happened and why the hierarchy of the Catholic Church covered it up. I have struggled, personally, with the effects of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my eighth-grade religion teacher, a diocesan priest. I stayed silent for more than 33 years. In the eleven years since my initial report to the Diocese of Scranton and the ten years since I publicly revealed the abuse, I have spent hundreds of hours reflecting on areas that deserve investigation and scholarly study. Here are some recommendations:
A study of the factors that lead predators to select particular victims. My discussions with other survivors led me to theories on why we became targets. Most victims were from devout families who revered priests as God’s representative on earth. Obedience, without question, of the orders given by priests and other religious was drilled into our heads from a young age. Predators use this to their advantage. They seek out children in dysfunctional families (domestic violence, addiction issues, alcoholism) or tragic circumstances (death of a parent or sibling, catastrophic illness or injury in the family). I have a friend whose grooming began when he was 12 years old at his father’s wake. A study in this area will allow for the identification of at-risk children and inform teachers, adult leaders and family members of potential vulnerability harm.
A study on the psychopathology of pedophilia and why the Catholic Church has such a long, tragic history of this mental disorder within the ranks of its clergy. A review of the screening processing for seminaries, for both staff and students, may reveal how potential predators make it through the process undetected.
A study on the long-term impacts of the sexual batteries on survivors and their families to include the actions of the Church to marginalize and isolate victims and their families. Denials, strong-arm tactics and attacks on survivors to silence or blame them for the abuse further compounds the damaged already experienced.
In the wake of the abuse I suffered in 1974, I found a place to start over when I arrived at the University of Scranton over Labor Day weekend in 1978. I began to work out who I was and push out of my very narrow comfort zone. I enjoyed my classes, I made friends, and I was involved in campus life. I was a student manager for Campus Bowl, and I was selected to be in the Chorus during for Fall Review in 1980 and 1981. I was a student Co-Director for Orientation ’81 working with Professor Cannon and the staff of the Counseling Center out of an office on the third floor of St. Thomas Hall. I have very good memories of my time at the “U.” During my Junior year, the priest who raped me when I was 13 years old came into the restaurant in Scranton where I worked as a waiter. That chance meeting shook me so badly that I stopped going to class and missed some of my campus commitments. I was considering suicide. A Jesuit, Edward Gannon S.J., summoned me to his office in Memorial Library to sort out what was happening to me. I did not go willingly. In what turned into a marathon “confession” I told him the story of my abuse. I spared him no detail. On that cold winter night, he declared me blameless and offered the only sincere apology I have ever received for the abuse I suffered as a child. His intervention saved my life that night. Because the conversation was within the context of a confession, I held him to his vow of silence on the matter. In hindsight, I wish I had let him take action.
I am not a social justice warrior. I do not welcome or seek attention’s center. I know I am a small voice on the coast, screaming at the vastness of the ocean. There is a point where if you don’t stand up for something, you stand for nothing. I came forward out of guilt for those that came after me, shame for keeping my secret, anger for the dismissal of accusations deemed credible by the chancery. I am horrified that Catholics seem willing to sacrifice children and reward a hierarchy that is misguidedly abusing their authority to maintain the illusion that their house of worship, their sacraments, and their faith are in order.
I want to believe that the University of Scranton is still a place where people don’t shrink from controversial or uncomfortable topics. I want to know it is a place where people can stand up and do the right thing even when it is unpopular or challenges the local bishop. I need to know that it is still the place where faculty and staff care about their students and the greater university community. I want to believe in the University that gave me, and generations of students, Father Gannon. I know that the Task Force cannot solve all of the issues in this great crisis. I think that it may be able to take a step in the direction of finding answers and making meaningful recommendations.
As for me, I realize that sometimes justice offered is not always the justice for which we had hoped. I, as a survivor, will seek the wisdom to know when that justice is enough.
Michael B. Baumann
Any hope I may have that the Task Force will do more than to look inward to “heal” the church is very guarded. I still consider myself a member of the University of Scranton Community even though I know I am no longer welcome in the Catholic Church. The findings and recommendations of the Task Force will reveal the true nature and depth of the University’s good faith and resolve.
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.