I put a blog post on January 16 entitled 99,601.  I thought it was pretty innocuous, more of a “I’m still out here” piece than anything else.   It drew a vitriolic response from one reader who decided that it was more of an exercise in narcissism and that I should be taking a more vocal stand against the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).  To be honest, this is my blog and I am going to write as often as I am moved to on topics of my choosing.  If you don’t like it I would like to direct you the freshly pressed section of WordPress.  There is some really neat stuff there.

If you have read this blog for any length of time you will know that I do not have a lot of love for the National Director of SNAP.   I have voiced my opinion on SNAP and the way the national board conducts business.  I wrote a blog post entitle Parting Company with SNAP that spun up a lot of comments and heated discussion, some of it too nasty to approve on both sides of the discussion.   Do I really want to rehash that?  Not so much!   I don’t think, as a blogger, I need to announce annually  that I am not a fan of the national leadership of SNAP.  I still hold out hope that at some point the Survivor community finds a network where we all get an opportunity to work together collectively to advance a legislative agenda that will lengthen statutes of limitation

Instead of pointing out, again, that I think SNAP is a self licking ice cream cone, I choose to spend my time and some of my money supporting organizations like the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and Justice4PAKids and their efforts to change laws and do real and tangible good.  They are making a difference.  SNAP is more focused on having 2 conferences this year, one here in the States and the other in Ireland.   I guess the National director is working on improving his standing in the airline rewards program of his choice.

At this point I would add that I am very impressed by some of the state SNAP coordinators.  Becky Ianni in Virginia is the real deal.  I have only met her twice, but she is a force for good in the northern Virginia and Washington DC region.  I would gladly support any effort she led.   Karen Polesir has helped me on occasion and is active in a coalition of groups working to get SOL and window legislation through the State Assembly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I support people like Kay Ebeling who has been reporting (not blogging, reporting) on the sexual abuse crisis for years and has gotten little support from   the survivor community.  She has been inspiring and I consider her a friend.  Funny, the vocal ones have the church, its apologist and many survivors attacking them.   I guess that is the point I am circling here.   Even in the survivor community there is a chasm between elements.  Being a good, compliant survivor or victim makes you a darling to some of the national groups.  Dare to criticize them and see how quickly you are on the outs.  Lessons learned from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church I guess.

For now I look at the future.  I think that change will come but it will not be led by a national organization.  We don’t have an effective one.  It will be led by regional groups, some affiliated with larger organizations, some will be independent.  Fools will rush in and out.   We all need to stay the course.   We really will not get anywhere if we are sniping at each other.

And the stuggle goes on…

For Kay, who has fought the fight, done the work and deserves more, from all of us.

So much for powering down this blog.  Tonight I get on my soap box that I have piled on top a lot of other soap boxes.   I want to make sure you hear me.  Listening?  Good, here goes… (Don’t take your eyes or ears off me people, this is important!)

One of the first blogs I plugged into when I was searching on-line for some courage to expose and hopefully drop my Father Gibson baggage was originating out of California.  Kay Ebeling was doing something incredible.  She was throwing down on the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis as a blogger and a journalist.  On a shoestring she was producing City of Angels. She was reporting from the court-house in LA and traveling on donations and subsidizing her great opus at great  expense (financial and personal). Unlike many of the blogs on the subject of the Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal, she wasn’t just writing from the comfort of her home, she was going into the field and diving into the stacks at courthouses to provide transcripts and first hand accounts of court proceedings. She has been taking unpopular stances and writing articles on the condition of survivors. Whether you like her or don’t care for her you have to give her the respect earned by someone who has stood tall and spoken her mind. She has told stories that would otherwise have been lost and she keeps on fighting everyday.

After an emotionally draining episode with the Catholic Church in Chicago recently, she decided to take a little down time and reassess her situation. She  pulled down some posts on her blog on the advise of her attorney.  She is looking out for herself and taking stock of where she wants to go from here. Even though she explained all of this in her current blog , she has taken a lot of flak from our own community. Really people?! You think that giving this woman grief about taking a break and accusing her of selling out to the church is the way to treat a survivor who has shown a lot of courage in this fight? Seriously?

I know she is controversial, I know she rubs some of the survivor community the wrong way.  SO WHAT? Many people out there do not support Kay even though she is one of us. Many of those same people would like her to close down City of Angels and go away. If you are one of those people then you have sided with the Bishops and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church who have gone to great lengths to shut us all down. You are buying into the tactics of the people who support pedophiles and continue to turn a blind eye towards those who have been targeted, abused, raped, marginalized, isolated and intimidated. If you are personally attacking her or  calling her a sellout, you are on the side of the protectors of the monsters that stole our innocence, our sense safety, our sense of self and our faith. Are you enjoying the company? How does it feel to play for that team?

Kay is a warrior in this community. You cannot deny that, even if you don’t like the way she does her work. Unfortunately, there are not many out there who have done anything near what she has accomplished. There are a lot of people taking shots from the relative comfort and safety of their computers. Many of these people are happy to arm-chair quarterback her every move. My question to those people is this: How is the view from the bench? You are not in the game, yet you feel like you can criticize those that are?

We are never going to be in agreement on all things as a community, we are going to struggle with how to do things and how to shape a message. Some will go their own way and others will stay quietly in the shadows. Some will join with SNAP  or FACSA or some other group and work through that organization, others will chart their own courses. Kay has helped pave the road for many survivors, we owe her respect for that.

If you have some shots to take at Kay, send them my way. If you think you are superior to her, think again.

At some point this community forgot that we have a common bond. We have a common adversary that will go to any extreme to divide us and they are loving the infighting.  Lets keep the convesation on the issues we face and leave the personal stuff on the sidelines where it belongs.  Be critical of her ideas if you don’t agree with them,but keep the personal venom out of it.

Whatever your opinion, whatever your thoughts, be clear on a few things. This community needs Kay and City of Angels. We need every voice that is speaking out.  We don’t have the luxury of numbers at this point.  We need people willing to expose the truth, even if the survivor community is required to look inward when that truth is exposed. We need Kay as much as we need everyone else in this struggle. We need to support our warriors.

Keep the discourse civil, keep the personal attacks to yourself. When did respect go out of the survivor calculus? Where is the leadership in this community?

Kay, when you are ready to come back, many of us will be here to support you.

Australian Nun to be Patron Saint of Sexually Abused Children

I did a post in April 2009 on determining who an appropriate patron saint for the victims of pedophile priests.  The post entitled “Patron Saint Nomination for Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests “ was meant to be a tongue in cheek stab at the ridiculousness of the Vatican and their inability to actually deal with the continuing child sexual abuse crisis within the church.

Just this week I was reading an article on Key Ebeling’s City of Angels blog about a canonization going on in Australia this weekend ( October 17, 2010)

Little did I know that the boys in Rome were, indeed, working on coming up with a patron saint for victims.  An appropriate use of their time considering the inability of the Catholic hierarchy to actually deal with the real problem of real priests, nuns and Catholic lay leaders who have committed sexual crimes against the most vulnerable of god’s children.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Blessed Mary MacKillop.  An Australian nun of Scottish descent who founded an order of Catholic nuns in Australia.  She and a number of other nuns were excommunicated by a Catholic Bishop with a really bad attitude after one of the nuns (not Mary herself) uncovered and reported a pedophile priest.  The exposure embarrassed the diocese.  (Hmmmm, why does this story sound familiar?) On his deathbed, the bishop vacated the excommunication.

Sister Mary went on to live a holy life of service.  All of which is very well and good.

Here is my problem with all of this.  If the boys in the Vatican had time to do all this work on Sister Mary and commend her and her merry band of sisters for exposing pedophile priest over 100 years ago, why haven’t they taken a moment to deal with the ongoing crisis of sexual crime in the Catholic church?  Why are they not investigating credible allegations of abuse and taking decisive action to identify and remove from ministry the predators in the church?  Why are they not turning these monsters over to civil authority for prosecution? Why are they not assisting survivors and their families deal with the damage caused by these monsters?  Why is this still a problem hundreds of years after the Vatican identified the problems of priests who get a thrill from little boys or little girls?

The church solution is to give the survivor community a patron saint to whom we may pray to intercede for us with god.  SWEET!  Pope Benedict and the boys are making a dead Australian nun into god’s answering machine for victims of sexual abuse by priests and other Catholic religious.  Considering the fact that our voices are falling on deaf ears with local clergy, bishops, cardinals and “Benny 16 himself”, it seems the Sister Mary (god rest her soul) is the best we have.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure Blessed Mary MacKillop was a pious, kind and virtuous woman.  I have no doubt that she is deserving of being made into a saint by the church.  My problem here is that we are here 100 plus years after this woman’s passing and the sexual crime crisis continues unabated.  If the best the Vatican can do is give us a patron saint to pray to,  it is clear that after all the documented cases of crime, cover-up, obstruction and re-victimization of survivors the Vatican remains blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of the crisis.

How about we find a deceased victim of clergy sexual abuse and beatify him or her? A reader made a comment to that effect on my April 2009 blog post on naming a patron saint.   We can attribute the successful prosecution of a pedophile priest or the release of diocesan documents as miracles because the hierarchy of the Catholic church continue to deny, obstruct, attack and abuse.   Better yet, we should all pray for excommunication, it seems to be the path to success.

Note to the Vatican: You have alienated so many survivors, many of whom no longer pray. The hotline to Sister Mary in heaven is probably not going to get the prayer volume you may desire.  How about giving us a live warm body to talk to who can possibly get something done here on this planet?

Postscript:  I am off on a two week long adventure for work.  I will check in when I can.

The tyranny of distance and the curse of the Internet

I am frustrated.  Admittedly, some of the frustration comes from a tyranny of distance.  I am in southern Virginia and the diocese that I have an issue with is 400 miles worth of driving north of here.  I would love to have a face to face conversation with the Bishop’s advocate so I could look her in the eyes and see whether she is part of the problem with the Diocese of Scranton, or part of the solution.   I want to meet with the other victims of Father Gibson and victims of other priests in the Scranton Diocese.  I’ll make the drive, but it takes planning and timing.

I am frustrated by the New York legislature, they had the opportunity to do the right thing with the Child Victims Act of New York and yet they still have not passed it.  SNAP had a presence in Albany to lobby for votes.  They asked for photos and people to come to the Capitol to put a human face on an inhuman scandal.  I would have loved to drive to Albany to take part in the event, but I again, it was just too far at a time I needed to be in the office in southern Virginia.  I don’t know how it went nor have I seen any reports or photos of the SNAP event.

I am frustrated with SNAP and the other organizations out there that are advocating for victims.   SNAP is a  national organization, but at the local level they are not always there.  If you look at their website there are  points of contact listed that are no longer active. To use a term my wife, Melissa coined, these sites are becoming “Cob-Websites”. I know that the heads of organizations like SNAP are trying to do the right thing, but I think that they are losing victims who are already hesitant to come forward, by having broken links and out of date contact information.   Nothing is more frustrating than trying to speak for the first time and finding the point of contact you are trying to call is no longer there.  That happened to me 2 years ago when I decided it was time to end my silence.  The name listed on the SNAP website for this part of Virginia was no longer acting as a SNAP contact.

I am frustrated that for many people watching from the sidelines, there is a perseption that this is a Catholic Problem.  It isn’t.  It is a Baptist problem, a Jewish problem, a Mormon problem, and a Lutheran problem.  It is a local, statewide, national and global problem.  If you don’t believe me, take a look through Kathy Shaw’s blog Abuse Tracker.

I recommend that SNAP does what it can to energizes the base .  The tools  to do just that may be right under our noses.  Computers, iPhones, cell phones, blackberries and other electronic devices can be employed to pull us together. The SNAP website offers hints on writing letters to the editor and handing out leaflets.  That is all good stuff.  But why don’t we connect all our blogs together?

A few suggestions:

For the SNAP Conference in Washington, DC over the weekend of 7-9 August why don’t we set up Twitterfalls to track what people are say and see how people are reacting to speakers and break out sessions in real time.  Why don’t we webcast key meetings or speeches to the people that want to listen but can’t make it to D.C.? (That was an idea from Kay Eberling).  Why don’t we have an interactive online community to allow for the free exchange of ideas, strategies, support and discussion?  It could be a central location for blogs, allow people who don’t want to set their own blogs to submit articles when they are ready to do so.  We have Bishop Accountability, Abuse Tracker, SNAP, FACSA and other websites, but they seem to be more for the presentation of information.  We need discourse, interaction and community. We need to work on legislation on the state and federal level.  We need to work together.

We will not succeed as a community in our search for justice and change if we are isolated from each other. So why don’t we use the computers in front of our noses to effect a change and hold the bishops accountable for their sins of ommission as well as their sins of commission.

My Twitter address is OffMyKnees.  I plan on Twittering from the Conference in Washington DC this August.  If you have a twitter account, follow me and I will follow you.  We all need to start having a discussion, if we start with 140 characters at a time, at least we are starting.

Kay Ebeling is Back on City of Angels 5: Hope 2009

Kay Ebeling was recently fired from her position at LA City Buzz Examiner for pissing off the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  Once again, a bunch of pedophile apologists/protectors were deeply wounded by a person asking hard questions.  Poor babies! Personally, I think you deserve a medal for your struggle against the idiots that continue to waste time and resources on protecting the unforgivable instead of proactively dealing with the problem of sexual misconduct and crimes in the Catholic Church.

Kay is back on her blog spot City of Angels: Hope 2009. I’ve corrected my link to her blog on the left side of this blog. Please consider giving her more than just a passing glance. Each voice is important in the fight to keep children safe from harm. Show her a little support!

Welcome back to the sometimes less than polite world of blogging, Kay! I’m hoping to get to speak to you in person in Washington this August.