Actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica II

I have completed my defection request correspondence and mailed it off to the Diocese of Brooklyn on my way into the office this morning.  I suspect it will hit Prospect Park West sometime on Monday or Tuesday.  I was sure to include a copy of my baptismal certificate to help the research process along, you know how these bureaucracies can grind on when all the source documentation is not readily available. 

I also provided a courtesy copy of  my defection request to the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the Diocese of Scranton.  On the outside chance the Diocese of Brooklyn may have some questions I don’t want the folks on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton to be surprised when an inquiry comes in about Father Gibson and his taste for sexually assaulting little boys. 

I am giving it a couple of weeks for an initial response.  If I hear nothing, I will resubmit via registered mail. 

The clock is running.

My next letter writing campaign will be to the US Attorney for Pennsylvania requesting an investigation into the long-term criminal conspiracy to cover up sexual crimes and obstruct justice by the Diocese of Scranton and the Bishops that have guided that curia.

Jesus is Alive, Well and Living in a Pizza Bucket in Scranton

Is this really Jesus?
Another visit to the You Gotta Be Kidding Me File…  On a snowy day in Scranton, one of the headlines in the Scranton Times-Tribune website reads “Pizzeria worker sees Jesus in sauce bucket on first Friday of Lent”.

Only a few days after the announcement that Monsignor Bambera will take over as Bishop of Scranton, a sighting of the son of God has been made in a bucket of pizza sauce. Really, I can’t make this stuff up. If the above link does not work, read on! I have pasted the text of the article by JEREMY G. BURTON, a staff writer at the paper.  Enjoy!

When Mary Louise Salerno saw Jesus Christ in a bucket of pizza sauce, her instinct was not to alert the media or even to tell many friends.

She did not want people descending on her family’s West Scranton pizzeria, and she did not want to invite critics or doubters of what she felt was a clear sign.

“To us, it was something special,” Ms. Salerno, 65, of Old Forge said. “God smiled on us that day.”

The image of Jesus has a history of unexpected appearances, from rocks and windows to medical X-rays and a tortilla. Add to that a sauce bucket at Brownie’s Famous Pizzeria, a long-standing eatery on Luzerne Street. It happened on the first Friday of Lent.

Ms. Salerno was at Brownie’s and talking with her granddaughter, 23-year-old Jackie Krouchick, while she made a pizza. Her granddaughter is a single mother who she said is struggling through tough times. Ms. Krouchick told her grandmother she worried she was losing her faith.

As Ms. Salerno poured tomato sauce from a white plastic bucket, she urged her granddaughter to keep believing. That is when she saw it, the image of a man with long hair and a beard in the leftover sauce.

Bill Salerno, the owner of Brownie’s and brother of Ms. Salerno, said he was skeptical until he saw it for himself. Maryann Marsico, who works at Brownie’s, said even an atheist would find it unmistakable.

“My 2-year-old grandson knows who it was. … He just looked at it and said, ‘That’s Papa Jesus,’ ” Ms. Marsico said.

It was not lost on Ms. Marsico that Jesus appeared at Brownie’s at the start of Lent, a holy Christian time that also happens to spur pizza sales because observers are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays.

“I will never cheat and eat meat again,” she said.

The bucket was placed in a cooler for a while, and a family friend insisted on taking a video of the image, which was posted on YouTube. On Wednesday, though, Brownie’s washed the bucket out with Ms. Salerno’s permission.

The message had been delivered, she said, and she did not want the image of her Lord “just sitting there in a pizza place.”

Mr. Salerno, 55 and also from Old Forge, said he is not a churchgoing man but he is religious, and seeing Jesus on that pizza sauce bucket was all the proof he needs.

“Jesus is everywhere, even in a little pizzeria in West Side,” he said.

I examined the picture very carefully and I think it is Janis Joplin. What do you think?

What’s the SNAP Game Plan for the New Bishop of Scranton?

Yesterday, the Vatican announced the appointment of Monsignor Joseph Bambera as the 10th Bishop of Scranton.  I jumped right on this, I am a blogger, that is what I do.  Other people jumped on it as well.  SNAP  issued a few statements yesterday.  One of them was on Bishop-elect Bambera of Scranton.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a SNAP point of contact for the southeastern area of the Commonwealth of Virginia. (I wonder if I will continue to be a POC after I publish this post.)

David Clohessy, the National Director of SNAP, issued a statement condemning the appointment of Monsignor Bambera.   The text of that press release reads:

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sex abuse victims blast new Catholic bishop

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)

Bambera is a poor choice and his promotion worries and insults us. Under oath, Bambera admitted that barely a decade ago, he refused to report a credibly accused predator priest to police, in violation of his diocese’s own child sex abuse policy.

He also admitted relying on the word of an accused priest without even questioning that cleric’s alleged victim.

This decision raises a troubling question: Is it that hard for the Vatican to find good, smart priests who have not concealed horrific crimes against kids?

As long as Catholic officials continue to promote corrupt colleagues, child sex crimes and cover ups will continue happening.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

There are some really good points here, I will be the first to stand up and say that some of the things Mr. Clohessy said are dead on. My concern is that Mr. Clohessy is burning bridges ahead of himself. Has he advanced SNAP’s cause by immediately identifying Bishop-elect Bambera as the enemy? Has SNAP even approached the Diocese of Scranton to set up a meeting with the newly appointed bishop to talk about our concerns and to seek redress for grievances? Has the new Bishop declined a meeting with survivors?

As someone who was raped by a priest in the Diocese of Scranton as a child, I have a desire to seek out effective ways to deal with the problems that still exist in the Catholic Church. I have been very frustrated by the staff of the Chancery and Bishop Martino, “The Bully of Wyoming Avenue” was no friend to survivors. I have questions that I want to have answered. I would like to know why the Diocese did not do an investigation into my “credible allegations”? If they did an investigation, they neglected to talk to me. Why wasn’t Father Gibson reported to the Vatican for canonical action? Why wasn’t he defrocked? Why weren’t the parishes he was assigned to over the years notified? Why wasn’t there an effort to identify more victims? What is the Diocese doing for survivors?

Bishop-elect Bambera has some baggage, I will stipulate to that. He had a hand in sending Robert Gibson out of the jurisdiction that could have prosecuted him.

We can’t change what has happened, we can only try to chart a better course for the future. Why don’t we try to sit down with the new bishop and have a conversation. If he is willing to work with us, why don’t we offer him the courtesy of working with him. If he shuts us down or sends Bill Genello out to talk to us as a proxy we will know where he stands.

If we change the tone of the introduction, perhaps we will be able to actually have a conversation. David may have set a tone with the new Bishop that makes it impossible, at least for now, to have a discussion.

If the purpose of leadership of SNAP is focusing solely on crying foul every time a new Bishop is appointed, we have no chance of engaging this church to make changes and seek justice. If our organization (and yes I claim part ownership of SNAP as a member, a contributor, a representative and a survivor) is going to declare the entire Catholic Church as the enemy and focus our efforts on legislation that will allow us to extract our pound of flesh from the individual diocese, lets announce that and move out to attain that goal. What I do not want to see is SNAP becoming the new PETA. That organization started out with honorable goals but has become the bad punchline of a worse joke.

SNAP has done a lot of good things for people in their 21+ years of advocating for survivors and their families. They have helped me, personally, in many ways. Maybe it is time to relook at the organizations goals, methods and activities to see if we are still on course. If not, let’s make a change. Why don’t we have a conversation?

Vatican Appoints New Bishop of Scranton

By Michael Baumann

The Vatican appointed Monsignor Joseph Bambera as the 10th Bishop of Scranton. Bishop-elect Bambera is a native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania and is only the second local priest to be appointed to lead the Scranton See.  He has been running the day-to-day business of the Diocese since the premature retirement of Bishop Joseph Martino in August 2009.  With a vacancy in the Bishop’s chair, Cardinal Rigali of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese.

Bishop-elect Bambera will be ordained and installed as Bishop during a mass at Saint Peters Cathedral in Scranton on April 26th.  At that time he will take over a Diocese that has reeled under the ineffective leadership of his two predecessors.  Bishop Martino retired well before the tradition retirement age for Bishops amid several controversies over the closing of churches and schools in the diocese, heavy-handed political threats, intolerance and interference with Catholic Universities in his See and the perception among his critics that he employed bullying tactics to force compliance while avoiding contact with his flock.  Bishop James Timlin was active in the cover-up of sexual crimes committed by more than 24 priests in the Diocese of Scranton over the years.

Bishop-elect Bambera will take over a Diocese struggling to balance the rich traditions of ethnic parishes and schools with the requirement to be fiscally responsible.  He will be dealing with skeptical and often hostile members of his church who are puzzled at the actions, inactions and decisions of his immediate predecessor, Bishop Martino.  Bishop Martino may go down in the history of the Diocese of Scranton as “The Great Divider”.

If I may be so bold as to offer the Bishop-elect a piece of advise…  Get out and talk to your flock, listen to what they have to say about issues that are affecting their lives.  Even if decisions have to be made at the Diocesan level that will be unpopular and will impact the structure of parishes and the assignment of resources (money, priest assignments, facility maintenance) go out and explain why you came to the decision you have made.

One of the things I was impressed with about Bishop-elect Bambera was that his goal after being assigned to run the Diocese temporarily, was to return to his parish.  There were no reports that he aspired to the seat of this See.  I hope this is indicative of his sense of service, his attachment to his parishioners and his compassion.

Perhaps this man will be the Bishop of Scranton who will reach out, in a meaningful way, to the community of survivors of sexual crimes by clergy in this Diocese over the years.  I would offer that Bishop-elect Bambera should meet with survivors at a location such as the University of Scranton to discuss the abuses of the past (both by the priests who committed sexual assaults on children and vulnerable adults and the Bishops and other church officials who protected those criminals at the expense of the victims).

I would like to meet with this man to discuss the topic of  sexual crimes committed by priests in his Diocese.  I would like him to hear from as many of us as possible  and hope that he would be open to listening and shaping real course for change.  (Joan Holmes, Bill Genello, and/or James Early, if you are reading this, it may be a good time to tell the new boss that survivors would like to speak to him).  I will happily make the trip north to meet with Bishop-elect Bambera.

The door is open, maybe now would be a good time to talk.

Note:  If you are a survivor of abuse at the hands of a Diocese of Scranton priest or other religious and would be interested in meeting with the Bishop-elect, contact me and I will try to arrange a meeting at an appropriate and safe location.