A Month of Significant Events Does Not Change My Reality

It has been an interesting 31 days.  I still have not processed it all.  I don’t know how to process some of it.  I have been told to try to look at these things in the context of “the glass being half full”.  What I have found in looking through my own personal lens at all that has happened since May 25th, is that the glass is broken. 


In May, Robert Gibson, the Catholic priest who raped me while I was an 8th grade student at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, died.  True to form, I was informed of his passing by a source close to the Gibson family and not by the Diocesan official who had promised to inform me of his inevitable death. 

To be honest, I was numb.  I was neither happy nor sad that he had died, I was not angry at not having had a chance to confront him while he lived.   Many of the people who emailed me after I blogged about his passing were quick to offer their thoughts on the man who had committed criminal acts (this was not just abuse) against many, and had betrayed us all.  There was another shocking revelation about him that came with the news of his death  that should not have surprised me, but it did.  Another of his victims shared his story with me as the news of his passing got out.  I don’t feel like I should be celebrating the end of a life, no matter how malevolently lived.  In his addled later years, I am told he was a shell, a soul lost to dementia.  I don’t think I should take any solace in his condition at the conclusion of his life.  With the onset of that condition also came the death of truth for me and many others.  There was no last moment apology from a dying man, no admission to his crimes, no sense of his prolificity when it came to the number of children he raped, sodomized, tortured or beat while he was being “naughty” during the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.   There was no accounting. 

Many have told me he is going to get his in the next life.  I don’t believe there is a next life and I don’t believe in hell.  Gibson escaped this life and atonement for his crimes with the aid of the Diocese of Scranton, the Catholic Church and a network of Roman Collar Crime supporters who probably all breathed a collective sigh of relief as he breathed his last shallow, labored breath. 

While this was all going on, the jury in Philadelphia was deliberating the fate of two priests, one accused of molesting a child, the other of covering up crimes and endangering children.  As the jury deliberations dragged on, I could not help but wonder if there was a juror who could have been refusing to convict on religious grounds.  Perhaps the church had gotten to someone on the jury with threats or payments.  Based on my dealings with the church,  I saw this as very possible because I do not differentiate between organized crime and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  The jury did  convict Monsignor Lynn, finally, on only one count of endangering a child.  The jury deadlocked on the priest on trial for molesting a child. That was a start, albeit a very poor one.

Monsignor Lynn used the defense of superior orders or the “Nuremberg” defense.  It was really Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua who should have been on trial and he “conveniently” died the day after a judge ruled him competent to testify in Lynn’s trial.  With Lynn’s conviction we have a lieutenant going to prison while the generals are untouched.  While I welcome the conviction as a first step, it is by no means a leap and I do not see it as a major turning point in the struggle to force the hierarchy of the church to come clean on the conspiracy of silence and the further victimization of children and vulnerable adults.   I will feel a little better when I see someone in purple or red vestments being led away in handcuffs to serve a long-term behind bars for their crimes. 

And then there was Jerry Sandusky’s trial.  The defense here was that the victims were seeking monetary awards.  They were greedy and willing to bring this kind man down.  Sure he was a little overly affectionate, so what if he liked sharing showers with young boys.  Luckily the jury saw through that and convicted on almost all counts of the indictment.  He will appeal; we will go through all this again.  He will put the victims through the scrutiny and the attacks that should rightfully be aimed at him.  Just when you thought you heard it all, his stepson came forward and identified himself as one of the victims.  I am not surprised. 

The true test will be when the Penn State officials who covered up the reported incidents that allowed for other children to be placed in danger of rape and abuse.  When I see a Pennsylvania jury convict based on strong evidence I will start to believe that a change is coming. 

There are bills that have been stuck in the judiciary committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that are moving, at a glacial pace, towards the floor for a vote.  Held up in the Judiciary committee by the imperial chairman Ron Marsico for a long time,the bills  finally moved on to another committee because of the intense pressure of the two trials going on in the Commonwealth.  Finally, Marsico’s political peril overcame his loyalty to the Catholic Hierarchy.  If those bills pass and the governor of Pennsylvania signs them into law, I will start to believe. 

In the meantime, I watch the Catholic faithful announce that justice and honor have been satisfied.  They mimic the voices from the pulpit that claim the scandal is past and that we must look forward.   We must turn a blind eye to the past and to the victims for whom justice and honor have not been satisfied and truth has been denied.  We must look to the future and protect the mother church! (Sarcasm intended) 

This is not over.  The church’s hierarchy has not paid a vulgar price for its vulgar complicity and parishioners’ complacency.  It has not learned its lesson and the faithful have not seized power from those who have abused it for centuries.  It is business as usual.   It is all about power, prestige and keeping butts in the seats for the Sunday morning magic show and keeping the revenue stream flowing.  I have such low expectations for the Catholic Church.  I have set the bar ridiculously low for the church and marveled at how they continue to fall short. 

Nothing has changed, yet…

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.

Assuaging their own grief…

I have to admit that sometimes I get really angry over some of the comments that are sent in that, on the surface, seem to want to offer me encouragement but, in fact, are supportive of either the man who raped and beat me or others like him.   They are most likely sent by well-meaning people who are not willing to admit that their church is guilty of harboring predator priests as well as other criminal activity.  Or they are unwilling to allow that their precious “Father Bob” or “Father Gibson” was a predator who indulged his perverse fetish of raping prepubescent boys as his way to  get off.  (Excuse me for being blunt.)  (Robert Gibson’s assignments as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton are listed here.)

A case in point, I received an email from a reader in response  to a reply I left to a comment on a recent post.  The original comment was from a friend who was angry that the man who had officiated at her wedding and baptized her children was also the man who sexual preyed on her junior high school classmates (yes, that is an intentional plural).  The conflict was weighing on her. 

I was also conflicted for years because the same man who had raped and beat me numerous times was responsible for getting my father into an alcohol rehab program during my freshman year of college.    The man was a bit of a hero in my family for a long time.  I heard about it for years and I seethed at the accolades being offered for him.    He used this magnanimous act of pastoral kindness to keep me quiet, keep me in place, keep me from telling my great terrible secret.    It was quite a shock to my parents when I finally told them some of the things that happened all those years ago.  Acts of sexual predation that the Diocese of Scranton deemed credible based on other reports on the same “priest”.  Acts that I know were committed on more children than the Diocese of Scranton cares to admit.

The email I received was a little over the top.  I read it once and it bothered me so I walked away from the computer.  When I read it later I was upset.  The next day I was just angry.  I wrote several responses, deleting one after another until I was able to find a way to temper my  anger.  I am not sure that I was completely successful.

The sender of the email stated that she had gone to Missouri to see Father Gibson.  In her words (Sic):

 He was a vegetable of a man in bed. He is completely unable to speak or respond. I knew it was him because they told me that was the man in the bed; but I didn’t recognize him. He is an emaciated shell of a person. He is enduring an empty, lonely, desolation of a life.He cannot speak or comprehend. He is Completely cut off from human interaction.  It is an empty room with nothing but a bed.

Where the wheels came off for me in this email were statements like (sic):

But I knew Robert Gibson. I believe he would choose to suffer like this. I believe he was so ashamed. I believe he was pained at what he did to you.  

        When he dies. ….. And my sense it will be soon… Robert Gibson will make it a priority to help you heal. He was a monster to you. He knew that, but he was not able to control his urges. They call it pedophilia.

Did you ever have urges that you could not control?

Michael… I hope and pray (and I do still pray) that you are somehow able to find peace. If there is a God, then I know that Robert Gibson deserves to suffer for what he did to you. I knew him. He had goodness along side the horror that he showed you.

You will be free soon. Your pain is something I cannot grasp. But you will wake up one day and realize you can breathe. That means Robert Gibson has died and begged our Lord to protect you and comfort you. I hope then you will be free.

Let me answer each of these examples in turn.  I don’t believe he would choose to suffer.  He enjoyed what he did, he liked the power, he liked being dominant and he got off on it.  It sexually excited him.  Did he have regrets or did he lament his actions?  We have no way to know.   His only regret was probably that he got caught.  But even then there was no consequence of note.  The Diocese was more about preventing scandal and keeping the parishioners in the pew for the Sunday morning magic show and tithing.   They moved him to Dittmer, one step ahead of the authorities that should have prosecuted him.

He is going to make me a priority after he dies?  Interesting concept!  If you buy into the “heaven hypothesis” (thanks Maria, I really like that expression) you would think that this man would not get past St Peter.  He would probably be on the express train to hell, along with Bishop Timlin and his band of cronies who put themselves above the welfare of children in the Diocese of Scranton. 

My favorite…  “Did you ever had urges you could not control?”.   If you are insinuating that I have had urges to molest, rape or harm in any way, a child, the answer is “NO”!   I get this more often than not from the church apologists/zealots, in fact it is one of the church defenses against survivors/victims of sexual predators wearing Roman Collars.  They want us to be identified as predators.  They want us to be seen as subhuman and threatening.    Do not, even for a moment, put me in the same category as Robert Gibson, rapist of children.  

He had goodness along side of the horror that he showed you.”  Really!  At what point did the “goodness” manifest itself?  Or perhaps he did “good” things to keep up the facade of being a caring priest in order to separate his next victim from the herd.   Tell me, how do you reconcile the fact that he had all this evil along side of the goodness he showed you? 

The idea of Robert Gibson ascending to the right hand of the “father” upon his death is absurd.   If there is a “god”,  I would suspect that miscreants like Gibson are not destined for any reward in the after life. 

I am sure when he does die, he will be buried with the full vestments of the church that turned its back on his victims.  I am sure he will have a funeral befitting a man of “god”. I am sure he will be heralded for his goodness and sent to his “maker” for his eternal reward.  That will be the final act in the church’s deceit.  I doubt his victims will be invited to send him off with the “honors” he truly deserves.  I am sure that Diocese will wait for a while to tell his victims that he has died so that there will be not interference with his priestly funeral. 

His death will not set me free.  I am already free, I have the truth.  I have spoken that truth and others have also stood up to say that they were also targeted by Gibson.  Some have done so publicly, others have done so privately.   As soon as our great terrible secrets were shared, we were all free.  He has no power over me.  His death will not result in my rebirth.  To give his life, his basic ability to pump blood and draw breath, power over his many victims is ludicrous. He is just a pathetic life form. 

For those concerned about a possible road trip to Dittmer to see Gibson for myself, I did make the run down I-64 from my home in Virginia to Louisville, Kentucky.   While the overhead signs encouraged me on to St. Louis, I did not venture past my Kentucky destination.   Gibson is not worth the gas.   To all my friends who wrote to me out of concern of what a trip to Missouri would do to me, fear not.  I would not do anything stupid.  I would not lower myself to commit an act of violence like Gibson did repeatedly to me and to many others.  If I was going to burn gas to make a scene, it would be to go to Scranton and engage the leaders of the cult in the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue. 

Remember, my dear readers, if you are currently tithing or contributing to the Catholic Church, you are perpetuating the hierarchy that has put children and vulnerable adults in danger.  You have been supporting a corrupt organization that has moved far away from the “faith” it purports to espouse.  Your tacit support makes you complicit in their actions. 

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?

Go Lackawana Article

Not a lot of time to write today.  I am off on a mission for work and the hours are grueling.    I am only on long enough to send you the link for an article on Go Lackawanna, a website based in Northeast Pennsylvania for which I was interviewed.

Follow-up on the Robert Timchak Case in Northeast Pennsylvania

The Pocono Record is updating the case of Father Robert Timchak as he approaches his sentencing date in November.  The article is available at the Pocono Record Website and quoted here:



Priest, ex-Notre Dame teacher, awaits sentencing in child porn case

Pocono Record Writer
October 13, 2010

A priest who once taught at East Stroudsburg’s Notre Dame Elementary is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 18 in Pike County after pleading guilty to child pornography possession.

The Rev. Robert Timchak, 44, of Milford, an assistant pastor in Scranton, pleaded guilty in August to 17 counts of child porn possession and one count each of criminal use of a communication facility and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

After the Diocese of Scranton received an anonymous tip in December 2008 about Timchak’s possible inappropriate computer use, police began an investigation that led to the discovery of explicit pictures of underage boys on his personal computer, according to an affidavit.

Police said Timchak downloaded the photos from two Internet porn sites.

Timchak was a student teacher at Notre Dame from September to November 2007. In December 2008, he worked as an occasional substitute teacher at Notre Dame, “occasionally celebrated Mass” and “possibly” attended school functions there, according to a statement released last November by the Diocese of Scranton.

He substituted in other local elementary schools, including public schools, the diocese said. He was also assigned at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Lords Valley.

The diocese released the following statement this week: “Father Timchak continues to reside at a treatment facility outside the diocese. Also, he is obliged to adhere to the strict limitations already imposed on him by the diocese.

“As with the case of any cleric accused of sexual abuse of a minor, Father Timchak is prohibited from exercising any ministry in the Church. Father Timchak remains on a leave of absence while he awaits the outcome of the legal proceedings in Pike County.”