Only Four, I Think Not…

Four.  That is the number of victims of Father Robert Gibson to which the Diocese of Scranton has stipulated. Four.

I don’t get it.  I cannot believe that the Diocese of Scranton continues to stubbornly stick to that number.  I have corresponded with survivors, family members of survivors, classmates of survivors, as well as friends.  I have spoken to officials at Notre Dame High School.  The number grows a little higher every time I get an indication that someone is looking for Gibson on Google.  Sometimes an email arrives a few days later, sometimes a comment appears.  The number I have is Fourteen.  Of course, I have names to go with the digits.  That is still a very low number.  Given the number of parishes, schools and camps he had access to and the number of years in his predatory prime, this man probably had victims that numbered in the hundreds.  He probably tried to groom or isolate more than that.  This man was prolific in his criminal sexual behavior against minors.  Against children!

Four?  I think not!  And the Diocese of Scranton knows it.  Someone in the diocese has access to his “secret” files.  Someone can go in and get a feel for how many complaints were submitted.  I bet the vast, overwhelming  majority of those were covered up.  Someone knows about the settlements and the confidentiality agreements that had everything to do with protecting the Bishop and the Diocese and nothing to do with protecting children, searching for victims and getting Gibson out of ministry and into the hands of the criminal justice system.  I know of one, the survivor told me himself.

Someone in the Diocese of Scranton has the names of other victims.  The Victim’s Assistance Coordinator gave me a name of another victim along with his contact information. (Not the one I alluded to in the previous paragraph.)

I have responded to emails, phone calls and blog comments from classmates of mine, from classmates of my siblings, from siblings of other potential survivors and from parents of Gibson’s other targets.

The magic number is not FOUR.  The Bishop of Scranton needs to come clean, now.  Not only on Robert Gibson, but on at least TWENTY-FIVE identified Catholic Priests and lay officials of the diocese that have credible allegations of criminal sexual assault on boys, girls and vulnerable adults.  Former Bishops have covered up and moved these monsters around the diocese allowing them access to fresh pools of potential victims.  The Bishops, only concerned with keeping allegations quiet and victims isolated, showed a reckless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of children in the diocese by moving Gibson and other monsters just like him from parish to parish.  And when the heat was too much, they moved Gibson to Missouri.  They put him in a Catholic “safe house”.  He is still there in Missouri, outside of the jurisdiction that could have tried him for the rapes and sexual assaults he committed over his career.

Just as a recap from a post I did in October 2008, Robert Gibson’s history of assignments:

1959-65 Scranton, PA St. Paul, 1510 Penn Ave. Priests: John J. Vaughan(Vicar Forane, Dean), Joseph F. Ryan, Joseph R. Doggett(’59), Francis A. Conlan(’60-62), Robert J. Gibson

School: 7 Sisters of the I.H.M. 1 lay teacher 484 pupils High school: 10 Sisters of the I.H.M. 280 pupils
Mission: St. Clare’s School: Sisters of the I.H.M. 7 Lay teacher 1 2215 Washington Ave. 401 pupils.
1966-67 directory not available (

1968-1970 Stroudsburg, PA St. Matthew’s, 200 Brodhead Ave. Priests: Thomas J. Cawley,Robert J. Gibson, John J. Bendik

St Matthews School: 7 Sisters I.H.M. 2 lay teachers 311 pupils Missions: St. Luke’s, Stroudsburg; St. John’s, Bushkill; St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap

1971-1974 Stroudsburg, PA St. Luke’s, 906 Main St. Priests: Francis G. Barrett, Robert J. Gibson In residence: John J. Bendik Mission: St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap.

St Matthews School, East Stroudsburg, Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School.

1975-82 Brodheadsville, PA Our Lady Queen of Peace Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Jonas, Holy Family.

School:  Still associated with St. Matthew’s and Notre Dame

1983 Conyngham, PA St. John Bosco Priest: Robert J. Gibson

1984-95 Canadensis, PA St. Bernadette Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Promised Land, Our Lady of Fatima

1996 -1997 Kingston, PA St. Ignatius, 339 N. Maple Ave. Priests: F. Allan Conlan, Glenn E. McGreary, Joseph B. Wilson In res., Robert J. Gibson Chapel—St. Ann’s

1998-2008 Unassigned or leave of absence.  In the case of Fr. Gibson, he was sequestered in the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri and now is reported to be in a hospital in the Ditmer area.  The report is from the Diocese.  I do not put much stock in the word of the Diocesan spokespeople, they seem to be accomplished liars.

The latest contact was from a family member of a probable victim of Gibson.  He came after me on the timeline.  I can’t help but feel a little responsible. I didn’t stop him.  I didn’t kill him when I had the opportunity. I didn’t turn him in, he had me completely terrorized.  I know intellectually that it was not my fault.  But the voice in my head hasn’t processed that yet.

Postscript: My middle son is one of the most brilliant minds I have ever known (from his mom’s end of the gene pool).  He was counting on his hands as my oldest son’s “love interest” was quizing him on the classic movies he should be familiar with as a modern, well healed male in the 21st century.  He was counting off the movies he had seen from her extensive list in binary (his world seems to spin on a slightly different axis, and that makes him a force of nature).

When he got to 4 I started laughing.  If you are as smart as he, you know what finger “4” is on when counting in Binary.  That knowledge in hand, so to speak, I would like to offer something to the Diocese of Sranton.  I got your “four” right here.

Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School

A recent comment to this blog recommended that I return to Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania to speak to the faculty about my experiences.   To quote the comment:

“I think you would be welcomed at Notre Dame because you have an important story to tell. You are part of this family. You would put a human face on the abuse problem. It is so painful to read some of what you have written but it is important that the truth be told.”

ndms front with chapelLets get this clear from the start, I would not be welcomed back to Notre Dame to speak on the subject of the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of a Catholic Priest associated with the Diocese of Scranton and the school. Bishop Martino and the Diocese would never grant the school permission to offer such an invitation, even if the current school administration wanted to extend such an offer to me.

 The last thing the Diocese wants to do is to shine a light on a perpetrator that once stalked the halls of the school searching out his next victims. It would be bad for Bishop Martino, Bishop Timlin and just about all the clergy that have a connection to the school at the time that Gibson was raping children who attended the school or were members of the St. Luke’s, St. Matthew’s and Our Lady Queen of Peace Churches. (Monsignor Bendik must be cringing over his days at St Luke’s in Stroudsburg) Any publicity that would follow would surely not be good for the Diocese and would provoke a discussion that they are simply unwilling to have with teachers, administrator, parents, students, parishioners or the local population.  They would have to stipulate to the fact that they had more than one abusive priest in the school over the years and that these priests went on to abuse at other parishes and schools in the Diocese. 

It is simply not in the interest of the Diocese to tell the truth, own up to the past and do the right thing.  This would be a bad business decision.  The only thing the Diocese wants is for people to keeping pay tuition to the schools, tithing to the parishes and donating to the Bishop’s annual fund.  As I have said before in this blog, at some point it stopped being about God, doing the right thing, taking responsibility to inform the parishes of predator priests and seeking out the other victims.  It stopped being about morality and doing what Christ taught. The business model is reflective of the Catholic Hierarchy, but it is not very Christian in its practice. The terms Catholic and Christian are, at times, mutually exclusive.

I have no current association with Notre Dame High School.  I do recieve the periodic cards coinciding with significant dates in the Catholic Calendar and the typical requests for donations from Alumni.  I move the cards directly from my mailbox to the shredder and I can say, with absolute certainty, that I will never reply to a fund raising/donation drive that would benefit the school.

In regards to being part of the “Notre Dame Family”, I feel no such sentimental attachment to the place.  I do not feel the least bit nostalgic about my 5 years at the school.  To be honest, those were some of the darkest days of my life.  Why on earth would I romanticize that experience?  If anything, that “family” is pretty dysfunctional given all the secrets kept within those halls since the “70’s.

I did enjoy seeing classmates at the reunion a few years ago and I keep in contact with a couple of those classmates by email.  I have corresponded with some of my contemporaries who were at the school from 1973-1978.  Some were in my class, others were in the same year as my older brother or my three sisters. ( My youngest brother did not attend Notre Dame.)

I would consider attending another reunion if one were held.  I am not sure how my classmates would react to me after they became aware of my efforts to publicly expose Father Gibson for what he really was.   As for teachers, most of them are long gone from the school by now.  My 9th grade English teacher, Mr Jeffrey Lyons, is the current principal, his wife, Ms. Linda Lyons still teaches physical education there and  Mr. John Musyt is also still with the school in the Guidance Department.  I was able to determine where a couple of the nuns (Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) have ended up. Sister Marilyn Grosselfinger is at St Raymond’s School in East Rockaway, New York and Sister Kathleen Joy Steck is at St. John the Evangelist School in Binghamton, New York. To be honest, I was not one to form attachments to faculty for very obvious reasons. (Do not take away from this paragraph that I think any of these people knew of Father Gibson’s activities at the time.)

I have been back to the Notre Dame Campus twice since my graduation in 1978. The first time was when I went back for the reunion in 2004, the second time was the night before I went to see the Monroe County District Attorney in September 2007. All I needed to see was the chapel looming at the top of the hill and my stomach flipped. I have no desire to go up that hill again.  It would take an extraordinary invitation for me to return to that place. I have no plans to show up unannounced and uninvited to embarrass the school or cause a media event.  

 I don’t make any promises to that end with the Chancery, Our Lady Queen of Peace Church and rectory or the Cathedral in Scranton.  Those locations are fair game. (The Pocono Record wouldn’t cover the story. They declined to look into the story a couple of years ago, citing a lack of local interest since Gibson was in a facility in Missouri and I was living in Virginia. This was exceptionally shortsighted since more victims live in Northeast Pennsylvania. Such are the decisions made in a small town newspaper.)

I do not know and will probably never know who knew anything about Gibson and his “predisposition” for boys at Notre Dame.  The more I learn in talking to other victims of Gibson and people who have had similar experiences with other perps, the more I am convinced that there were people who knew what he was doing and chose to turn a blind eye and others who suspected something was not right and  failed to report what they suspected.  I would not be surprised if there were actual concerns raised.  I would also not be surprised if the Diocese  quietly kept the reports under wraps. 

After thinking about it, the school on the hill is not a place to which I see myself returning any time soon.

Threats and intimidation

Over time, Gibson became much more controlling and aggressive.  He was less likely to “soften” me up with alcohol and much more forward when he had the opportunity to get me alone.  His initial caring words and expressions of god’s love and understanding that what we were doing was good and right and part of the way god allowed him to express his love for “his boys” turned very menacing.  The more I resisted or tried to fight him off, the more physically and emotionally abusive he became.  I think he was determined to break me.  I am not ready to get into more detail on the actual acts he committed at my expense.  In the back of my head I am afraid that the salacious details would be the equivalent of porn for perp priests.  I also don’t think at this point it is information that I can just put out there.  I am not there yet.

The threats were subtle at first.  He would tell me that no one would take the word of a child over that of a priest.  Anything that I would say would be the product of an over active imagination and disregarded.  He told me I would be severely punished for telling lies.   Any allegations made would motivate  my mother to send me away.  He always seemed to infer that he had her passive permission because priests had a special station in life.  It was his privilege and therefore no one would do anything about the situation on the outside chance that they believed me.  But, rest assured, I would not be believed.  He told me the nuns and lay teachers at the school would not do anything and the other priests would support him.  After all, they all had their “favorites” as well.    I was suspicious and afraid of anyone on the staff of the school.  Whether it was rational or not, I became convinced that people were aware of what he was doing to me and that they had no problem with it.  I would look in disbelief at the people in the schools office when he would take me off campus during the school day.

The nature of the threats changed rapidly.  Since he was a powerful and well loved pastor he could expel me and my siblings from Notre Dame and St. Matthews Elementary school without anyone challenging him. He was above reproach.  His word would be good enough to remove us all from school.   He told me that my siblings would hate me for having to attend a public school and leaving their friends behind. My parents would be humiliated,  my mother especially, since she had gone to Gibson for pastoral counseling.   More sinister threats of taking advantage of a younger sibling or of beatings began as he tried to keep me under his control.  Finally, it came down to telling me that if I spoke out and told anyone, I would disappear and never be found.  I would simply be erased and, after a short while, no one would give my absence a second thought.   I was only in my first year at the school and I would soon fade from the collective memory of those at the school.  It was clear that I was expendable.

I was completely terrorized by his words.  He knew it!  I could not believe that all of this was true, but at age 13 I had no way to know for sure that it was not the truth.  This he also knew and exploited.  What was true was that all of this seemed to be about power and control.  The fact that he got off on it seemed to be an extra benefit for him.

I’m sure he told my mother that he was acting as a mentor and offering opportunities for me to do interesting things on my own with a good male role model.  He exploited her as clearly as he had exploited me.  Much to my horror, she would allow him to take me on overnight trips, one lasting as long as a week.  He took me to the new rectory when it was completed.  It was  his own personal pedophile pleasure palace and masturbatorium.  He would talk about the rectory as a great personal accomplishment.  He took me  to New York “to see some plays” and to  Walt Disney World.  On a couple of occasions he took me off school grounds during the school day for “pastoral counseling”.  I went along, I was too frightened to put up a fight or tell someone what was happening to me.

I am curious about how long it took him to perfect this intimidation on other children.  Did this start before the seminary?  Was it something he slowly came to?  How soon after entering the seminary or being ordained did he identify his first victim?  How many victims did he have?  Did he focus on just boys or was he an equal opportunity abuser?  The Diocese of Scranton says that they had 4 reports including mine.  I think that the Diocese is so lacking in credibility that they cannot be believed. I don’t think I will ever have answers.  Those that know don’t have the stones to tell the truth.

I would like to think that I successfully broke away from his control at the beginning of my freshman year in high school  I have some doubts about that, though.  It is as likely that I was simply getting too old for his perverse tastes.  Sullen preteens turn into unmanageable, moody teenagers.   I grew over that summer and I was determined to get so active in the school that there would be no opportunity for Gibson to get me alone.  Hiding became less about being invisible and more about being out in front of the crowd, in plain site.  It made it harder for him to cut me from the herd and back under his grip.

I can only assume he moved on to someone else.  I lived with the ever present fear of him coming back for me, I would break into a cold sweat anytime he would show up at the school.  I was always off balance if I knew he was in the school building.  His presence at the school gradually became very infrequent.  I think he kept tabs on me to make sure I was not going to make trouble for him.  What was worse than the fear of him coming back for me was the guilt that comes with knowing that if he had moved on to a new target, I was responsible. I had not tried to stop him by turning him in or killing him.  Believe me, I wanted him dead in the most heinous way possible.  I agonized over that for decades. Any victim that came after me was my responsibility.   I am still haunted by it.  To date, the other victims of Gibson that I have spoken with came before me on his time line of preying on children.   I am afraid of the day when I talk to someone who was a victim of  Robert Gibson after the fall of 1974.  I don’t know how to ask for them to forgive me for not being stronger and turning the bastard in.  I don’t know that I could look them in the eye.   I could have done something, anything and they would have been spared the pain, betrayal and anguish.  Their lives would not have suffered a similar oblique as the one in my life at that point.

Intellectually I understand that this is not rational, that I was a child in a horrible situation that was out of my control.  That does not take away the guilt nor does it help me sleep at night.  Even 35 years later, I wake in the dead of the night sometimes and the thoughts are there as a reminder.  Sometimes it seems like it all happened yesterday.

My relationships with my parents and my siblings went downhill in 1974.  I became quiet and withdrawn at home.  I wanted nothing more than to wish away high school and get out of the Poconos.  College was to be my liberation.   All energy was focused to that end.  Those who knew my family probably thought this was all related to my father’s drinking.  This made sense, the truth however was much more sinister.  It was a good cover, so I used it.  It was easier to be the brooding son of an emotionally abusive alcoholic father than the sexual play thing of a pedophile priest.  Afterall,  I had been told, very convincingly, that no one would believe me and that the price to pay for telling the story would be higher than I could bear. I believed that for over three decades.   What a horrible price I have paid for keeping that secret!

An Open Letter to Bishop Joseph F. Martino, Diocese of Scranton

Bishop Martino,

During January and February 2009, we exchanged letters on the topic of Father Robert J. Gibson who, as you are well aware, sexually abused and raped me as a 13 year old child in the rectory of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania , while on vacation at Walt Disney World and on a trip to New York City.  All of these events took place in 1974 when I was an eighth grader or rising freshman at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.   As of this writing, I am still not satisfied with the action taken by you or your representatives on this matter.

From my vantage point, I see the Diocese of Scranton as a significant player in the policy of excusing and enabling the sex crimes committed by pedophile priests in your curia.  I believe that your administration and the administration of Bishop Timlin and the previous bishops of Scranton buried reports, prevented and delayed reports to civil authorities to outlast the statute of limitations.  I believe that the bishops acted in a blatantly criminal and arrogant manner to obstruct justice.  I have no doubt that victims came to the Diocese and sought help, justice, and guidance.  I am sure that many feel, as I do, that they were betrayed and violated all over again.

You and your predecessors had ample opportunities to act swiftly to protect children and vulnerable adults and to limit the number of victims of priests who were acting outside of the law and the church.  The bishops of Scranton, the chancery, the priests who have known about the actions of their brother priests and did nothing but look the other way all failed the victims, the parishioners of the Diocese and their God.

Perhaps your time in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia tempered your attitude towards victims.  All of Pennsylvania’s Catholic Diocese share a common legacy of secrecy and deceit. I see your administration as a continuation of an arrogant, self-serving attitude by those who feel entitled by their position to act any way they see appropriate to secure the secular trappings that accompany high office in the Roman Catholic Church.  At some point it stops being about God, doesn’t it?

Based on our correspondence, your writings, public statements and my observations of your actions in your Diocese through media outlets that cover you, I am convinced that you selectively choose those moral issues that you so vehemently champion.  Your zealous defense of conservative Catholic positions seems out of step with your Diocese’s deafening silence when it comes to the issue of the priest sex scandal. It must be effortless for you to compartmentalize your positions.  It must be simple to attack people and matters that are external to the walls of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.  It is alright to use the tactics of a bully on the likes of Senator Casey, Vice President Biden, and James Calderone or to threaten to close the doors of the Cathedral on St. Patrick’s Day if the parade isn’t your liking.  You must enjoy the thought of calling the administrators and faculties of the Catholic Colleges and Universities to task on health and diversity issues or to storm into a church forum and attempt to dictate the votes of the parishioners in accordance with your views.  Why, then, do you remain silent in your pastoral letters, actions, and statements about the epidemic of sexual crime/abuse within your own diocese?  Why have you taken no action against those that have committed these heinous crimes?  Why have you taken no action against those in your diocese who turned the other way or actively sought to cover up or delay reporting the sex crimes committed against children, adolescents and vulnerable adults in your diocese?

On a very personal level, I have not been satisfied with the treatment I have received while dealing with your Chancery.  Your responses to my letters and the responses from your representatives indicate that your diocese remains unwilling to take the serious actions required to safeguard the children of your diocese from predators wearing Roman collars.

You have failed to adequately answer my questions on actions taken against Father Gibson to include canonical proceedings to defrock him.  Were he to die today, I have no doubt that the Catholic Church would give him a funeral where his great works as a priest would be celebrated.  I am sure the names of his victims will never be mentioned. For the record, I have more names than the four unnamed victims stipulated to by you through your representatives.  I am sure that he will be carried to his grave in a manner befitting an exalted and faithful servant of God.  That will be a lie perpetuated by you!  I doubt we, his victims, will be notified of his death or invited to the celebration of his priestly life.  That would not be in keeping with your Diocese’s business model.  I would show up, to pay my last respects.

Why has the Diocese of Scranton failed to notify the parishes and schools to which Father Gibson has been assigned of his admitted actions?  There are more of his victims out there  who may have run across Gibson at any one of his assignments including  St Paul’s Parish in Scranton, St. Clare’s School, St Matthews in East Stroudsburg, St. Matthews School in East Stroudsburg (now known as Notre Dame Elementary School), Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, St. Marks in Delaware Water Gap, St. Luke’s in Stroudsburg, Our Lady Queen of Pease in Brodheadsville, Holy Family in Jonas, St. John Bosco in Conyngham (my, that was a short 6 month assignment), St Bernadette’s Church in CanadensisMonsignor McGugh Elementary School and St. Ignatius in Kingston. You just don’t want to be bothered by all the mess that would accompany those victims coming forward.  I’m sure your staff found his love of alcohol an excellent cover story for his removal from at least one of these assignments.  You would rather they remain silent and isolated.  You care nothing of the damage done to their lives, families and their faith.  Multiply that damage by the number of other victims of the other priests that your Diocese has protected over the years, and you will begin to see the magnitude of the problem.

What steps have been taken to determine if others knew of Father Gibson’s crimes but turned their backs or enabled him to continue abusing? I cannot believe priests in residence at rectories where Father Gibson lived did not find his obsessions with boys as odd. One other victim told me that a priest, still in service to the diocese today, walked in on them while Father Gibson was molesting the boy and simply left the room. A nun walked in on a heated, very physical argument in the school chapel between myself and Father Gibson. No action was ever taken. Turning away is easy. All evil needs to thrive is for good people to do nothing.

The Bishops and Auxiliary Bishops, the Chancellors and the Episcopal Vicars who have held office in the Diocese of Scranton knew of the actions of this priest and far too many others.  You are all complicit in the crimes that have been committed by your lack of action.  Is not a sin of omission still a sin? Is there not one person of moral character among you that is willing to stand up and say this was a terrible wrong?

You have extended an invitation for me to meet with you.  At this time I must politely decline that invitation.  Traveling to Scranton to meet with you would be a complete waste of my time.  I do not need to be the next target of your bullying.  My greatest fear, however, is that you would enjoy the salacious details of the rapes, molestation, and abuse I suffered at Father Gibson’s hands.

I do hope that someday we will have the opportunity to meet.  I would love to know what kind of man would protect monsters like Father Gibson.  In the meantime, when you are saying mass in a chapel, your  Cathedral, or any of the churches that Father Gibson defiled through his deviant, immoral and criminal activities, I want you to think about the children you have failed, the families that have been wrecked and the souls destroyed because men like you did nothing.  At the moment of consecration, I want that flash of consciousness of the suffering of the victims of your priests to come over you.  Then perhaps, you will understand.

Very respectfully,

Michael Baumann

Fear and Doubt

Thirty-five years later and I still have moments of terror.    He had shown up in my life while I was in college and caused me to panic, the flight instinct kicking in and sending me into a spiral.  He was always there in the back of my head and in the forefront of my concern that he would show up at something,  a wedding, a reunion, or a funeral.  So I avoided almost all of them.  I attended Marie’s funeral just about a year after our graduation.  Otherwise, I had no intention of making an appearance at any location that could possibly result in a chance meeting . Reunions seemed to represent the best opportunity for a face to face meeting. I did not attend a Class of 1978 reunion until just a few years ago.    The  25th reunion of the Notre Dame High School Class of 1978 was held in 2004.  Apparently math was not our strong suit.  I decided to suck it in and go.  He was not there.  I did not yet know that the Diocese of Scranton had him hidden in Missouri. To be honest, I wanted to go and find out that he had died.  I wanted to know that he had gone on to hell.   I asked Mr. Lyons about him in casual conversation, but he did not seem to know where Gibson was at the time.

I am not alone in the fear of a chance encounter.  Some of the other survivors that I have spoken to have expressed fear that he would attend a function.  In a recent email that I received,  the writer expressed fear that Gibson would show up at a family member’s funeral.  As if losing a loved one is not bad enough, the fear of seeing the potential  molester of  a  sibling at a family funeral eclipses the the grief for the loss  and sets you on edge.   Gibson is a consuming force, still compounding the damage after all these years. Moving the abuse beyond the victim to other family members.  Some people have even expressed a desire to physically harm their perp.  The fear welling to hate, the hate eating away at the soul. Damage, years after the physical violation ended.  He never really goes away.  The Diocese has told me that he is an addled old man suffering from dementia in a hospital in Missouri.   Price Memorial Hospital in Eureka Missouri is where he is alleged to be an in-patient.  Forgive me if I sound like I don’t believe everything that the Diocese of Scranton has told me.  You know, they do not have a good track record for being completely truthful when it comes to one of the 25 or more  sexual molesters/rapists or abusers that have operated with impunity in the Diocese of Scranton over the years. Many of them enjoying the protection of Bishops who should have known better.  Bishops that should have taken decisive action to stop the abuse and seek out victims who needed the help and comfort of their church.

My wife pointed out to me that the doubt that nagged me about proving my story to be credible was the voice of Gibson in my head, even after 35 years.   That voice that could crash any holiday, freeze me in my tracks and cause me to question any good thing that came my way.  That is one way he has paralyzed me for years.  (There are more, I will get to them.) Even when I had a letter from the Diocese that declared my allegations to be credible, I was convinced that it just was not enough. It is never enough, it is always in the back of my head.

Bishop Timlin’s Precept and Decree on Father Robert Gibson

In February  1998, the Bishop of Scranton was the Most Reverend James C. Timlin.  He was the man who should have been  responsible for taking action to protect children who were the victims of predator priests in his diocese.  He seems to have been a complete failure.  He oversaw the diocese’s mishandling of a high visibility case involving Father Robert Caparelli.   Who knows how many other complaints against other priests he kept quiet during his tenure?   Bishop Timlin is currently Bishop Emeritus in Scranton.

Bishop Timlin issued two documents dated 2 February 1998.  The first was a precept.  A precept is a command to an individual that enjoins that person to do or not do something, especially in order to compel obedience of a law, regulation or directive.  In this case the precept ordered Father Gibson to stop representing himself as a Diocesan priest and to stop wearing clerical attire.

Bishop Timlin's Precept to Father Gibson in February 1998
Bishop Timlin's Precept to Father Gibson in February 1998

The second document was a decree that ordered Father Gibson to cease all ministerial activity. Oddly enough, the decree was issued for reasons of “health”. Reasons of Health? Is that what they call it at the Chancery when a priest has been accused of and admitted to molesting and raping children?

Bishop Timlin's decree terminating Father Gibson's ministry
Bishop Timlin's decree terminating Father Gibson's ministry

It is almost comical that the precept and the decree were both issued on Groundhog Day. I wonder if the Chancellor stuck his head out the window that morning and saw six more victims lining up to file reports.

I would imagine these documents enjoyed a very limited release as to not allow the parishioners, the police or the press to find out that the Diocese of Scranton was hiding another pedophile. By the time these documents were issued, Father Gibson had already been removed from the Diocese and, more importantly, the jurisdiction that could have sought criminal penalties against this monster. Father Gibson was sent to the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri.

This was a continuation of the Diocese’s policy of keeping things quiet and secret. You would think that they would have learned after the Father Caparelli case came to light in the 1990’s. Father Caparelli was convicted of sexually molesting boys and died in prison of AIDS in 1994. Is it possible that the diocese had a more prolific child rapist on its hands in the person of Father Gibson? We don’t know because the veil of secrecy still protects Father Gibson.

When are they going to learn? When are the parishioners in the Diocese of Scranton going to start holding there church leaders to account for their actions? More importantly, when are the public safety and judicial organizations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania going to step in and dismantle this criminal conspiracy aimed at protecting pedophiles?

The Tip of the Pedophile Iceburg

Bishop Accountability lists 16 accused and/or convicted sexual predators in the Diocese of Scranton.  News articles that included interviews with Diocesan officials list as many as 9 more who’s names are being kept from the public.   If you look at the database for accused priests for Pennsylvania, the number listed is 192. Imagine the depth of the problem if they all had 5 victims, 10 victims, 15 victims. Do the math and be as sickened by this as I am.

From personal experience, I know that the list is not complete.  I had to work to get my perpetrator priest listed.   The Diocese of Scranton had known of his activities as early as the 1990’s, at least that is what they will admit to.  With the knowledge that he was dangerous, they kept his name quiet and sequestered him in a facility that caters to the housing of priests who probably should be in the state prison system.  How many other priests are they sheltering?  How many of those priests are in parishes or parochial schools right now with access to children?

I want to believe that the majority of priests serving in parishes are doing good work, that they are following a call to service.  But I also think that priests are choosing to not speak up and challenge a system that victimizes the most vulnerable of the church’s followers.  Not only children (of both sexes) are at risk but, vulnerable adults as well.  To do so would put them at odds with their bishops and would perhaps negatively affect their ability to be effective.  I also believe that there are priests that have made reports but those reports were kept quiet and no action was taken.  Those priests have an obligation to force the issue in whatever manner is necessary to protect children and force their diocese to do the right thing.   

There are priests that saw what was going on and made the conscious decision to not do the right thing.  They had knowledge, either first hand or from credible sources but have chosen to keep that information quiet.   Some of those men are now in positions of authority.  I am not sure how they sleep at night.  Imagine a Monsignor who as a young priest decided to take no action when he encountered another priest sexually abusing a child.  How can a man simply turn around and leave the room closing the door behind him?  The more I hear the stories from other victims, especially from those who have the same perpetrator as I, the more clear it all becomes to me.  These people have no shame, they have no honor and they have no right to call themselves men of god.  I know who you are, I know what you have concealed in order to get ahead.  Others do as well.  Remember that when you look out on the congregation on Sunday.  More and more of those eyes know the truth.

The Diocese of Scranton keeps it’s dirty little secrets by offering small settlements, stipends, or garnishment of the perp priest’s retirement check.  In order to garner such a settlement, it is their practice to have the victim sign a confidentiality statement, no doubt they want to keep the victim silent or to have them parrot that the settlement was completed amicably.  They are quick to point out that Statutes of Limitations have expired and that they have no obligation to help those who need help.  No obligation?  Seriously, how can they actually say that?

I have been told that Father Gibson is a sick man.  No kidding, you really think I haven’t known that for years!  They want me to feel sorry for him because he allegedly suffers from dementia.  Perhaps the gods are prepping him for his special place in hell.  I feel nothing for him, no sympathy, no compassion, no need for revenge.  My anger is solely reserved for those who knew what was happening and did nothing.  They are the true enablers of evil and they are hiding behind roman collars and the good intentions of parishioners who have chosen to remain blind.

The church is dying.  The pope recently lifted the ex-communications of priests who actively deny the holocaust and spout antisemetic statements as vile as any skinhead.  Gutsy move for a pope of German lineage!  I wonder if that apple did not fall far from the family tree.  The only way to save Catholicism from the fools that currently run the church in Rome and in Dioceses around the world is for the laity to take a more active role,  allow for the ordination of women and allow priests to marry.

How many more children and vulnerable adults will be sacrificed on the altar of religious power and influence before the laws of this country are modified to enable victims to have their day in court and to see justice done?  One more is too many.