Dare to do right…

“DARE TO DO RIGHT AND TRUST THE CONSEQUENCES TO INFINITE WISDOM”

James G. Blaine

Those words are carved into a stone bench facing the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.  It makes me wonder if the people who work there, allegedly in the service of the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, bother to read what is in front of them every day.

James G. Blaine was a native of Western Pennsylvania, he served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Maine, eventually becoming Speaker of the House,  then a U.S. Senator.  He served twice as Secretary of State. He was the Republican candidate for President in 1884, narrowly losing to Grover Cleveland.  I guess the era of great Republican Statesmen of Pennsylvania is more than a century passed.

Just a week ago, The President pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate, Joseph B. Scarnati III, refused to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate that would have allowed survivors of childhood sexual assault a window of opportunity to bring a civil action against the perpetrators of those crimes and the institutions that protected those perpetrators.  This was done when it seemed that a growing wave of support would tip the scales in favor of establishing a two-year window.

A quick look at Senator Scarnati’s official Senate website is revealing.  The first problem I see is that he lists his occupation as “State Senator.”  Senator Scarnati is a professional politician. He is beholden, not to his constituency, but to the patrons of his next campaign.  He is up for reelection in 2020.  Of those patrons, I am willing to bet the insurance industry and the Catholic Lobby are exerting some influence.

His web page also announces that he is a member, along with his wife Amy and their five children, of St. Tobias Catholic Church in Brockway, Pennsylvania.  This is all making sense now.  He seems to be predisposed to support the institution that protects pedophile priests.  Perhaps the Senator is in the cozy pocket of Bishop Persico of the Diocese of Erie and the other prelates within the Commonwealth. Maybe he doesn’t understand the damage done by predators and compounded by the institutions that protect those monsters.  Perhaps he did not learn his catechism regarding the need for forgiveness, penance, and restitution.  I have said this a hundred times; until the Catholic Church pays a vulgar price for a perverted institutional culture, there is no way to correct that culture and ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. That price may come in the removal of leading church officials who are embroiled in the abuse of children or the protection of those who did the abusing.  It may occur in the loss of the faithful and loss of revenue.  It may come with a significant financial hit to pay restitution to survivors.

A significant corporate cultural shift is required to right the ship.  Senator Scarnati’s actions, or more correctly, inactions lend tacit approval to a clergy culture that promotes deity like status to priests, puts the church above the law, encourages secrecy and puts children at risk.   Abuse thrives in a culture of secrecy. 

I am curious how the President pro tempore, when presented with overwhelming evidence of individual and institutional wrongdoing, can stand on the side of the institution that allowed children to be sexually abused, molested and raped and covered up the evidence of those crimes.   He is aligning himself with pedophiles, rapists, and narcissists more concerned about protecting the  treasure of the church from scandal than doing the right thing.  The right thing is to protect the children of the Commonwealth.  The real treasure of the church is the children.  Bishops who are more concerned about maintaining the wealth of the church have no business being the shepherds of their flocks.  Senator Scarnati is protecting the wrong people.

The friend of my enemy is my enemy. The defender of a pedophile is the defender of evil. That person has no moral authority to lord over the Senate Chamber in Harrisburg.  Let’s call it like it is.  Senator Scarnati is a coward for not allowing the bill to go to the floor for a vote.

Senator Scarnati is more concerned with advancing his political career than in supporting the prevention of sex crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults.  I am sure that his wife, Amy, and his children as well as all the parishioners at St. Tobias are so very proud of the fact that Joe will stand up for the wrong side. For those parishioners, I would like to ask a question.  Which one of your children are you willing to sacrifice to a predator who will be protected by the institution with whom he/she is associated?

What happens when you put politicians, priests, attorneys, and insurance executives together in Harrisburg?  NOTHING!

Is anyone out there listening?

#wherearethey #ourhouse

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…

Outrage over Joe Paterno

Game day! Today will be the final game at Beaver Stadium for many of the seniors on Penn State’s storied football program. There are a lot of people who are incensed at the thought of the “indignity” of Coach Paterno’s sudden departure without the “well deserved”, Happy Valley send off that should go to the man who, for a career that spanned five decades, espoused victory with honor. Students showed their displeasure at the Board of Trustees firing of Joe Paterno by rioting, overturning vehicles and confronting police. It is to those students that I would like to send this post.

Joe Paterno had a responsibility to take action when he was informed of the actions of his assistant coach. The rape of a 10 year old boy in the football facility was a brutal crime. Coach Paterno reported the incident but he did not follow up to insure that action was taken. In spite of knowing that Jerry Sandusky had raped a child, Coach Paterno continued to served as an honorary trustee for the nonprofit that Mr. Sandusky used to groom victims. JoPa never followed up to insure that other children were not put into harm’s way with this predator.

Had one of the victims been one of Coach Paterno’s grandchildren, I am sure his actions would have been dramatically different. From the moment that the coach had a credible allegation that Sandusky was committing crimes against children, especially rape, Coach Paterno should have done everything in his considerable position of power to protect children from this predator. Coach Paterno’s word reverberated through Happy Valley like thunder. And yet he was silent. Paterno may not be legally responsible for the rapes or assaults on children that came after he had knowledge of allegations. But he is morally complicit, as is every Penn State official that turned a blind eye in the name of Penn State Football. Victory with Honor! Just words, hollow and meaningless, because the man who embodied them was hollow and meaningless in protecting children at risk.

So when you lament the way in which this man was treated and recount his successes on the grid iron and his love for his players and the debt that you believe the University owes him, think for a moment about the ten year old boy in the shower who did not understand why he was being violated in ways that he did not understand. Think about the victims that came after and how their lives were destroyed.

Really, rioting was your way of supporting a football coach? I bet that took a lot of liquid courage! The video I have seen of people with masks and scarves covering their faces as they went on a rampage, confronted police and destroyed property shows just how much cowardice was present in that crowd. Your protests were as hollow and meaningless as the honor of Coach Paterno.

Coach Paterno failed as a coach, and a community leader. He failed as a man. Maybe when the beer and stupidity has left the bloodstreams for those students threatening their own community and those that did take a stand, the enormity of the crimes against these children will come into sharp relief. The pain and the damage that will haunt their lives will far outweigh the meaning of today’s game against Nebraska.

At the risk of alienating two of my siblings who graduated from Penn State, I can only surmise that the faculty, staff, alumni and students who place a higher premium on college football than the protection of children show an incredible lack of moral courage. If this is what Penn State is all about, the rioters on Wednesday night were smart to cover their faces. I would be embarrassed to be associated with that University as well.

“We are Penn State!” Big freakin deal!

A little focus people! Go back to your studies, apparently you have much to learn.