A vote on window legislation that will allow victims of sexual abuse when they were children to pursue justice that has been denied to them by a statute of limitations that protects predators. The Republicans in the Senate are seeking a course of action that will protect institutions, like the Catholic Church, who have been complicit in the protection of pedophiles in order to avoid scandal and protect the church. Innocent child victims be damned.
Four separate Grand Jury Reports have concluded that there is an institutional culture that protects pedophiles in the Catholic Church. The Republican Senators getting ready to vote against legislation, based on recommendations from the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, that would grant the right for victims to seek redress in a civil court are reaffirming the culture of protecting pedophiles and support for the continued victimization of children and vulnerable adults in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Others have more eloquently addressed what is going on in Harrisburg. I offer a couple of links to articles you may be interested in:
With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August 2018, I have seen a resurgence of visits to this site, thousands of visits reading multiple posts. In the analytics, I can see the search terms people are using, mostly the names of predator priests or a specific Pennsylvania Diocese. While I am happy that people are reading to become more aware of the scope of the problem, I worry that they are not actively engaging in the discussion and, in Pennsylvania, calling their Senators to move legislation forward that will enable all victims of child sex crimes (rape, molestation, abuse…) to seek justice and to allow the true scope of this crisis to come into the light.
To be perfectly honest with you, I did not expect all of this to come back at me as forcefully as it has. For as much as I have talked on this subject over the last ten years in my blog and to reporters for various publications and media outlets, I was not expecting this amount anger, embarrassment, guilt, and grief to well up in me the way it has in the last two months. It just doesn’t end. My partner (should I really be calling her my “girlfriend” in my middle 50’s?), eloquently refers to all of this as “the scab being ripped off the wound”. I have had a lot of sleepless nights and discussions that have caused me to physically shake since the report was released. When I do sleep, the nightmares come back. It has been easier for me to address the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis as a broader subject than to discuss the specifics of my personal experience. Even now, 44 years removed from that horrible nine-month period of my life at age 13, talking about Gibson has a visceral effect on me. All these years later I still have to ask, why did he choose me? What did I do?
I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I am not a complete mess (only partial), I am alive, I have a job, I have a support group, my partner has my back (she always thought Gibson was creepy). My high school classmates are horrified at what happened to me and others they knew. I am not an alcoholic (I probably should be, but I won’t drink out of a bottle I have not opened myself or watched being opened because of Gibson), I am not an addict. I have battled depression for years. And, for the most part, I have been able to function in society. I can count the number of people I truly trust on 2 hands with fingers to spare.
Keeping the secret for as long as I did was the cause of a lot of damage. That secret sabotaged relationships with my parents, siblings, my former wife, children, and friends. It profoundly changed the trajectory of my life and left me doubting every decision and action (personal and professional). Gibson’s voice is the voice of doubt, dissension, and depreciation in my head to this day. I cannot shake him off.
In the wake of the Grand Jury Report, the emails and phone conversations all seem to come down to one question: What do I want out of all of this? To date, this is what I have come up with: (In no particular order, I am spit-balling here)
Bishop Joseph Bambera needs to resign with immediate effect. As Vicar of Priests in the 1990’s under Bishop James Timlin, Joseph Bambera returned “Father Ned” (Robert J. Gibson) to a rectory in the Diocese. Bambera let a known pedophile back into the world where he was caught grooming a child again. It is a quintessentially American concept that those who have the ability to change things, to protect the vulnerable, also have the responsibility to do so. In this, Joseph Bambera fails completely, all the while falling back on the excuse that he was following Bishop Timlin’s orders. As I have said on this blog before, I have no confidence in Joseph Bambera’s ability to credibly lead the Diocese of Scranton because of his complicity in Robert Gibson’s case and others.
I want all Catholic Cardinals and Bishops in the United States to offer their resignation to the Vatican. The Pope should accept the resignations of any of those prelates who have had any involvement in a sexual crime against a child or vulnerable adult or were involved in covering up such activity or campaigning to defame a victim that has come forward to report rape, molestation or abuse.
I want the U.S. Attorneys across the country to investigate and bring charges against the Dioceses that conspired to move predator priests across state lines to “move the problem”. Personally, I was taken across state lines to New York and Florida by Gibson. The Diocese knows this. I think that the Dioceses and the US Council of Catholic Bishops represent a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the RICO Statute (18 U.S. Code, Chapter 96). Let the Federal search warrants flow!
I want the “facilities” that held Predator priests, such as the Vianney Center in Dittmer, Missouri, investigated for their role in hiding these men. They are complicit in moving them across state lines and may have violated Federal Law.
I want the Diocese to turn over all files in the Dioceses’ “Secret Archives” to Civil Authorities for review to determine what the Dioceses actually knew. I want the truth. I would love to see Robert Gibson’s (Father Ned) file. The Diocese only admits to Gibson having six victims. I have spoken to more than six that could tell me his modus operandi.
I want to see the file on me at the Diocese of Scranton. I am sure that there is a file cabinet in the Victims Assistance Office that contains a folder with my name on it. Before the shredders start to overheat, I want to know what is in my file. In the last week, I had someone claiming to be a Diocesan Priest who may have known my family back in the 1970’s asking for information about my parents. If I were paranoid, I would say this could be an effort by the Diocese to profile me in advance of potential civil action if the window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate passes and is signed by Governor Wolf. I would also like the Diocese of Scranton to admit that they use the Victims Assistance office to collect information on victims to allow the Diocese to develop a risk strategy to protect themselves.
I want to see all four recommendations proffered by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report to be adopted into law. I will not accept the Church’s offer of a Victims Fund. That is part of a risk strategy to minimize financial liability on the part of the church and does not serve justice. If they wanted to protect their interest, they should have protected the children and not the predators. You reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7) I do not buy the calls of poverty and threats of bankruptcy. The recommendations in the Grand Jury Report are:
Change the criminal Statute of Limitations for all sexual crimes committed against children
Open a civil window for victims
Enact criminal penalties for those who fail to report child abuse
Restrict the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements
I want the people who write to me to tell me that I should be thinking about the priests who are innocent and doing “God’s work” in the community and the negative impact on them as a result of all the publicity to stop. REALLY?! Thousands of children and vulnerable adults worldwide over decades, centuries, millennia who have been targeted by priests in the church and you want me to worry about Father ______________ (fill in the blank) and how he is coping with all this? Why are the “innocent” priests not standing up en masse and calling for the removal of church leaders who are part of the problem? Why are they not screaming at the top of their lungs calling for reform? Why have they stood by silently when they have had information or suspicions that children were at risk? Innocent Priests? SHOW ME!
I want to know what the University of Scranton and other Catholic colleges and universities are going to do to foster a discussion on this issue, listening to all points of view on the crisis and leading the way on educating the Church on the history of sexual crimes committed. I want them to develop a way forward to protect the most vulnerable among us. If all you are going to do is rename buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the Bishop involved in the cover-up you are only paying lip service to the problem. I am challenging the President of the University of Scranton, my alma mater, to stand up and be an agent of change. I am willing to talk to you and represent the victims and survivors. I am part of the University of Scranton Community (Once a Royal, always a Royal) and I demand that you take a stand more substantial than renaming dorms in the upper quad. If you are not willing to do this, let me know where I can return my diploma.
Actis formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica. This is an action item for the Diocese of Scranton. I want out. I want my name off the rolls. I want the Diocese of Scranton to coordinate with the Diocese of Brooklyn and make the break with me permanent and official. I am no longer a Catholic, and I want official acknowledgment in a document signed by the Bishop himself. You should also do this pro bono. (So much Latin! My Jesuit education is showing again.) I am not going to pay an indulgence for this service. I have a spot on the wall where my diploma from the University of Scranton currently hangs that may be available soon.
I want the parishioners of Catholic Parishes to understand that they are funding the protection of predator priests. Many of these guys are still on the payroll even if they have been laicized. Are you happy that you may be paying for a golf membership for a pedophile? The members of the Catholic Church should stand up and demand both accountability and responsibility from their leadership.
And, more than anything else, I want to be done with this. I want to put this down and go back to a quiet life. I want to be able to turn out the lights on this blog (I am sure the boys in black on Wyoming Avenue want that as well). If you think for a moment, dear reader, that I enjoy this, you are out of your mind. This is physically and emotionally exhausting. I am angry at the lies, I am mad at the way I have been treated both as a 13-year-old and as an adult who reported the crimes committed against me. I am angry that people still rally behind those who protected pedophiles at the expense of their victims. I am tired of the lies and the attacks on the character of survivors to advance a false narrative that the Catholic Church is doing everything they can to address the issue. They are doing everything they can to stick to their risk strategy.
That is my list for now. I am sure I will come up with more items as I think about all of this.
A few days ago, Susan Matthews, a blogger advocating for the protection of children and reform in the Catholic Church on a blog called Catholics4Change, discussed the proposed Bishop’s Compensation Fund. The proposed fund would allow the church to control the amount of money paid out to victims/survivors and allow the Dioceses some damage control.
This Compensation Fund is not one of the recommendations in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. It is a church recommendation that is more of an effort to stop Statute of Limitation changes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and prevent a window that would allow survivors to seek justice in the courts. I am completely opposed to allowing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church control of any part of the settlement of victim/survivor grievances against predator priests and the hierarchy that protected them.
You can read Susan Matthews’ blog post by clicking this link:
A friend emailed me a link to an article reporting that Professor Barry Kuhle stood up and turned his back on Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton during the Bishop’s remarks at the inauguration of the Father Scott R. Pilarz S.J. as the new President of the University of Scranton.
The article reported that Professor Kuhle’s sister was sexually assaulted by a temple leader in her pre-teens. She committed suicide in 2007 and the day of the inauguration would have been her 42nd birthday.
Professor Kuhle has called for Bishop Bambera to resign in the wake of the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. I would like to add my voice to that call.
Bishop Bambera has admitted to returning Robert Gibson to a parish by order of Bishop James Timlin. He should have known better. His defense is that he was following Timlin’s directions. If he had a moral backbone, he would have turned Gibson over to the police. Gibson was subsequently caught grooming another boy after Bambera released him back into the Diocese.
A little over ten years ago I notified the Diocese of Scranton that I had been sexually assaulted by the Reverend Father Robert J. Gibson. That was my first misstep. I realized that the Diocese was in no way interested in the truth and continued to lie about the extent of the malignancy of pedophilia that was being neglected at the expense of innocent children of devout Catholic families. It is the Bishop’s job to avoid scandal after all.
For ten years I asked for the truth and was met with silence, disdain, and inaction on the part of the obdurate Bishop and chancery on Wyoming Avenue in the “Electric City.” Even in the wake of the damning Grand Jury Report released by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, the focus of the current bishop of Scranton is not upon the vile allegations contained within the report but on the Annual Fund Drive that brings money into the Diocesan coffers. Yes, Bishop Bambera, your “priorities” are in order.
In the weeks that have passed since the release of the Grand Jury Report, I have received dozens of emails with links to articles about the lack of action on the part of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church with an emphasis on the current prelate of Scranton. Here is a sampling:
This last article had my immediate attention because the priest referred to as “Father Ned” was, in fact, Father Robert J. Gibson. Robert Gibson was my perpetrator. And now it comes out that Bishop Bambera, a canon lawyer in his own right, was the Vicar of Priests at the time that Bishop Timlin was deciding the fate of Father Gibson. Knowing full well what kind of a man “Father Ned” was, Bambera returned him to ministry at the order of Timlin. The concept of a “zero tolerance” policy within the Diocese of Scranton seems to be a little flexible.
It seems that Bishop Bambera knows almost as well as I what a monster Robert Gibson was. And yet he sent him back to a parish where he could once again prey on the innocent. And that is what he started to do once again. Well done, your Excellency.
I have often been asked what I want out of all this. I have long ago given up on the Diocese telling the truth. But right now, on the top of my list is my demands is for the tenth and current Bishop of Scranton, Joseph Charles Bambera, to submit his resignation to the Vatican and step down immediately.
I have more demands. But for now, Bambera, the man who should have done the right thing and kept Gibson from having access to children, has to go.
What has changed in ten years? Absolutely nothing.