I am catching up on my reading on the Diocese of Scranton in the wake of the Grand Jury Report and actions in the State House in Harrisburg. I keep going back to an article from the Associated Press by Michael Rubinkam on September 5th that discussed Bishop Bambera’s involvement in a civil case in 2007, a year before I before I went public to expose Robert Gibson. The case involved Bishop Bambera because he was Vicar of Priests when the priest involved, who went by the pseudonym “Father Ned”, was returned to a parish in the Diocese after going through a treatment program after being credibly accused of inappropriate activity with a minor. “Father Ned” was, in fact, Father Gibson, the man who raped me when I was 13 years of age.
The first paragraph sent chills through me.
Even as Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera apologized to his flock last month for the “misguided and inappropriate decisions of church leaders,” he is reckoning with his own role — revealed in federal court a decade ago — in the system that protected pedophile priests
Bishop Bambera has apologized to “his flock”. I read “flock” to be the dwindling number of parishioners at the Cathedral in Scranton. He is also pretty adept at apologizing to banks of microphones in front of the press. What he has not publicly done is apologize to actual survivors of abuse in person. A room full of the victims of “Father Ned” and many other priests in the Diocese over the years should be the audience he stands before to ask forgiveness. He should personally go to the churches and schools where these predators selected and groomed their victims. Sending a video does not cut it. An article in the Scranton Times from 16 September reported that the Bishop had a mass of atonement on September 15, 2018 (a Saturday, I bet that was attended by tens of people) where he apologized. That article said:
During the Mass, led by Bambera, the bishop devoted the entirety of his nearly 15 minute homily to addressing the abuse scandal that has roiled the Roman Catholic Church. Bambera said the abuse has been one of the darkest moments in the diocese’s history and arguably one of the darkest in the history of the church.
“The church let you down,” Bambera said. “And you deserved better.”
Addressing the victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may have been in the pastoral center, he said, Bambera stressed that his apologies are not hollow words uttered only because they are the right things to say at the moment. He said his heart breaks for the faithful priests and deacons who are tarnished by the sins of others and encouraged those currently studying to become priests.
“You are not part of the problem,” Bambera said. “You are part of the solution.”
I love the sentence “Addressing the victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may have been in the pastoral center, he said, Bambera stressed that his apologies are not hollow words uttered only because they are the right things to say at the moment.” Victims may have been there. I don’t think victims were invited. I did not get an invitation. Bill Genello did not send me a note, a Facebook message, an email… Victims “may” have been there. But they probably were not. It is more likely that they were dealing with their own lives on a Saturday while theater of the absurd was being directed by the diocese. Bishop Bambera does not seem to have the spine required to own up to his past actions in front of the people directly impacted by those acts.
Bishop Bambera, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Your words are hollow and will always be so. Your heart breaks for faithful priests and deacons who are tarnished? REALLY?! Doesn’t your heart break for the children involved? Oops, your public relations boys dropped the ball on that statement.
A paragraph in the September 5th AP article articulates clearly that the Bishop is part of the problem. The worn out defense of “I was following the orders of Bishop Timlin” does not acquit the current Bishop.
Bambera’s participation in the Gibson case highlights the fact that some of today’s bishops, while they were rising through the ranks, helped their superiors shield priests accused of abuse from law enforcement and allowed them to continue in ministry — or at least had knowledge of the cover-up by senior church officials and didn’t blow the whistle.
Falling back on my 23 years of experience as a Naval officer, I look at this Bishop, and his own public utterances (to anyone but actual victims) and I see someone who does not have my confidence in his ability to command, to lead the Diocese of Scranton. His presence in the Diocese is divisive. His focus since the release of the Grand Jury Report was directed more towards the Annual Fund Drive (how did that work out, your Excellency?) than any substantial effort to bring about transparency and honesty. He is almost defiant in his manner and public comments to protect his church at the expense of the survivors/victims. His actions and words compound the harm. He is part of the malignancy on Wyoming Avenue in the Chancery.
As one of the survivors of Robert Gibson (Father Ned), I call on Bishop Bambera to resign, immediately.