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 Canadensis, Monsignor 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.