Correspondence with the Bishop

I have been corresponding with the Bishop of Scranton. The exchange has been frustrating, infuriating and absolutely exhausting. I firmly believe that words are important, that words have meaning. If you have read anything I have written in the previous 39 posts I have put in this blog, it should be of no surprise to you that I read and reread letters and emails to understand what is being said and, more importantly, how it is being said.

I had written a letter to the bishop in hopes of gaining some insight into the lack of action taken against Father Gibson.  The reply that came from the bishop was most likely drafted by a subordinate for the bishop’s signature.   The bishop seems to speak through proxies, as a matter of course, when dealing with people who have been victimized by one of his priests and then again by the diocese.

The premise of the reply was that I misunderstood actions and statements by the diocese in the handling of Father Gibson.  The bishop in the first paragraph  stated “I pray that I may be able to help clear up so much of what is troubling you.”  Therein lies the rub.  Bishop Martino, the only way you can clear up so much of what is troubling me is to explain to me and other victims why the Bishops of Scranton protected animals like Father Gibson.

In his letter, the Bishop used terms such as “abusive behavior”, “sexual misconduct” and “encounters with Father Gibson”. I do not know who drafted the Bishops response, but I think that they drank the diocesan Kool Aid. Allow me the courtesy of being blunt. When I was 13, I was repeatedly raped by Robert Gibson. It was not an “encounter”; it was a violent, devastating, brutal series of assaults and a complete violation of not only my body, but of my sense of trust, safety, faith and personal worth.  The term “sexual misconduct” was also not accurate. It was statutory rape of a child. Your Excellency, do me and other victims of your pedophile priests the favor of not using words to make theirs actions more palpable to your tender sensibilities. Words have meaning, and the words you used to refer to his criminal behavior only serve to minimize the magnitude of his crimes and marginalize victims. Had a teacher, police officer or any other person in the community committed crimes similar to Father Gibson they would not have enjoyed the care and protection of their employer. They would have been in prison and rightly so!

Father Gibson’s case was not referred to the Vatican by either Bishop Timlin or Bishop Martino.   Why this man is not a candidate for a canonical trial or excommunication is beyond me. Is the Vatican even aware of all the priests who have admitted to their bishops that they had raped and molested children?

The Bishop of Scranton’s continued support for this man is a continuation of the abuse that he inflicted years ago. Even though he is banned from ministry, he is still a Roman Catholic priest.  That, in itself, is an insult to his victims and is an act of fraud committed against parishioners. He should be reported, he should go through the process.  The fact that you had him away in the Vianney Renewal Center, a plush alternative to prison conveniently located out of the jurisdiction where he committed his crimes, does not excuse his behavior or mitigate the Bishop’s responsibility to take appropriate action against this man. Had the Bishops of Scranton been thinking of the safety of the children in the Diocese, they would have handed him over to the police and supported prosecution when he was initially reported. Instead, they circled the wagons, protected the criminal and continued to victimize those who are most vulnerable. I wonder how many confidentiality agreements were signed by victims as a part of an insignificant settlement.

I have agreed, in principle, to meeting with the Bishop of Scranton to discuss concerns I still have.  I did make the demand that such a meeting would not be held in a diocesan office.  I have no intention of going to the Bishop’s fortress of solitude.  I recommended that we meet on the campus of the University of Scranton. In the typical style of an organization that is oblivious to the victims of its pedophile priests, the Bishop recommended that I meet him at the Jesuit Residence on the campus.  I am loathe to point out the obvious to the Bishop, but I will in case he is reading this.  Bishop Martino, I was raped in a rectory, I have no interest in meeting you in a residence for priests!  I am sure you can borrow an office in the Alumni House or in one of the Administration buildings.  If your staff can’t figure out how to do that, maybe you should get yourself a new staff.

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.

Drafting a Letter to Bishop Martino

I am working on drafting a letter to Bishop Martino to address the particulars of my “experiences” with Father Gibson when I was 13.   This has been a difficult letter to write because it not only addresses the nature of the abuse but because I want to also ask him why no investigation has ever been conducted in the 18+ months since I made my initial report.   I have many more questions for him, and I truly believe answers will not be forthcoming.  

Obviously the drafting the letter is taking much of my limited down time at night.   One of the things I have been asking myself is “why are you bothering in the first place with such low expectations?”.  If nothing else, the people wearing blinders on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton will have the information that they should have collected as part of the investigation they should have conducted.  I don’t want to be accused of not providing information to the Bishop to inform his decision on what  action would be  appropriate in dealing with the problem.   I suspect that action verbs are not in vogue in Scranton.

If you have advice or recommendations on how I should focus the letter, I would be glad to hear it.  Leave a comment or send me an email.