A letter from the VAC at the Diocese of Scranton: Independent Survivor Compensation Program

Author’s note: This is my second attempt at this post. I have tempered my approach, but my outrage has not abated.

A half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie. A lie, you can detect at some stage, but half a truth is sure to mislead you for long.”
Anurag Shourie

I have had two restless nights since the letter arrived in my mailbox. My blood runs a little cold when I see the Diocese of Scranton address in the top left corner of an envelope. This missive was from the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) for the Diocese announcing the Independent Survivor Compensation Program (ISCP). I will let you read my letter. I have redacted my contact information. I have enough virulent church apologists blowing up my email, I will not enable them to contact me at my home.

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I have had some responses from others I have shared this letter with, other members of Robert Gibson’s “Lost Boys.” It seems, without my prompting, they are equally outraged by the message and tone.

I am sure Mary Beth Pacuska, the VAC, was very proud of her work. But then again, she is charged with taking information on victims and aiding the bishop in turning that information into a plan of action to silence, discredit and demean survivors who have dared to stand up to the prelate on Wyoming Avenue. I would recommend a title change that allows you to keep your “VAC” acronym. From this side of the conversation, “Victims Adversary Coordinator” sounds more apropos. Let me know Mary Beth, I am dying to get your opinion (sarcasm intended).

Shall we go through the letter? She starts to auger into the earth with her first paragraph of introduction. “I am privileged to work with victims of sexual abuse suffered as a minor.” You have got to be kidding me!? “Privileged?” From my point of view, it would have been my great privilege to never have had a cause to contact that office in the first place. Work with us? That is laughable. Although I initially spoke with Joan Holmes when she occupied that chair in 2007, it is my experience that the office of the VAC is there to protect the bishop and his minions. Interest in the well being of the victim/survivor has proven to be nothing more than a diocesan sham.

The next two paragraphs of the communication are propaganda. Propaganda wasted on an audience that sees through the fiction of Diocesan action touted because they have suffered not only the original crimes committed against them but through the mishandling, bungling and straight up attacks by the diocese. Spare us the bullshit Ms. Pacuska, we are not buying it, and you look all the more of a diocesan pawn for it.

Finally, in the fourth paragraph, she gets to the point of the epistle. Finally! She announces the ISCP, provides no details at all about the program and punts the problem to the administrators of the Diocesan fund intended to placate survivors like me. The best part of all of this is the nugget in the second to last paragraph of this pathetic piece of prose. “Please be assured that this program is independent of the Diocese, completely voluntary and confidential, and will be handled with respect and in a pastoral manner.” The program is not independent of the Diocese because the diocese is funding it. (Maybe I should say that the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton are financing it. That is much more accurate.) The Diocese, knowing the true scope of the problem and the estimated number of survivors/victims they have covered up for decades, is trying to get off on the cheap.

The program is “completely voluntary and confidential.” Sure it is! What I read here is a requirement for a confidentiality agreement. Or, more simply put, no transparency or accountability for the actions of bishops or priests who actively covered the sex crimes committed against children. She says the program will be handled with “respect and in a pastoral manner?” Personally, I don’t think the Chancery for the Diocese of Scranton knows the meaning of the word “respect.” Pastoral manner, that thought is ridiculous! If the lies and deceit offered to me by this diocese since I reported what Robert Gibson to me when I was 13 years old at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg reveals the measure of their “pastoral manner” I am better off without it.  If you wish to know what I want, click this link, I have spelled it out for you.

I have a recommendation for the VAC. Mary Beth, are you listening? Just tell us the facts devoid of all the propaganda and flowery support. Save the half-truths and platitudes for your parishioners. They are still swallowing what you and your bishop are offering.

A few thoughts on the Diocese of Scranton’s Annual Appeal and the Collection for the Care and Education of Priests

Rachel, who contributed the only guest post on this blog to date, made an interesting observation on the failure of the Bishop of Scranton to meet the goals for the Diocese Annual Appeal. This year, for the first time, the Diocese came up $274G short of this year’s goal of $5.3M.

Martino smallSince the Diocese usually meets the Annual Appeal goal, there is speculation on the reason for this year’s failure at attaining the $5.3M threshold of success. The Bishop was quick to point out the difficult financial times we are in as the reason for smaller pledges. Others insist that the shortfall was due to a protest that withheld funds because of the Bishops’ draconian way of doing business in the Diocese. The Bishop has raised the ire of some parishioners and other Northeast Pennsylvania residents by taking a hard line on a variety of social, religious and political issues. Bishop Martino has a reputation for raising the blood pressure of many of his detractors.  Some even may argue that the Diocese’s handling of pedophile priests and poor treatment of victims may have had an impact on the failure to achieve the donation goal.

From my vantage point down here in sunny Virginia, I see this all a little differently.  The Diocese claims that more individual donors contributed this year. While the number of donors may have increased, the dollar value of the pledges was lower than those in past years. I am not one for believing what comes out of Chancery in Scranton, but I will note that the Bishop seems to have achieved 94.9% of his goal. This feat is not too shabby considering the economic crisis gripping this country.  Had the economy not been in the sewer this year, one could reasonably assume that the Bully of Wyoming Avenue would have made the $5.3M.  If the 5.1% shortfall in this year’s Annual Drive was a protest, it was an anemic one, at best.

What I have a hard time believing is that the parishioners keep supporting this man despite his shortage of tact, diplomacy and an interesting inability to do the right thing.  While he does not come across as a “people person”, he was pretty successful in having parishioners open their checkbooks and almost fill the coffers of the church. If you examine the donations by parish, you will find parishes that greatly exceeded their goals while others barely made 24% of the mark set by the Diocese.

The people that get my blood pressure up here are the parishioners who are giving this Diocese money without a detailed accounting of where the cash is going.  The people continue to blindly give money to the holy mother church like lemmings heading over the cliff.  The bishop allegedly directed pastors to dig into parish accounts to cover the shortfall for their respective parishes and send the money to Scranton.  Take from the people to move the treasure to Scranton.  A little reverse Robin Hood action is what this looks like.  You would think that the Diocese would want the money pushed to the point where it was doing the greatest amount of good, at the parish level.  Nope, not this time.  It was time to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s.

If the people of the Diocese have a real issue with this Bishop, they should cut him off financially and isolate him in his residence.  Had this year’s annual fund missed the mark by 10%, 15%, 25% I would have to acknowledge that the people have spoken and that the Vatican needed to call Joseph Martino to some higher purpose like what they did with Cardinal Law from Boston.  At least promote him to his level of incompetence (Cardinal Martino?). Alas, it seems that the shortfall in the Annual Appeal is not statistically significant enough to call a protest.

I see the failure here belonging to the loyal opposition within the ranks of the faithful of the Diocese to withhold more money.  A failure to understand the full spectrum of expenses that these funds are expended against. A failure to back up the demands that the Bishop come to the parishes and explain his actions/decisions and offer options, hope or his condolences on issues that are relevant in the Catholic Community in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Instead he does what he normally does.  He sends a proxy or a letter.

To the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton, I congratulate you.  You have the Bishop you deserve. As long as you support him financially, you are voting with your dollars to keep him.

This all leads me to my final thoughts on the fund-raising in the Diocese of Scranton.  In the most recent Catholic Light on page 15, there is a request for donations to support the Collection for the Care and Education of Priests. The ads for this fund-raising effort show priests that the drive is designed to support in getting medical care, educational opportunities and travel opportunities. The don’t show you the dark side of how this money will be used.

The Diocese does not tell you that funds raised in this drive are also going to support pedophile priests like Robert Gibson. Father Gibson and others like him who have been reported to the Diocese for sexually deviant behaviour with children and vulnerable adults.  Actions that would have sent most lay men to prison.  These men were placed by the Diocese in facilities outside of the reach of criminal authorities that have kept them safe from having to answer for crimes over many decades. They receive care and attention, in addition to quarters far better than that of the state prison system, where they should be living. In many cases they have cars and “off campus” privileges.  You can be sure that those privileges are being abused, along with children in the area where these “Catholic Facilities” are located.  Your hard-earned dollars will go to support these predators without consequence for the crimes they committed.

Support for these rapists is one of the ways your money is used. Bill Genello will refer to this as “other expenses for the medical care of priests, a matter of privacy”. If you want your money used to help the Bishop avoid scandal by hiding his rapist priests, you can stroke your check to the fund. Be sure to write in the words “Pedophile Support Fund” on the memo line of your check.

If you want to send your Bishop a message, stop the financial support, now! The only language they understand is the sound of the money spigot being turned off. Demand that they open the books and explain where all the money is going.