I have heard from a few of you concerning the amount of time it is taking to get an offer from the various funds set up by the Dioceses in Pennsylvania for childhood survivors of sexual crimes by priests. I have heard there is a backlog with the administrators, an article, Pennsylvania dioceses offer $84M to 564 clergy abuse victimsby Michael Rubinkam, on the Associated Press website from December 26, 2019, backs up what I had heard. (Click on the first link to read the article.)
Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally that’s sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims, according to an Associated Press review.
The average payout reported to date is over $148,000 for the seven dioceses that have released information.
I recommend a read of the article. I believe that the Dioceses are displaying an amount of hubris that is entirely inappropriate. They are reveling in getting away with the rape of children and the coordinated coverup of those crimes over decades. Everyone one of the Bishops in Pennsylvania should hang their heads in shame. While these payments will give relief to some of the victims, they do not forgive the crimes. No amount of money will assuage the torment of those who were targetted, first by the predator, and then by the institution that should have protected them in the first place.
It has been six months since my last post. Much has happened for me, but nothing has changed as far as the Diocese of Scranton is concerned. Everything remains a risk calculation for the boys on Wyoming Avenue. We are no closer to the truth, no closer to the Bishop taking responsibility for his actions, not anywhere near an honest act of contrition. And now Bishop Bambera is under consideration for appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, another corrupt bastion of Catholicism. Yes, sports fans, Bambi is perhaps in line for a red zucchetto.
The bishop is calculating the victory lap he thinks he will take when the accountants come back with the final tally from the Individual Survivors Compensation Program (ISCP). It will be a ledger of payments, pennies on the dollar, intended to make survivors go away. There is no actual admission of wrongdoing, no real penance. It is a business transaction.
One of the downsides of having this blog is the email from “ordinary Catholics” who are pissed at me for having the audacity to call out the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for the coverup of decades, perhaps centuries, of sex crimes committed by priests against children. The most recent, received last week, comes from a man who initially sent me an email insisting that I call him. He included a phone number with a southeastern Pennsylvania area code. (Note to potential email correspondents to this blog, saying you “would like to speak to me,” and providing a phone number is not going to get me dialing my phone.) No context, no explanation, just an expectation that I will drop what I am doing and dial the number. On the outside chance that the email could be from a survivor, I responded. My experience also shows that other survivors who are unsure how to start “the conversation” will make the same request, provide a number and ask me to contact them or request that I provide my digits. The sole reason I respond to any of these emails is the possibility that the originator is a fellow survivor.
After more than a dozen years working on this blog, it is easy to spot a militant “protectors of the faith” in a follow on email. Often they are trying to ambush me into a lecture. Sometimes, if I politely decline, it gets more aggressive with accusations that I hate the church, I am making up stories, or I am tarnishing the reputations of “godly” men. You get the picture.
Last week I saw a spike in visits to the blog. Because I have not posted since last June, I was surprised to get an email from WordPress telling me that my stats were booming. The next day brought an email request for my phone number. I thought it odd and stated so in my reply when I asked for the reason he wanted to speak to me and for an introduction.
His reply began with a quote from my blog:
The Catholic Church is a huge multinational business, run for a purpose. It has a goal to collect money, to perpetuate itself and to avoid scandal. They want to attract the “faithful” to fill the seats for the Sunday morning magic show in order to keep the collection plate filled. This will allow the monsignors, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope to continue living in opulent excess. It has long ago stopped being about god, charity, faith and truth.”
My first thought was, “here we go!”
The second paragraph was: (my comments in bold italics)
“I am an ordinary Catholic living near Allentown, PA. (So?) I have been in Scranton several times. (as if this lends geographic credibility to what is to follow) I read your history on the blog “Off My Knees” about the abuse you suffered by a Catholic priest online (thanks for the page views?!). You stated that you no longer consider yourself a Catholic (I don’t), and you don’t believe in God in the traditional Catholic of Christian construct (Yup, I said that too). (And then we get to it…) I want to talk to you about why you don’t want to belong to the Church, your attacks and hatred of the Church, and why I believe the Church is being (sic) unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like you.”
I am curious, why is my desire to have no relationship with the Catholic Church any of your business, Mr. “Ordinary Catholic living near Allentown?” My criticism is directed at the hierarchy of the church for reasons that are well documented. My hatred of the church? You lept to that conclusion all on your own. Show me where I ever said I hated the church. Hate is a powerful emotion, but it not the opposite of love. The opposite of both love and hate is indifference. I am indifferent to any institution that has a culture where prominent leaders rape children, their higher-ups cover up the rapes and encourage followers to enable those crimes through collections, tithing, and donations. My question to you, Mr. Ordinary Catholic, is why aren’t you?
I don’t care (there is that pesky indifference again) if you believe the church is being unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like me. Imagine how unfairly treated the victims of sexual crimes committed by priests and covered up by the hierarchy of the church feel.
On the outside chance that this was a Festivus “airing of grievances” from Whitehall, PA. I would suggest that you now move on to the “feats of strength” activities.
Merry Christmas and an Excellent Festivus to us all!
a person who is avoided or rejected by others for moral or social reasons.
Let’s just put this out there. Abuse survivors are the new lepers to the “Catholic faithful.”
Recently, a Facebook Post reply from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference to a comment left by Carolyn Fortney showed that organization’s disdain for the universe of survivors. Here is the screenshot of the now deleted post:
After removal of the pathetic reply above, the PCC issued the following apology/retraction/backtracking attempt:
If you don’t know about the Fortneys, I strongly encourage you to check out their website and follow them on Facebook at Fortney Family on the Move for Justice. Of nine siblings in the Fortney family, five were abused by a Catholic Priest. These brave women came forward and have lent their voices to advocate for change and justice. They do not deserve the disrespect leveled at them by the PCC.
I will assume that the FB reply came from Al Gnoza, the “Communications Director.” I wonder if he is the one with whom the PCC leadership is “addressing the matter” with?
Before I go any further, I will recommend to Mr. Eric Failing that he fill the Department on Social Concerns Director vacancy soon. You really need someone with some people skills in your organization. Just a thought!
As for Al Gnoza, a former newscaster dismissed for cause from ABC27, an ABC affiliate in Harrisburg in 2014 for making inappropriate comments. After a few years at the CBS affiliate in town, he left in 2018 to take his current job with the PCC. He has a track record of not knowing when to keep his mouth shut. I am hoping the disciplinary action taken includes Mr. Gnoza packing up and going elsewhere.
As the voice of the PCC, Mr. Gnoza has made it clear that he has disdain for survivors and their families. That disdain is clearly the position of the PCC as long as they keep this man in their employ as the Communications Director. This organization, just like the Catholic League, wants survivors to go away, to be silent and to stop calling to task the hierarchy of the church and its minions in the Insurance Lobby, the office of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
This feeling is not limited to organizations lobbying for the church. It is strongly felt by the “faithful” who also want us to go away. They often complain that we are just looking to make a few bucks off the church. That money comes from parishioners. They have been told, and they believe that services to seniors, young children, and social programs are being impacted to pay off the survivors. They have made us the villains.
Dioceses have conducted services for forgiveness and atonement, but they do not invite survivors and their families. They bar entry to churches for those who add vocal support for survivors. We are the problem in their eyes. In my own case, I offered suggestions and support to my alma mater, the University of Scranton’s Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation & Hope. It was made clear in a brief letter from the president of the University and a more polite email from the chair of the Task Force that my offer was not welcome. A clear indicator that I am no longer considered to be part of the University of Scranton community.
Forgive me if I have no sympathy for the PCC, the Catholic Church, or for “the Catholic Faithful” who continue to try to isolate and marginalize survivors. Just a reminder, folks. We were the victims of crimes committed by priests and other religious. Those perps had the support and protection of the hierarchy of the church. The church continues to benefit from the comfort of organizations like the Catholic League and the PCC who are all about telling you that we, the survivors of the abuse, are the reason that things are wrong in the church. They say that we are going to bankrupt the church. I have news for you, they are already morally bankrupt.
UPDATE – 20 May 2019
The spineless leadership of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has removed the apology to Carolyn Fortney and other survivors on their Facebook page. Isn’t it just like a Catholic organization to hide evidence of a problem and act like it never existed?
If you are a survivor in the Diocese of Scranton, you will need to look at the Diocese website for the Independent Survivor’s Compensation Program. The link is at the end of the news release and is not part of the main Diocesan site. The Bishop also released a video. There is not a lot of substance there, just a rehash of points in the letter mailed to survivors by the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) (I should check that envelope to see if that was a bulk mailing). It is replete with politically correct attempts at “empathy” for victims within the Diocese that should appease the most ardent of the Bishop’s apologists supporters.
I strongly recommend that you get legal advice from someone not associated with the Diocese of Scranton. If you have not come forward with a report of your abuse yet, you should go to the police, district attorney for your jurisdiction or the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and make your statement to civil authorities.
Some vital information on who may file a claim from the FAQ Sheet for the program:
The persons eligible to participate in this Program are: a) individuals who allege they were sexually abused as a minor by clergy (whether incardinated within the Diocese of Scranton or a member of a religious order serving within the Diocese of Scranton), lay teachers or employees associated with the Diocese of Scranton, or b) the Legal Representative (as defined below) of those Claimants. The following additional criteria apply:
• For new allegations first reported after November 8, 2018, the Claimant must first report the allegation of abuse in writing (with a copy submitted to the Administrators) to the appropriate District Attorney’s Office in order to participate in this Program. A finding of criminal liability by the District Attorney is not required for participating in this Program. All new allegations of abusereceived through this Program will also be reported to the appropriate District Attorney by the Diocese as required by law and Diocesan policy.
• The Claimant must not have previously entered into a settlement agreement resolving the same claim of clergy sexual abuse against the Diocese and/or a member of clergy.
• The Claimant must not have previously litigated his/her claims to resolution against the Diocese or any related entities. However, a Claimant whose claims were dismissed or resolved solely on the grounds that they were barred by the Pennsylvania statute of limitations and no other basis, remains eligible to participate in the Program.
The letter I received from the VAC last week indicated that more details would be forthcoming from the administrators of the ISCP. As of this writing, I have not received that package yet. I will provide updates when it does arrive.
Everyone needs to assess their situation and make decisions that are right for themselves and their families. Only you can decide how you are going to proceed.
I am providing links to the Claim Form, Protocol, and Fact sheets in a .pdf format. These documents are from the package received from the administrators managing this process.
There are only a few days left until the Diocese of Scranton releases the information on the Bishop’s Victims Compensation Fund. I am confident that Bishop Bambera will over-promise and under-deliver to victims and their families. If you plan to make a claim against the Diocese of Scranton, watch their news release page for information. I expect the lies and blame deflection will flow from Bill Genello’s office as soon as the details of the “Independent Survivors Compensation Program” ooze out of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.
Look for requirements that will disqualify as many people with credible accusations as possible. If you were raped/molested/harmed by a priest in a religious order teaching in a Diocesan school, you might be out of luck. The Bishop will probably flick that booger towards the religious order and ignore that the crimes were committed within his curia. As in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, they will probably offer you the services of an attorney to help you navigate the rules of the fund. Please be aware, that the attorney being paid by the Diocese will not have your best interests at heart. If the Diocese is paying the bills, the lawyer is working for the Bishop and not for you. I strongly recommend that you get your own legal representation, working for your interests and yours alone.
The best bet in Pennsylvania is to enact legislation that opens a civil litigation window, sweeps aside the need for confidentiality agreements, and forces institutions like the Catholic Church to comply with laws protecting children and vulnerable adults. All victims should have the right to bring a claim in front of a judge. The format of the compensation funds is stacked to favor the Dioceses.
I have been reading some articles linked from sites like Catholics4Change.org or sent in from readers of this blog (thanks Barb!). I am going to offer you some links to spike your outrage or just leave you shaking your head at the myopic idiocy of Church leaders.
The Cardinals and the Bishops are ending 2018 full of deceit. I hold out little hope for change when the clock strikes midnight tonight, and we charge headlong into 2019. Over the last ten years writing on this blog, I have always been in awe of the Church Hierarchy’s ability to be unfeeling, uncaring, unchristian buffoons. I don’t think they will disappoint in their stupidity in the new year.
BISHOP BAMBERA SHOULD RESIGN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT!
The Pennsylvania Attorney General has released the report on a two-year grand jury investigation into widespread sexual abuse of children within six dioceses of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania and the systemic cover-up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at The Vatican.
All of the above links are from the official website of the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
A quick glance at the report revealed that Robert J. Gibson is listed as one of the priests creditably accused, but his case is not part of the write up in the document. I had a screening interview via telephone when this investigation began, but my situation was not part of the Grand Jury.
Now the Church will wait for this to blow over. I don’t expect the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will do the right thing and allow Survivors to call the Diocese to account for their complicity.
I am writing this from the low country of South Carolina. A break needed to assess where I am and where I am going. I am also working on a project that I will keep under wraps for the time being. The first steps are proving to be very challenging.
After the post from July where I asked the question “What is it going to take?” I did not hear crickets, but I also did not hear a lot of consensus. Most of the comments were via email to this blog and, as a rule, I don’t publish the contents of email unless I have the permission of the correspondent.
I keep coming back to the same basic conclusion. We, the community of survivors, don’t trust each other. I am sure someone with a lot more education in psychology can explain all this. In fact, I would love to hear the explanation.
What I have discovered is that there are divisions within the community that baffle me. There seems to be a concern that someone’s abuse is more important, more devastating, more valid than another.
There is no criteria to determine who is a survivor and who is not. There is no experience barometer to determine who had it “bad enough” to be in the “club”. I almost hesitate to say the word “community” anymore. I really don’t think there is one. There is no network, there is no organization because we cannot come to a definition of who can be considered a survivor. And that serves the interests of the predators and the institutions that have protected them.
It is not a competition. It is a very destructive game of “I had it worse than you”. Can’t we agree that is awful, devastating, damaging and life altering? It is completely confusing to me that the people who should have the most empathy for survivors are other survivors. And yet, that is where I find the most intensely judgmental collection of individuals who are often very vocal when anyone offers an opinion other contrary to the “norm”.
If this is the game, I don’t want to play anymore. I have better things to do than sit around comparing stories of abuse and the levels of devastation caused by that abuse. I will leave that sorting to someone else.
It is not all SNAP’s fault either. We can wax poetic about how screwed up an organization, any organization may be. We can waste our time affixing blame. Or we can get organized, concentrate on the predators and the institutions that protect them and move forward. At some point this has to stop being about individuals and it has to start being about something greater.
If we are to have that kind of community of survivors, we must not sit in judgement of each other, we must work together to change the environment that has allowed predators to target children and vulnerable adults. If we cannot do that, we have already failed.
It seems that what it is going to take is empathy for each other. Once we have that we can start to be more organized and focused on changing the conditions that allow an environment for abuse and criminal conspiracies to protect predators to exist.