A Letter to the President of The University of Scranton: Show Me Your Good Faith and Resolve

Gunster 80s
The University of Scranton Commons in front of Gunster, looking down Linden Street in the 1980’s.  From the McHugh Special Collections, Weinberg Memorial Library, The University of Scranton.  http://digitalservices.scranton.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p9000coll7/id/48/rec/1

In a move that took me by surprise back in August, the incoming President of The University of Scranton, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., directed that the names of bishops of the Diocese of Scranton involved in the Sexual Abuse Crisis would be removed from campus buildings and honorary degrees awarded to those individuals rescinded.  This action was taken after the release of the Pennsylvania Diocese Victims Report detailing sexual crimes by clergy in six of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic Dioceses.

On October 11, 2018, Father Pilarz released an announcement on the establishment of the Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation, and Hope.   In his message, he and the Board of Trustees “commit endowed funds to support efforts to strive together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report.”  He charged the Task Force to “help us harness the full range of resources that The University of Scranton, as a Catholic and Jesuit university can offer the church in this painful but pivotal moment. Their work will imagine and plan how we can respond, in ways both simple and sophisticated, to the needs of God’s people.”

I applaud any action taken to uncover the truth and to expose the complicity of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in protecting predator priests who have been committing sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults for decades. But,  I am suspicious of any action taken by a Catholic organization to address this issue.  The wording of the announcement is benign on its surface.  After reading it a few times, I was struck by what it does not address.   I do not see a clear identification of who is to be “healed, reconciled and granted hope.” He speaks about the church and  University community but nowhere in the announcement is a recognition of survivors.  The words  “victim” and “survivor” are conspicuously absent from the text. Is it the President’s intent to exclude the victims of this scandal?

Earlier this week I wrote to the Father Pilarz to express my concerns and offered a few recommendations. I have done this in good faith with the hope that my Alma Mater is true to it’s Jesuit Tradition.

Spirituality is at the core of our mission as a Catholic, Jesuit institution of higher learning. The chief characteristics embedded in the Ignatian vision include: the concept of the Magis, or a restless pursuit of excellence grounded in gratitude; Cura Personalis, individual attention to students and respect for the uniqueness of each member of the University community; seeking God in all things; liberal education; service of faith and the promotion of justice; and contemplation in action.

I have given the U.S. Postal Service enough time to deliver my letter to the University of Scranton.  I now share the text of that missive with you.

Dear Father Pilarz,
I am writing to you as both a survivor of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton and a member of the University of Scranton Community.  I graduated from the University in 1982 with a B.A. in History.
In response to the findings of the Attorney General’s Grand Jury Report, you took action to rename University buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the bishops who had a hand in the cover-up of sexual crimes committed against children and vulnerable adults. I applauded your initial steps in addressing this crisis.  Now I want you to make an impact beyond the campus of the University.
Your announcement of the establishment of Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation, and Hope in October may be a step in the right direction.  However, I have concerns that I hope you will take to heart.
Your task force needs to include survivors.  Survivors and the families of victims who are no longer with us need a voice at your table.  The Task Force will need to do more than politely listen to the stories and understand the impact on everyone involved. When we speak, it will be emotional perhaps even loud. Sorrow, anger, shame, and embarrassment will break voices and bring tears to eyes.   It may be messy and difficult to bear.  You will need to listen to these stories to be credible in your labors.  Without that input, you cannot possibly understand the depth of the damage to innocence, safety, security, personal relationships, trust, and faith inflicted on children because of these sexual batteries. Simply put, you should not have this discussion without us.
I would like to see the University endow studies that address key issues in this crisis.  I have tried to understand why the abuse happened and why the hierarchy of the Catholic Church covered it up. I have struggled, personally, with the effects of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my eighth-grade religion teacher, a diocesan priest. I stayed silent for more than 33 years. In the eleven years since my initial report to the Diocese of Scranton and the ten years since I publicly revealed the abuse, I have spent hundreds of hours reflecting on areas that deserve investigation and scholarly study.  Here are some recommendations:
  • A study of the factors that lead predators to select particular victims. My discussions with other survivors led me to theories on why we became targets. Most victims were from devout families who revered priests as God’s representative on earth.  Obedience, without question, of the orders given by priests and other religious was drilled into our heads from a young age. Predators use this to their advantage. They seek out children in dysfunctional families (domestic violence, addiction issues, alcoholism) or tragic circumstances (death of a parent or sibling, catastrophic illness or injury in the family). I have a friend whose grooming began when he was 12 years old at his father’s wake.   A study in this area will allow for the identification of at-risk children and inform teachers, adult leaders and family members of potential vulnerability harm.
  • A study on the psychopathology of pedophilia and why the Catholic Church has such a long, tragic history of this mental disorder within the ranks of its clergy. A review of the screening processing for seminaries, for both staff and students, may reveal how potential predators make it through the process undetected.
  • A study on the long-term impacts of the sexual batteries on survivors and their families to include the actions of the Church to marginalize and isolate victims and their families. Denials, strong-arm tactics and attacks on survivors to silence or blame them for the abuse further compounds the damaged already experienced.
In the wake of the abuse I suffered in 1974, I found a place to start over when I arrived at the University of Scranton over Labor Day weekend in 1978.  I began to work out who I was and push out of my very narrow comfort zone.  I enjoyed my classes, I made friends, and I was involved in campus life. I was a student manager for Campus Bowl, and I was selected to be in the Chorus during for Fall Review in 1980 and 1981. I was a student Co-Director for Orientation ’81 working with Professor Cannon and the staff of the Counseling Center out of an office on the third floor of St. Thomas Hall.  I have very good memories of my time at the “U.”  During my Junior year, the priest who raped me when I was 13 years old came into the restaurant in Scranton where I worked as a waiter.  That chance meeting shook me so badly that I stopped going to class and missed some of my campus commitments. I was considering suicide.  A Jesuit, Edward Gannon S.J., summoned me to his office in Memorial Library to sort out what was happening to me. I did not go willingly.  In what turned into a marathon “confession” I told him the story of my abuse.  I spared him no detail.  On that cold winter night, he declared me blameless and offered the only sincere apology I have ever received for the abuse I suffered as a child. His intervention saved my life that night.  Because the conversation was within the context of a confession, I held him to his vow of silence on the matter. In hindsight, I wish I had let him take action.
I am not a social justice warrior.  I do not welcome or seek attention’s center.   I know I am a small voice on the coast, screaming at the vastness of the ocean.  There is a point where if you don’t stand up for something, you stand for nothing.  I came forward out of guilt for those that came after me, shame for keeping my secret, anger for the dismissal of accusations deemed credible by the chancery.  I  am horrified that Catholics seem willing to sacrifice children and reward a hierarchy that is misguidedly abusing their authority to maintain the illusion that their house of worship, their sacraments, and their faith are in order.
I want to believe that the University of Scranton is still a place where people don’t shrink from controversial or uncomfortable topics.  I want to know it is a place where people can stand up and do the right thing even when it is unpopular or challenges the local bishop.  I need to know that it is still the place where faculty and staff care about their students and the greater university community. I want to believe in the University that gave me, and generations of students,  Father Gannon.  I know that the Task Force cannot solve all of the issues in this great crisis. I think that it may be able to take a step in the direction of finding answers and making meaningful recommendations.
As for me, I realize that sometimes justice offered is not always the justice for which we had hoped.  I, as a survivor, will seek the wisdom to know when that justice is enough.
                                                                        Very respectfully,
                                                                       Michael B. Baumann
Copy to:
Patricia Tetreault
Christian Krokus

Any hope I may have that the Task Force will do more than to look inward to “heal” the church is very guarded.  I still consider myself a member of the University of Scranton Community even though I know I am no longer welcome in the Catholic Church.  The findings and recommendations of the Task Force will reveal the true nature and depth of the University’s good faith and resolve.

What do I want?

ConfirmationStainedGlass
I bet the stain glass artist wants this one back! (You can’t make this stuff up!)

With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August 2018, I have seen a resurgence of visits to this site, thousands of visits reading multiple posts. In the analytics, I can see the search terms people are using, mostly the names of predator priests or a specific Pennsylvania Diocese. While I am happy that people are reading to become more aware of  the scope of the problem, I worry that they are not actively engaging in the discussion and, in Pennsylvania, calling their Senators to move legislation forward that will enable all victims of child sex crimes (rape, molestation, abuse…) to seek justice and to allow the true scope of this crisis to come into the light.

To be perfectly honest with you, I did not expect all of this to come back at me as forcefully as it has. For as much as I have talked on this subject over the last ten years in my blog and to reporters for various publications and media outlets, I was not expecting this amount anger, embarrassment, guilt, and grief to well up in me the way it has in the last two months. It just doesn’t end.  My partner (should I really be calling her my “girlfriend” in my middle 50’s?), eloquently refers to all of this as “the scab being ripped off the wound”. I have had a lot of sleepless nights and discussions that have caused me to physically shake since the report was released. When I do sleep, the nightmares come back.  It has been easier for me to address the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis as a broader subject than to discuss the specifics of my personal experience.  Even now, 44 years removed from that horrible nine-month period of my life at age 13, talking about Gibson has a visceral effect on me.  All these years later I still have to ask,  why did he choose me?  What did I do?

I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am not a complete mess (only partial), I am alive, I have a job, I have a support group, my partner has my back (she always thought Gibson was creepy).  My high school classmates are horrified at what happened to me and others they knew.  I am not an alcoholic (I probably should be, but I won’t drink out of a bottle I have not opened myself or watched being opened because of Gibson), I am not an addict. I have battled depression for years. And, for the most part, I have been able to function in society.  I can count the number of people I truly trust on 2 hands with fingers to spare.

Keeping the secret for as long as I did was the cause of a lot of damage.  That secret sabotaged relationships with my parents, siblings, my former wife, children, and friends.  It profoundly changed the trajectory of my life and left me doubting every decision and action (personal and professional).  Gibson’s voice is the voice of doubt, dissension,  and depreciation in my head to this day.  I cannot shake him off.

In the wake of the Grand Jury Report,  the emails and phone conversations all seem to come down to one question: What do I want out of all of this? To date, this is what I have come up with: (In no particular order, I am spit-balling here)

  • Bishop Joseph Bambera needs to resign with immediate effect.  As Vicar of Priests in the 1990’s under Bishop James Timlin, Joseph Bambera returned “Father Ned” (Robert J. Gibson) to a rectory in the Diocese.  Bambera let a known pedophile back into the world where he was caught grooming a child again.  It is a quintessentially American concept that those who have the ability to change things, to protect the vulnerable, also have the responsibility to do so.  In this, Joseph Bambera fails completely, all the while falling back on the excuse that he was following Bishop Timlin’s orders.  As I have said on this blog before,  I have no confidence in Joseph Bambera’s ability to credibly lead the Diocese of Scranton because of his complicity in Robert Gibson’s case and others.
  • I want all Catholic Cardinals and Bishops in the United States to offer their resignation to the Vatican.  The Pope should accept the resignations of any of those prelates who have had any involvement in a sexual crime against a child or vulnerable adult or were involved in covering up such activity or campaigning to defame a victim that has come forward to report rape, molestation or abuse.
  • I want the U.S. Attorneys across the country to investigate and bring charges against the Dioceses that conspired to move predator priests across state lines to “move the problem”.  Personally, I was taken across state lines to New York and Florida by Gibson.  The Diocese knows this.  I think that the Dioceses and the US Council of Catholic Bishops represent a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the RICO Statute (18 U.S. Code, Chapter 96).  Let the Federal search warrants flow!
  • I want the “facilities” that held Predator priests, such as the  Vianney Center in Dittmer Missouri, investigated for their role in hiding these men.  They are complicit in moving them across state lines and may have violated Federal Law.
  • I want the Diocese to turn over all files in the Dioceses’ “Secret Archives” to Civil Authorities for review to determine what the Dioceses actually knew.  I want the truth.  I would love to see Robert Gibson’s (Father Ned) file.   The Diocese only admits to Gibson having six victims.  I have spoken to more than six that could tell me his modus operandi.
  • I want to see the file on me at the Diocese of Scranton.  I am sure that there is a file cabinet in the Victims Assistance Office that contains a folder with my name on it.  Before the shredders start to overheat, I want to know what is in my file.   In the last week, I had someone claiming to be a Diocesan Priest who may have known my family back in the 1970’s asking for information about my parents.  If I were paranoid, I would say this could be an effort by the Diocese to profile me in advance of potential civil action if the window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate passes and is signed by Governor Wolf.  I would also like the Diocese of Scranton to admit that they use the Victims Assistance office to collect information on victims to allow the Diocese to develop a risk strategy to protect themselves.
  • I want to see all four recommendations proffered by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report to be adopted into law. I will not accept the Church’s offer of a Victims Fund.   That is part of a risk strategy to minimize financial liability on the part of the church and does not serve justice.  If they wanted to protect their interest, they should have protected the children and not the predators.  You reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7)  I do not buy the calls of poverty and threats of bankruptcy.  Those recommendations are:
    • Change the criminal Statute of Limitations for all sexual crimes committed against children
    • Open a civil window for victims
    • Enact criminal penalties for those who fail to report child abuse
    • Restrict the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements
  • I want the people who write to me to tell me that I should be thinking about the priests who are innocent and doing “God’s work” in the community and the negative impact on them as a result of all the publicity to stop.  REALLY?!  Thousands of children and vulnerable adults worldwide over decades, centuries, millennia who have been targeted by priests in the church and you want me to worry about Father ______________ (fill in the blank) and how he is coping with all this?   Why are the “innocent” priests not standing up en masse and calling for the removal of church leaders who are part of the problem?  Why are they not screaming at the top of their lungs calling for reform? Why have they stood by silently when they have had information or suspicions that children were at risk?  Innocent Priests?  SHOW ME!
  • I want to know what the University of Scranton and other Catholic colleges and universities are going to do to foster a discussion on this issue, listening to all points of view on the crisis and leading the way on educating the Church on the history of sexual crimes committed.  I want them to develop a way forward to protect the most vulnerable among us.   If all you are going to do is rename buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the Bishop involved in the cover-up you are only paying lip service to the problem.  I am challenging the President of the University of Scranton, my alma mater, to stand up and be an agent of change.  I am willing to talk to you and represent the victims and survivors.  I am part of the University of Scranton Community  (Once a Royal, always a Royal) and I demand that you take a stand more substantial than renaming dorms in the upper quad.  If you are not willing to do this, let me know where I can return my diploma.
  • Actis formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica.  This is an action item for the Diocese of Scranton. I want out.  I want my name off the rolls.  I want the Diocese of Scranton to coordinate with the Diocese of Brooklyn and make the break with me permanent and official. I am no longer a Catholic, and I want official acknowledgment in a document signed by the Bishop himself.  You should also do this pro bono. (So much Latin!  My Jesuit education is showing again.) I am not going to pay an indulgence for this service.  I have a spot on the wall where my diploma from the University of Scranton currently hangs that may be available soon.
  • I want the parishioners of Catholic Parishes to understand that they are funding the protection of predator priests.  Many of these guys are still on the payroll even if they have been laicized.  Are you happy that you may be paying for a golf membership for a pedophile?  The members of the Catholic Church should stand up and demand both accountability and responsibility from their leadership.

And, more than anything else, I want to be done with this.  I want to put this down and go back to a quiet life. I want to be able to turn out the lights on this blog (I am sure the boys in black on Wyoming Avenue want that as well).  If you think for a moment, dear reader, that I enjoy this, you are out of your mind. This is physically and emotionally exhausting.  I am angry at the lies, I am mad at the way I have been treated both as a 13-year-old and as an adult who reported the crimes committed against me.  I am angry that people still rally behind those who protected pedophiles at the expense of their victims.  I am tired of the lies and the attacks on the character of survivors to advance a false narrative that the Catholic Church is doing everything they can to address the issue.  They are doing everything they can to stick to their risk strategy.

That is my list for now.  I am sure I will come up with more items as I think about all of this.

 

 

 

 

 

A Professor Shows the Bishop His Back

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A friend emailed me a link to an article reporting that Professor Barry Kuhle stood up and turned his back on Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton during the Bishop’s remarks at the inauguration of the Father Scott R. Pilarz S.J. as the new President of the University of Scranton.  2018-09-27-Scranton_Professor_Protest

The article reported that Professor Kuhle’s sister was sexually assaulted by a temple leader in her pre-teens. She committed suicide in 2007 and the day of the inauguration would have been her 42nd birthday.

Professor Kuhle has called for Bishop Bambera to resign in the wake of the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  I would like to add my voice to that call.

Bishop Bambera has admitted to returning Robert Gibson to a parish by order of Bishop James Timlin.  He should have known better.  His defense is that he was following Timlin’s directions.  If he had a moral backbone, he would have turned Gibson over to the police.   Gibson was subsequently caught grooming another boy after Bambera released him back into the Diocese.

Well done, Professor!

Michael Baumann

The University of Scranton, Class of ’82

 

 

The University of Scranton Takes Action

US_Seal_3DA letter by was released by the President of the University of Scranton, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., to the University on August 20, 2018, concerning the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  It outlines proactive steps being implemented at the  “The U” as a result of the findings presented by the Grand Jury.  Some of the actions include the renaming of buildings named after bishops in Scranton implicated in the report as covering up abuses and rescinding honorary degrees conferred on those bishops.  The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Members of the University Community,

 The recent release of more than 1,300 pages of grand jury proceedings detailing sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania and failures by Church leaders in responding to these situations is justifiably generating international attention and outrage. Since the report’s release last week, the University has considered how best to respond to the deeply disturbing report and to past honors and recognition it has bestowed upon individuals named in it.

Earlier today, I consulted with a group of administrators, faculty, alumni and student leaders to recommend a course of action to the Board of Trustees. This afternoon, the Board met in special session and unanimously approved our recommendations.

With sympathy for and in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will rescind honorary degrees and rename campus buildings recognizing Bishops Jerome D. Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick, and James C. Timlin. As documented in the report, these Bishops covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm’s way.

Buildings previously named for these three Bishops will be renamed as follows:

McCormick Hall will be renamed MacKillop Hall in honor of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart and who publicly exposed the sexual abuse of children by a priest. In her life, she faced persecution and excommunication, during which she was assisted by the Jesuits until later being absolved. Pope Benedict XVI named Sr. Mary Australia’s first saint in 2010.

The name on Timlin House will be removed and Mulberry Plaza, the complex in which the building is located, will be renamed Romero Plaza in honor of the late Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who will be canonized by Pope Francis on October 14. Murdered in 1980 while saying mass in San Salvador, Archbishop Romero remains an inspiration to millions, including many on the University’s campus who have made the moving pilgrimage to El Salvador.

Hannan Hall will be renamed Giblin-Kelly Hall in honor of the late Brendan J. Giblin ’06 and William H. Kelly Jr. ’93.  Brendan was a graduating senior at Scranton and o-captain of the swim team when he was tragically killed while on Spring Break in Panama City.  Bill worked for Bloomberg, LP in Princeton, N.J. and their affiliate, Bloomberg Tradebook LLC, in New York City. On September 11, 2001, Bill attended a conference at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center, Tower One, and was killed in the attack that destroyed those buildings. Since Bill and Brendan died, their family and friends have devotedly kept their memory alive, transforming tragedy into good in support of future students at Scranton.

In choosing to honor St. MacKillop, Archbishop Romero, Brendan and Bill, we hold up the example of their lives as a reminder always to be a voice against abuse and violence no matter the cost, to champion the poor and oppressed, and to treasure the bonds of friendship and community that are at the heart of The University of Scranton.

These actions are important, but the gravity of the information we now know demands even more of us. As a Catholic and Jesuit university founded by the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will strive together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report. As a university community, we look forward to working with the people of the Diocese to assist in facilitating discussions and reflection in the long but hopeful process to rebuild trust and find peace. In support of this initiative, the University is devoting resources to advance the programs and projects that emerge from our collaboration.

Additionally, I recognize that stories from the past two weeks can trigger painful memories for members of our campus community who themselves are living with the lifelong scars of sexual abuse. Please be assured that the staff of the Counseling Center and Campus Ministries are available to help students and that the University’s employee assistance program is always available for faculty and staff.

On this journey, I ask that you pray for the healing of all victims of sexual abuse and their families and that you pray also for the people of the Diocese of Scranton and the Universal Church.

Sincerely,

Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.

President

For the first time since a lengthy confession with Edward Gannon, S.J. in his library office at the University of Scranton in 1981, I feel a little bit of the weight being taken off of me.

This is a significant start to an open dialogue on the depths of the problem of covering up sexual crimes committed against children and a way forward to protect children and vulnerable adults in the future.

As a member of both the University of Scranton and the Survivor community, I am proud of my university for taking these initial decisive steps.

Michael Baumann, ’82

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the President of the University of Scranton

Father Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.,

The recent acknowledgment of credible allegations of sexual predation by Neil McLaughlin, S.J., a Jesuit with ties to the University of Scranton, is tragic for his victims as well as the University of Scranton.  It is conceivable that his victims could include members of the University of Scranton community.

As President of the University of Scranton, you have an opportunity to use this tragic news to educate the university community, as well as  surrounding communities, on the epidemic of sexual crimes committed against children in our society. You can show your commitment to the truth and rise above diocesan rhetoric of denial and re-victimization to open a meaningful dialogue with the survivor community.

I hope you use this moment in the University’s history to openly discuss the problems of sexual crimes committed by clergy in the Catholic Church. Such a discussion could bring together survivors, civil authorities, church representatives and the Catholic Community to openly address the crisis. As the President of a prestigious Catholic University you have the opportunity and the obligation to further discuss the crisis, especially in light of the revelation that a credibly accused predator once enjoyed a position of trust and respect at the University of Scranton.

I hope you don’t add your name to the long list of people who issue a statement and then never acknowledge the crisis again.  I would like to think that the University of Scranton is still a place where real issues are discussed openly and all voices are heard.  Prayer is good, especially when it accompanies action.

Michael Baumann

Class of 1982

An Open Letter to Bishop Joseph F. Martino, Diocese of Scranton

Bishop Martino,

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 CanadensisMonsignor 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.

Very respectfully,

Michael Baumann

Edward Gannon, SJ (one of the good guys)

I attended the University of Scranton for my undergraduate studies. This was probably an odd choice given my circumstance as it is a Catholic, Jesuit University. I chose it for a few reasons, some of which were more personal than academic. The school was located about an hour’s drive from my family home in the Poconos. If it were necessary, I would be able to get home quickly if the need arose. I had promised myself that I would not be too far away if my younger sisters or brother needed back-up in a house that was sometimes unpredictable and volatile.The school also had (and still has) a tremendous academic reputation. I was interested in the pre-law track, and I was accepted based on a solid B+ high school average.

I was instantly comfortable on the campus. I was happy to be back in an urban environment and enjoyed my ability to get anywhere I needed to go either by walking or using public transportation. If I needed to get home, I could catch a Trailways bus from downtown and be home in a couple of hours. During my freshman year, I did have to dodge cars barreling down Linden Street between St. Thomas Hall and the Gunster Memorial Student Center. For those familiar with the current campus of the U, my class was the last to enter “The U” before the “Z” bricks were laid on Linden Street and traffic diverted onto Mulberry.

It was during my freshman year that I met a Jesuit named Edward Gannon. He was a little annoying at first. He would walk into the cafeteria during breakfast and lunch and invite himself to sit at any table that piqued his curiosity. Given my aversion to those wearing Roman collars, I did not welcome the intrusions. He was notorious for asking some deep philosophical question at the breakfast table. Since I was barely able to cope with runny eggs, I let my table mates deal with the crazy Jesuit. The discussions sometimes seemed to come out of left field. He would ask questions about classes, relationships, religion, the world and the universe. I was very much on my guard around him initially.

Father Gannon was a campus legend. He was much bigger than his diminutive frame, and he had a commanding, reassuring presence where ever he went. Outside or in his office, he  usually had a cloud around him from the ever-present cigarette in his hand. This was the only vice he allowed himself. When not in his roman collar he was usually in a turtleneck and a cardigan. He was like a weird hybrid of Albert Einstein and Mr. Rogers. To say that he was intelligent would be a gross understatement. Father Gannon was granted the title of University Professor which meant he could teach in any department in the University. His classes were impossible to schedule because upperclassmen would take every available space. Given what I just said, you should not assume that class with Gannon was an easy A. You had to work to meet his incredibly high standards. He was not willing to accept anything less than what he thought you were capable of giving. He was not just teaching us philosophy or theology, he was teaching us to think, to question, to challenge. If we learned philosophy or theology along the way, so much the better. After the movie, “The Empire Strikes Back” hit the streets at the end of my sophomore year, many of us were convinced that Yoda was channeling Gannon.

Fr Gannon and I, 1981
Fr Gannon and I, 1981

He was also the genius behind the Fall Review, an annual talent show that packed the Gunster Auditorium every October. Despite the fact that I can not sing and I have two left feet, he saw fit to put me in the chorus for the shows in 1980 and 1981, I’m sure it was penance for something I had done wrong. He also enlisted me to be one of his student managers for Campus Bowl, a scholastic competition that filled the cafeteria every week during the spring semester.  I have no idea what this man saw in me.  He was always giving me a chance to work on something, usually something out of my comfort zone.

He took an interest in me. It became apparent that he knew much more about me than I had revealed. I guess you could say that he saw right through me. Against everything that experience had taught me to that point, I trusted this man. He picked up pretty quickly that I was the son of an alcoholic. He was himself a friend of Bill. We had many long conversations about alcoholism and my father in his office on the first floor of the library. My father stopped drinking and completed a residential program to get him on his way to sobriety during my freshman year at Scranton. I was not supportive of my father’s sobriety at first. I questioned his motives and I had doubts as to my father’s sincerity and commitment.  You may have deduced that I have trust issues that are deeply seeded. I suspected that there were ulterior motives at work here and I was not going to set myself up for another disappointment. Father Gannon spent a lot of time helping me to get to a point where I could have a relationship with my own father.

Money was always an issue for me in college. I had always been pretty self-sufficient, so I was always looking for a way to make a few bucks to support my Asteroids habit in the basement of Gunster. I had a work-study job in Dean Parente’s office and later in the Counseling Center on the top floor of St. Thomas Hall working for Professor Cannon. I ran the soda machine concession in the basement of Montgomery House (we knew it by its nickname “The Grad House”). I proctored tests (GMAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc…) on weekends when they were given at the “U.” Tuition and room and board were supplemented by waiting tables and tending bar at an establishment called “The Upper Crust” downtown. I was usually there 4-5 nights a week.

One night a group of priests came into the Upper Crust for dinner. Among them was Father Gibson. Needless to say, I was immediately on edge. I did not have their table. Because business was kind of slow that night, I convinced my boss to let me leave early. While he was usually pretty unreasonable, I think he saw how agitated I was and decided it was better to just let me go. As I was gathering up my coat and heading for the door, I ran into Gibson. He started some small talk, I put my shoulder down and blew through him on the way to the door.  That was the last time I saw Father Gibson in person.

Scranton was my safe zone. It was the first place that I ever felt comfortable in my own skin. I had friends, was developing confidence and letting my guard down a little bit. The sight of Gibson in “my world” freaked me out.  I went back to the Grad House and tripped off the line. I blew off classes for a few days and didn’t go to work. I was thinking about emptying my bank account and heading to the bus station and just disappearing. I contemplated ending it all. At that point, I did not think that I had options.

One of the things I blew off during this descent into depression was Campus Bowl. BIG MISTAKE! Father Gannon summoned me to his office in the library.  When I did not show up, he sent someone for me. He sent a member of the school’s club hockey team with orders to drag me to the library if necessary.   In his typical, no-nonsense style he demanded to know what was going on. Despite my protestations that nothing was wrong, he was determined to get to the bottom of the crisis. He was not going to tolerate my “thousand mile stare” for another moment.  I decided to tell him everything about Gibson, on the condition it was within the context of confession.  He listened for about 2 hours in the cluttered office. When I had said everything I was willing to say, we both sat in silence for a while. He looked at me and apologized. This time he did not offer me absolution, he declared me blameless for what had happened.  The strain was evident in his eyes. To this day he has been the only priest to offer me an apology for what happened. Given the state I was in and the helplessness I was feeling, I knew I was not acting rationally. Those hours spent with Father Gannon kept me in school and probably saved my life. For that, and many other things, I will be eternally grateful to him.

Father Gannon was my last confessor. He asked me several times after my last confession for permission to do something on my behalf. I politely refused. Given that he was a man of his word, I am certain he carried my secret to the end.

When I attended my 25th class reunion in 2007, I walked up to Gannon Hall, as if to pay my respects to the man who talked me off the ledge.  I wonder if the students living in that building now have any idea of the lasting impact that man had on generations of students?