“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

Socrates

An article on the Vatican Radio’s Website  reported on  a request from Pope Francis for forgiveness for the priests who committed sexual crimes against children.  During his prepared remarks to members of BICE [International Catholic Child Bureau] whom he received on 11 April 2014 in an  in audience at the Vatican, he deviated from the prepared text.  That deviation for his text was captured in the  English translation of  the Pontiff’s prepared statement provided by Vatican Radio:


…. I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…

Before I start this conversation I am being mindful of my fellow survivors and their families, some are no longer here because of the damage caused by predator priests.  We have been subjected to endless promises of reform and lies about accountability.  This is important to me as  survivor of rape by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. At the risk of appearing to be hopeful enough that these questions will somehow come to the attention of Pope Francis, I will address my questions to him directly.

Your Holiness, I have some questions I must ask so that I can understand the meaning and intent in your words.  Holy Father, from who are you asking forgiveness?  An honest question, I promise you.  I am convinced of your sincerity when you say you “feel the compelled to personally take on all the evil”.  If you do so, why do you qualify your statement by saying that the number of predator priests are “quite a few” in number but not when compared to the total number of priests?  YourHoliness, you start off by marginalizing the depth of the crisis.   Why should I trust what you go on to say next?

Are you asking survivors/victims for forgiveness?  Are you asking your Church? Are you asking us to forgive those who committed such heinous acts of depravity that destroyed our trust, our faith and injured our beings?  Or are you asking us to forgive those that hid and protected these monsters?  Are you asking us to forgive those, both religious and laity who have expended the treasure of the church to support evil and attack us, as if we were the cause of the crimes committed against us?  They  painted us as monsters or opportunists looking for an easy pay out.  Are you asking for forgiveness for the marginalization of our suffering, the suffering of our families, the lost potential of our shattered lives?   Are you asking for forgiveness for the irreparable damage  and damnation of those who chose not to right a wrong but to isolate and vilify the survivors?   Are you asking forgiveness for those who put the comfort of the church ahead of the safety of children?

Holy Father, it does not matter if there are a relatively small number of predator priest relative to the total number priests in the church.  It does matter that many of your Bishops chose to mitigate risk and protect predators instead of maximizing justice and protecting children.  You say the church is aware of the damage and that you cannot take one step back.  Until you take one step forward your Church will remain aware but ineffective and uncaring. Until you take action to cut the cancer of protection for predators from the ranks of your bishops your Church will not be stronger.

You speak of sanctions.  You want to take action to deal with the problem.  Your Holiness, with great respect I ask you, what are you willing to do?  My Catholic education instructs me that forgiveness is earned through acts of contrition.  The words are hollow if they do not come with action, with change and with the will to live a life that is true to the values and faith that you profess.

Words are important.  Words have meaning.  Holy Father, please show me that your words are sincere  and that you will finally take the action necessary to protect children and vulnerable adults.  Unless there is an accounting, unless the truth is more important than the comfort of those that have protected predator priests, your words will be lost on the wind.

Show me your committment, your actions, the meaning in your words.

 

 

I received the invitation to my high school reunion about a week ago.  I knew it was coming, I had talked to a classmate organizing it on the phone a few weeks ago.  I had also had conversations with a friend who is going, I was encouraged to go along.  Notre Dame High School Class of 1978 will be meeting on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of our graduation in May.

It has been about 10 years since I saw some of my classmates.  During the intervening years since our 25th reunion a lot has changed. In that time span I came forward with my information on Father Gibson.  I am a little apprehensive about what may await my return.  Since I became a reluctant activist, mostly due to the continued lies and concealment of predators by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, I have brought to light the dirty secrets about Father Gibson that the Diocese of Scranton has long hoped would remain undisclosed.   Several of my classmates have had this man baptise children, he has officiated at some of their weddings.   Their memories of the man may be significantly different from my own. Then again, there were others, perhaps in my class or the classes that came before ours at Notre Dame that share the a similar great terrible secret as my own.

NDHS Diploma 1978I do not have many personal items that date back to my time in Northeast Pennsylvania.  The 1978 yearbook is long gone, as was my high school ring, lost on one of the many Navy moves over the years.  Remarkably, my diploma turned up, in pristine condition, in a box in my parent’s home in Massachusetts after three or four moves of their own. Some thirty-five years later it is finally in a frame alongside some other items from my curriculum vitae.  A few photos were also in that box, including one from an 8th grade drama production that has since made an appearance on Facebook after I sent a scanned copy to a friend.

The last time I was in East Stroudsburg was in 2008 to speak to the District Attorney for Monroe County. My name and statement was added to an existing file of complaints that were outside of the statutes of limitation.  I spent one night in town and left as soon as the interview was concluded.  I had no illusions that anyone would have recognized me.  My family had left the area by the early 1980′s.  I had cut ties with just about everyone I had known in the area and  decided to leave Pennsylvania, forego entering law school, and make  a clean and permanent break.  During that 2008 visit I did drive around to look at once familiar places, noting the changes that 30 years had brought.  With the exception of driving around the towns of Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg, including going up the hill on Highland Road, I really have not spent any significant time in the area.  Funny, the school’s address is on Spangenburg Avenue but I don’t think I ever used that road even once in the 5 years I was a student at NDHS.

I have had contact with some members of my high school graduating class or the classes with which my siblings attended NDHS  in the past few years.  A few emails and phone calls came in the wake of the discovery of my blog or finding the article that appeared in the Scranton Times in 2008.  Most of the contacts have been positive, a few have been a little more confrontational.  I am curious, perhaps a little apprehensive, about what, if any, reaction will await me at the reunion.

Another story of extravagance and arrogance at the expense of parishioners.  Here is a story about the Bishop of Atlanta and his new digs.     Hey what is $22M when it comes to the comfort of a Prince of the Church.  Didn’t the Pope just fire a Bishop in Germany for this kind of thing?

I’m sorry that the old mansion was not to your liking, your eminence.  Perhaps he should change the  motto on his coat of arms  to read “We are the Lords”.

abg_coa

An article in the Scranton Times-Tribune online follows up on the story of Carlos Urrutigoiry and his elevation to a position of authority over priests accused of misconduct in a Catholic Diocese in Paraguay.

The National Director of SNAP, David Chlohessy, is demanding the Diocese release  the files on the Urrutigoiry and the events that occurred at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, a residential school sponsored by the Society of St. John, a religious order.   Urrutigoiry was credibly accused of sleeping with teenage boys as part of his “ministry”.

It will come as no surprise that the Diocese of Scranton will take no action and that the National Director of SNAP will move on to another press release/photo opportunity.  The dance continues and yet no progress is made.

According to an article in the Pocono Record on 14 March 2014, a priest who was credibly accused of molesting boys in Shohola (Pike County) and Moscow (Lackawanna County), Pennsylvania has been elevated to the post of Vicar General of Ciudad del Este Diocese in Paraguay.  Now a Monsignor, Carlos Urrutigoity will be in charge of investigations into claims of abuse or misconduct by priests in the diocese.   (Anyone else see this as the church taking a stand against the sexual misconduct by priests?)

Back in 2002 a lawsuit claimed that Urrutigoity and one of his henchmen, Father Eric Ensey had been “sleeping” with boys as part of their ministry.  Protected by the Diocese of Scranton Bishop James Timlin, the priests escaped prosecution by sending them for “psychological evaluation” in Canada.  The Diocese has a long-standing process where they send predator priests outside of the jurisdiction that could prosecute them. Timlin and his diocesan risk managers settled the lawsuit but did nothing else.

Now Monsignor Urrutigoity is operating in Paraguay and is in charge of protecting the people of his diocese from predator priests.  Despite Bishop Martino’s letter to the diocese in Paraguay, there really has not been anything done.   Had Bishops Timlin and Martino had the ability to discern right from wrong or even if one of them had a spine, they would have taken action in accordance with canon law and sought to have these and other predator priests that operated in the Diocese of Scranton defrocked and exposed.   But we all know that is not part of the risk calculus for the Catholic Hierarchy.

This crisis continues for three reasons.  First, bishops are still protecting the predators at the expense of the vulnerable.  Second, coward politicians who are under the cassocks of the bishops refuse to pass any meaningful legislation to hold the institutions that protect child rapists. Third, Catholic parishioners are not holding their hierarchy accountable.    I put the most blame on the last group.  For all the lip service from lay Catholics about the ongoing crisis, there is no real action to fix the problem and hold people accountable.

Catholics are not doing what they need to do to protect the innocent.   I am sure if their Saviour came back today, he would not want anything to do with these frauds.

 

 

 

Justice4PAKids is running a 5K race and a 1 mile walk to help the organization advocate and educate for child sex abuse prevention and awareness on Saturday, 3 May 2014.

The race is being held at the Chester Valley Trail Entrance at 140 Church Farm Lane in Exton, Pennsylvania.  You can register at Chester County Running Store.  Registration on the day of the event will begin at 7:15 am at the race site.  Registration is $25.00 on race day.  There will be prizes for First, Second and Third place finishers.  T-shirts will be provided to all registered participants.

If you would like to help to sponsor this event or volunteer visit Justice4PAKids to learn more.

Proceeds will benefit Justice4PAKids. (Donations are not tax deductable.)

FACSA – Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse

Contact Your PA House Rep ASAP

Please contact your local PA House legislator and ask him/her to support Rep. Mark Rozzi’s proposed amendments to Senate Bill 681 which the full PA House will be voting on very soon possibly in the next day or so.

A. How to find your legislator: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/

B. Bullet points we suggest you use in your communication with him/her:

  • Please support SB 681
  • Additionally, please support the all the Rozzi amendments that will help give justice to victims of child sex abuse which increase the statute of limitations from 12 years to 32 years for civil actions arising from the sexual abuse of a minor and create a two year “window” to allow past child sexual abuse victims the opportunity to seek civil recourse from their perpetrators.
  • Include a short sentence or two of why you support this legislation.
  • Thank them for their consideration of this matter.
  • Include your name and address.

—————————————-
FYI: Letter we sent to all legislators today. It has a bit more detail about the proposed legislation.

December 9, 2013

Dear Legislator:

The House will soon consider SB 681 which would allow victims of sex crimes to protect themselves from predators. While we support this legislation, we ask that you also support the Rozzi amendments to give victims access to justice. Currently, Pennsylvania’s archaic statute of limitations laws mean that thousands of victims cannot have access to the courts for civil proceedings – just because their legal “clock” has expired.

The first Rozzi amendment would remove the statute of limitations for civil actions arising from the sexual abuse of a minor and provide a “window” up until age 50 for abuse victims to file civil action if the statute of limitations has expired. It would also remove “sovereign immunity” defenses for public officials who commit sexual abuse.

Other amendments would increase the statute of limitations from 12 years to 32 years for civil actions arising from the sexual abuse of a minor and create a two year “window” to allow past child sexual abuse victims the opportunity to seek civil recourse from their perpetrators.

We are bombarded by horrendous stories of child abuse and the legal maneuvering that ensues.

For those of you who want real justice for the Sandusky victims or the victims of the Philadelphia Catholic diocese scandals, it is time to amend our outdated statutes of limitations.

It is time to stand up for the victims; not the predators.

Below and attached please find over 30 organizations who strongly support statute of limitations reform:

Catholic Whistleblowers, Child Protection Project, Coached Into Silence, Crime Victims Center, Culture of Silence Film, Horace Mann Action Coalition, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, Justice4PAKids, Justtell.org, Let Go Let Peace Come In Foundation, MaleSurvivor, Ms. Foundation, National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, National Child Protection Training Center, National Crime Victim Bar Association, National District Attorneys Association, OAASIS: Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service, Parents for Megan’s Law, PA Gestalt Center, Patches Kids, PCADV: PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, PCAR: PA Coalition Against Rape, Protect the Hershey’s Children, Inc., S.E.S.A.M.E., Inc.: Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation, Safe4Athletes, SFJ: Survivors for Justice, SNAP: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SOL-Reform.com, Stop the Silence, The Awareness Center, The National Center for Victims of Crime, Turning Point, Vertigo, LLC/Pursuit of Truth Film, Voice of the Faithful

On behalf of all of them, and on behalf of victims everywhere, please vote for the Rozzi amendments to SB 681.

This year has been full of trials, disappointments and setbacks.  It also has been full of discovery, new friends, old friends and the promise of new adventures.   2013 has been a hard year and I don’t mind saying I am glad to see it go.

I have not written much on this blog this year.  Fits and starts mostly.  I watch the news and I watch the continuing saga of people in positions of authority abusing children or vulnerable adults.  I read what is put out there by groups trying to reform the church and I see the Pope is even offering to reach out to survivors.  I still see that the institutions that these predators work within still look at the sexual crimes and damage to actual human beings as part of a risk management calculation.  I still see legislation withering while politicians genuflect to special interests to keep justice from those that deserve it.

Last week I threw a few lines out there and the first response was allegedly from a predator wanting to taunt me and others.  The email (posenti3@yahoo.com) was familiar, a pseudonym based on an Italian saint.  Oddly, Gabriel Possenti is the patron saint of “handgunners”.  A veiled threat, perhaps.  It would have been more of a threat if the author had spelled the saint’s name correctly.  I guess being “Mr. Oregon” in his youth (not that there is any record of that honor) did not require the ability to spell the name used for “extracurricular” online activities.  Activities that led to his pleading guilty of charges related to child pornography.  Yeah, I know you are still out there.  I know you are doing your taunting from your schismatic church.

How do I start doing this again.  I just listen to the taunting of those who think that they will get away with the crimes they have committed.  I just start looking at the new, credible allegations that keep coming.  I look at the Pennsylvania State Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman, Ron Marsico who is actively quashing statute of limitations reform.  That obstruction allows a credibly accused Catholic Priest by the name of Guy Marsico to be beyond the reach of his victims.  I think I need to research this potential conflict of interest. Is “Marsico” that common a name in Central PA?

There is still much to be done.  I guess I need to keep writing until I have more answers.

Sometimes, when you feel like you are at the end of something, you may not be able to see that you are at the beginning of something else. 

 

 

I am providing this link  to John Salveson’s article in Notre Dame Magazine.   As President of  Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse (FACSA), Mr. Salveson is leading the charge to change laws to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual predators and the institutions that have protected those predators.  His frustrations are very similar to frustrations that I and other survivors have experienced.

FACSA is an organization that is doing a lot of good, tangible work supporting survivors of child sexual abuse.  They are doing so without a lot of fanfare and self promotion.

I encourage you to read Mr Salveson’s article and then go to the FACSA website to support their efforts to protect children.

I want to thank everyone who sent this article to me, especially my Dad.

I am working on posting articles on this blog more regularly.  With furloughs ongoing at work, I am going to have more time to spend here.

Copyright

This site is copyrighted by my statement.
Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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