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In February 1998, the Bishop of Scranton was the Most Reverend James C. Timlin. He was the man who should have been responsible for taking action to protect children who were the victims of predator priests in his diocese. He seems to have been a complete failure. He oversaw the diocese’s mishandling of a high visibility case involving Father Robert Caparelli. Who knows how many other complaints against other priests he kept quiet during his tenure? Bishop Timlin is currently Bishop Emeritus in Scranton.
Bishop Timlin issued two documents dated 2 February 1998. The first was a precept. A precept is a command to an individual that enjoins that person to do or not do something, especially in order to compel obedience of a law, regulation or directive. In this case the precept ordered Father Gibson to stop representing himself as a Diocesan priest and to stop wearing clerical attire.
The second document was a decree that ordered Father Gibson to cease all ministerial activity. Oddly enough, the decree was issued for reasons of “health”. Reasons of Health? Is that what they call it at the Chancery when a priest has been accused of and admitted to molesting and raping children?
It is almost comical that the precept and the decree were both issued on Groundhog Day. I wonder if the Chancellor stuck his head out the window that morning and saw six more victims lining up to file reports.
I would imagine these documents enjoyed a very limited release as to not allow the parishioners, the police or the press to find out that the Diocese of Scranton was hiding another pedophile. By the time these documents were issued, Father Gibson had already been removed from the Diocese and, more importantly, the jurisdiction that could have sought criminal penalties against this monster. Father Gibson was sent to the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri.
This was a continuation of the Diocese’s policy of keeping things quiet and secret. You would think that they would have learned after the Father Caparelli case came to light in the 1990’s. Father Caparelli was convicted of sexually molesting boys and died in prison of AIDS in 1994. Is it possible that the diocese had a more prolific child rapist on its hands in the person of Father Gibson? We don’t know because the veil of secrecy still protects Father Gibson.
When are they going to learn? When are the parishioners in the Diocese of Scranton going to start holding there church leaders to account for their actions? More importantly, when are the public safety and judicial organizations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania going to step in and dismantle this criminal conspiracy aimed at protecting pedophiles?
I follow what is happening in Scranton through the Scranton Times – Tribune Website, and yes, I specifically mine the site for any nuggets of information that pertain to the Diocese and sexual abuse cases. Sometimes the site yields other gems on the goings on in the Electric City. For instance, on February 19th, the headline read “Hot Topic: Bishop Warns Irish Planners in Scranton”. It seems the Bishop is determined to “prevent scandal”, at a St Patrick’s Parade. Good luck with that! Today’s headline “…Parade will comply with bishop’s abortion-rites ban” shows that the Diocese still has a grip on the important things in life.
According to the article, the diocese issued a letter warning Irish American groups that the bishop may close St. Peters Cathedral during St Patrick’s Day celebration if pro choice honorees are selected to march or speak in the parade. The letter was signed by the Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton, the Most Reverend John M. Dougherty. Dougherty, now that is a fine Irish Irish name. Nice touch, don’t you think?
The Diocese of Scranton is willing to shut down churches, deny daily mass and bully Irish American groups, even those that are not Catholic organizations, to “prevent scandal”. This is the same organization that supports hiding pedophile priests. I think that they might have their “prevent scandal” priorities a wee bit out of whack.
I think it would be a fine idea to gather victims of sex crimes committed by Catholic Priests in the Diocese of Scranton and invite us to march in the Parade. I can claim Irish heritage,I could easily be sporting the green for the day. Do you think that the bishop, through his auxiliary bishop (the one with the Irish surname), would close the cathedral to “prevent scandal” if we all showed up to support our Irish Heritage and draw attention to the issue of Priest Sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton?
The Parade is going to be held on Saturday March 14, 2009. For information on the Parade please see the Scranton St. Patrick’s Day Parade website
Maybe there will be some surprises this year! Erin Go Bragh!
On the last Wednesday in January, I had the opportunity to sit in on a SNAP Support Group meeting in Northern Virginia. The meeting is run by Becky Ianni, the SNAP State Coordinator for Virginia.
The group meets at a location not far off of I-495. On any other night it should have been easy to find the location. The weather, which had been cold and rainy all day made travel a little sloppy. Before heading to the meeting, I took advantage of an opportunity to have dinner with my son, a college student at a nearby university, but dinner went a little longer than we anticipated. I was traveling on unfamiliar roads which conspired with the weather to delay my arrival. I finally had to call Becky and get directions. Her husband answered her phone and was able to guide me in to the meeting location’s parking lot.
I was greeted at the door and led to the small room where the Support Group was meeting. They had already started about 20 minutes before I arrived. I hate being late. I initially felt like I was an interloper, sneaking in after they had started their discussion for the evening. There were 9 people seated around the table. They were looking at me with a mix of curiosity and apprehension, I was an unknown in the room. I had emailed Becky a few days earlier to let her know I was going to be in northern Virginia for business and that I was going to try to attend. She was expecting me.
Becky made me feel welcome and, when there was a natural break in the conversation, she asked me to introduce myself the group. I told them a little about me and my story. As this was my initial meeting, I was hoping to listen and learn the protocol and etiquette of the group by watching. I listened intently as people around the table discussed personal recollections of their “perps”, support for a member who was meeting soon with the board at his church and upcoming SNAP events, including the 2009 SNAP Conference in Washington, DC scheduled for August. There was enthusiasm for the conference because it will be held in their backyard. There was even a very funny anecdote told by one of the gentleman present about his adventures at President Obama’s inauguration a week earlier. That story alone was worth the trip.
What struck me about the people in the room was that they were genuine and honest about what was happening in their lives and how they are coping with what happened years earlier. They discussed additional difficulties encountered while trying gain acceptance, seek help and work with their respective churches for either assistance or meaningful change. What was most surprising to me was the level of faith that still existed in most of these people. They were shaken by their experiences, but for many, prayer and faith were still cornerstones of their lives. There was nothing artificial about anyone in the room. No pretense was made, no competition for who had the most vile story. They were not sullen or withdrawn. These were people focusing on supporting each other and trying to find a way to make children and adults safe while rooting out the predators that may still hide behind their clerical garb and those who continue to protect and support these predators.
The immediate sense I felt after a few minutes in the room was that I was not the only one to experience the betrayal I went through as an adolescent. Somehow it is comforting to know that there are other people who have similarly tragic experiences and that you are not alone in dealing with the issues that challenge you on a daily basis. While I have corresponded with other victims via email, phone and through this blog, this was the first time I had the privilege to sit in a room with people who share a common bond. There was genuine comfort in that.
The meeting broke up at around 8:30 and the group made their way into the cold air, sidebar conversations between some of the people lingered in the parking lot. It would be a 4 hour drive home for me to southern Virginia. But the time spent at the meeting was worth the late night trek south.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse and you have the opportunity to attend a SNAP Support Group Meeting in your area, I encourage you to do so. There is strength in numbers. If you can attend the SNAP Conference in Washington in August, I highly encourage you to do so as well. I am not a representative for SNAP, but I feel that the only way we can get traction and get the Bishops to listen is if we all speak together with a loud clear voice and a strong message. I have already registered for the conference. I am looking forward to meeting people with whom I have been corresponding or following in their blogs on-line. It will be nice to put faces and voices to names on websites and emails. I am also looking to meet up some of Father Gibson’s other victims. I am aware of at least one who lives in the D.C. area. There is much to discuss.
If my work travel schedule allows, I will try to attend more of the meetings in Northern Virginia. Becky mentioned that she is trying to get a group going in Richmond, that would put a monthly meeting within a reasonable drive of my home. If you are living in the Richmond or Central Virginia area please consider contacting Becky to let her know you are interested in joining a group in that area. In the meantime I will continue to blog and hope to connect to other people who want to expose the the truth and make a difference.
If you came to this blog looking for information on Father Gibson please leave a comment or send me an email. I will respect your privacy.
“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”
Gospel of St. Matthew
(also the lead off quote for Bishop Martino’s Pastoral Letter dated January 15, 2009)
If you want to know what is important to the Bishops in American Dioceses, you should take the time to review the pastoral letters written from the shepherd to the flock. In those letters they reveal their heart in terms of issues that are relevant to their respective congregations. Sometimes these letters are focused on religious lessons, calls for vocations and the celebration of important milestones. Pastoral letters that come soon after a new Bishop is installed usually lay out the vision that new Bishop embrace and chart courses for the future of the diocese. Some of these missives are thinly disguised political messages intended to influence or even direct the voting of parishioners.
I have been reviewing the 37 pastoral letters of Bishop Martino since he was installed as Bishop of Scranton in 2003. To me, what he has not said is as important of what he has said. He covers a narrow range of topics but he has not addressed, in any of the missives he has penned to his flock , the problems with the wolves hiding beneath Roman Collars in the Diocese of Scranton.
He has had opportunity to work sexual abuse in to a few of them. For instances, in his “Pastoral letter on Chastity” dated December 8, 2004 he addresses the issue of “sexual morality”. He states that:
The Church has always taught — and I teach here — that we need to find our happiness and holiness in a commitment to the chastity lived out in marital love or the chastity of celibacy lived out either in the consecrated life or the life of a single lay person in the world. These are the two paths to happiness and eternal life. There are no others.
He goes on to rail about sex outside of the context of marriage, extra marital affairs, same sex unions and abortion. Standard fare for a man in his position. What he failed to address was the issue of priests who are not chaste, either because they have sexual relationships with adults (men and women) or the very special group who prey on children. These are not the paths to happiness and eternal life either and yet this does not warrant a mention.
The pastoral letters of Bishop Timlin are not on the diocese website. So I cannot say if he ever addressed the issue. Given the track record of the Diocese, I would very surprised if he actually tackled the subject.
Since there is no evidence that this topic has been addressed by the Bishop let me offer a suggestion. Let the Parishioners know what has happened. Pen a pastoral letter that defines the scope of the problem, truthfully. Novel idea, I don’t know that these “Men of God” can handle the truth. The truth is that at least 25 priests (most likely more) have been accused and some have been convicted. They have been operating in Parishes in the Diocese and some are still there. Some are most likely still abusing and they are enjoying the top cover of the Bishop.
Show some backbone! List the names of the Priests that you have credible evidence against and go to the parishes that they operated in and seek out the rest of the victims. I am sure you will get a lot more respect by speaking out and making a stand than cowering behind a communications director spinning a story and making it worse.
Then take the people who have enabled these monsters and toss them out on the street. If the statutes of limitations have not expired, hand them over for trial. If you look in the Catholic Register and identify where the predator priests were located during their tenure in the diocese you will see who was serving with them. If you look at the names of the Scranton offenders you will find a secondary cast or characters who recur in the rectories where the pedophiles were located. They pop up in depositions that are matters of public record. Some of these men have moved into powerful positions in the diocese even when they have been associated with the sheltering of predator priests.
A pastoral letter that takes the issue of the priest sexual assault/rape/molestation/abuse scandal can the be the beginning of a catharsis. Take a look at the opening quote from the Gospel of St Matthew and read it carefully. That sentiment, so eloquent and simple applies to the victims of pedophile priests as well. What the Bishops of Scranton have not done for the victims, they have not done for Christ. You can’t interpret the gospels only when it is convenient.
In response to some pretty good feedback I would like to cover the kinds of things that have been in previous bills introduced in Harrisburg. While I live in Virginia, the events of 1974 took place in Pennsylvania, New York and Florida. I am concentrating on Pennsylvania at the moment, home of the Diocese that continues to support and sanction my pedophile priest.
Back in the last legislative session that ran from January 2007 through December 2008 there were 3 bills introduced that allowed for the changing of the statute of limitations on crimes that would include the crime of sexually molesting, sexual assault or raping of minors. Additionally, legislation was offered that would allow for a window of opportunity for victims of sexual assault as minors to file a civil action for a period of time (one to two years after the passage of the law) and from then on, victims could bring actions up until they reach the age of 50.
You can review the legislation that was held up in committee and prevented from getting to the floor of the house of representatives due to some political stalling by the chair of the Judiciary Committee. Since Chairman Thomas R. Caltagirone of House District 127 (part of Berks County) never returned my email inquiry as to why he was holding up the legistlation. I can only speculate that he supports pedophiles or is on the payroll of the Catholic Dioceses of Pennsylvania. Maybe he just does not see the need to protect children. But I digress.
Examples of legislation submitted in the last legislative sessions in Pennsylvania follow:
- Senate Bill 326 sponsored by Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. of Senate District 44 (parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties). That bill sought to allow anyone who was victim of a crime before they reached the age of 14 may commence a civil action at any time during their life.
- Senate Bill 553, sponsored by Senator Lisa Boscola of Senate District 18 (Parts of Monroe, Lehigh and Northampton Counties), expanded criminal statutes of limitations on certain crimes. Of note is the provision for prosecution of “Any sexual offense committee against a minor less than 18 years of age any time up to the later of the period of limitation provided by law after the minor has reached 18 years of age or the date the minor 50 years of age.”
- House Bill 1574 sponsored by Representative Douglas G. Reichley of House District 134 (parts of Berks and Lehigh Counties). This legislation can be called “Window” Legislation. Similar to laws passed in California and Delaware, this bill would have allowed a victim of childhood sexual abuse to commence a civil action, even if the statute of limitations had expired. This legislation allows a period of one year for those actions to be brought to a Pennsylvania Court from a date delineated in the legislation.
If you live in Pennsylvania and would like to see similiar legislation reintroduced, contact your representative or state senator. If you don’t know who your senator or representative may be, you can find out by going to the website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Bishop Accountability lists 16 accused and/or convicted sexual predators in the Diocese of Scranton. News articles that included interviews with Diocesan officials list as many as 9 more who’s names are being kept from the public. If you look at the database for accused priests for Pennsylvania, the number listed is 192. Imagine the depth of the problem if they all had 5 victims, 10 victims, 15 victims. Do the math and be as sickened by this as I am.
From personal experience, I know that the list is not complete. I had to work to get my perpetrator priest listed. The Diocese of Scranton had known of his activities as early as the 1990’s, at least that is what they will admit to. With the knowledge that he was dangerous, they kept his name quiet and sequestered him in a facility that caters to the housing of priests who probably should be in the state prison system. How many other priests are they sheltering? How many of those priests are in parishes or parochial schools right now with access to children?
I want to believe that the majority of priests serving in parishes are doing good work, that they are following a call to service. But I also think that priests are choosing to not speak up and challenge a system that victimizes the most vulnerable of the church’s followers. Not only children (of both sexes) are at risk but, vulnerable adults as well. To do so would put them at odds with their bishops and would perhaps negatively affect their ability to be effective. I also believe that there are priests that have made reports but those reports were kept quiet and no action was taken. Those priests have an obligation to force the issue in whatever manner is necessary to protect children and force their diocese to do the right thing.
There are priests that saw what was going on and made the conscious decision to not do the right thing. They had knowledge, either first hand or from credible sources but have chosen to keep that information quiet. Some of those men are now in positions of authority. I am not sure how they sleep at night. Imagine a Monsignor who as a young priest decided to take no action when he encountered another priest sexually abusing a child. How can a man simply turn around and leave the room closing the door behind him? The more I hear the stories from other victims, especially from those who have the same perpetrator as I, the more clear it all becomes to me. These people have no shame, they have no honor and they have no right to call themselves men of god. I know who you are, I know what you have concealed in order to get ahead. Others do as well. Remember that when you look out on the congregation on Sunday. More and more of those eyes know the truth.
The Diocese of Scranton keeps it’s dirty little secrets by offering small settlements, stipends, or garnishment of the perp priest’s retirement check. In order to garner such a settlement, it is their practice to have the victim sign a confidentiality statement, no doubt they want to keep the victim silent or to have them parrot that the settlement was completed amicably. They are quick to point out that Statutes of Limitations have expired and that they have no obligation to help those who need help. No obligation? Seriously, how can they actually say that?
I have been told that Father Gibson is a sick man. No kidding, you really think I haven’t known that for years! They want me to feel sorry for him because he allegedly suffers from dementia. Perhaps the gods are prepping him for his special place in hell. I feel nothing for him, no sympathy, no compassion, no need for revenge. My anger is solely reserved for those who knew what was happening and did nothing. They are the true enablers of evil and they are hiding behind roman collars and the good intentions of parishioners who have chosen to remain blind.
The church is dying. The pope recently lifted the ex-communications of priests who actively deny the holocaust and spout antisemetic statements as vile as any skinhead. Gutsy move for a pope of German lineage! I wonder if that apple did not fall far from the family tree. The only way to save Catholicism from the fools that currently run the church in Rome and in Dioceses around the world is for the laity to take a more active role, allow for the ordination of women and allow priests to marry.
How many more children and vulnerable adults will be sacrificed on the altar of religious power and influence before the laws of this country are modified to enable victims to have their day in court and to see justice done? One more is too many.