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I am frustrated.  Admittedly, some of the frustration comes from a tyranny of distance.  I am in southern Virginia and the diocese that I have an issue with is 400 miles worth of driving north of here.  I would love to have a face to face conversation with the Bishop’s advocate so I could look her in the eyes and see whether she is part of the problem with the Diocese of Scranton, or part of the solution.   I want to meet with the other victims of Father Gibson and victims of other priests in the Scranton Diocese.  I’ll make the drive, but it takes planning and timing.

I am frustrated by the New York legislature, they had the opportunity to do the right thing with the Child Victims Act of New York and yet they still have not passed it.  SNAP had a presence in Albany to lobby for votes.  They asked for photos and people to come to the Capitol to put a human face on an inhuman scandal.  I would have loved to drive to Albany to take part in the event, but I again, it was just too far at a time I needed to be in the office in southern Virginia.  I don’t know how it went nor have I seen any reports or photos of the SNAP event.

I am frustrated with SNAP and the other organizations out there that are advocating for victims.   SNAP is a  national organization, but at the local level they are not always there.  If you look at their website there are  points of contact listed that are no longer active. To use a term my wife, Melissa coined, these sites are becoming “Cob-Websites”. I know that the heads of organizations like SNAP are trying to do the right thing, but I think that they are losing victims who are already hesitant to come forward, by having broken links and out of date contact information.   Nothing is more frustrating than trying to speak for the first time and finding the point of contact you are trying to call is no longer there.  That happened to me 2 years ago when I decided it was time to end my silence.  The name listed on the SNAP website for this part of Virginia was no longer acting as a SNAP contact.

I am frustrated that for many people watching from the sidelines, there is a perseption that this is a Catholic Problem.  It isn’t.  It is a Baptist problem, a Jewish problem, a Mormon problem, and a Lutheran problem.  It is a local, statewide, national and global problem.  If you don’t believe me, take a look through Kathy Shaw’s blog Abuse Tracker.

I recommend that SNAP does what it can to energizes the base .  The tools  to do just that may be right under our noses.  Computers, iPhones, cell phones, blackberries and other electronic devices can be employed to pull us together. The SNAP website offers hints on writing letters to the editor and handing out leaflets.  That is all good stuff.  But why don’t we connect all our blogs together?

A few suggestions:

For the SNAP Conference in Washington, DC over the weekend of 7-9 August why don’t we set up Twitterfalls to track what people are say and see how people are reacting to speakers and break out sessions in real time.  Why don’t we webcast key meetings or speeches to the people that want to listen but can’t make it to D.C.? (That was an idea from Kay Eberling).  Why don’t we have an interactive online community to allow for the free exchange of ideas, strategies, support and discussion?  It could be a central location for blogs, allow people who don’t want to set their own blogs to submit articles when they are ready to do so.  We have Bishop Accountability, Abuse Tracker, SNAP, FACSA and other websites, but they seem to be more for the presentation of information.  We need discourse, interaction and community. We need to work on legislation on the state and federal level.  We need to work together.

We will not succeed as a community in our search for justice and change if we are isolated from each other. So why don’t we use the computers in front of our noses to effect a change and hold the bishops accountable for their sins of ommission as well as their sins of commission.

My Twitter address is OffMyKnees.  I plan on Twittering from the Conference in Washington DC this August.  If you have a twitter account, follow me and I will follow you.  We all need to start having a discussion, if we start with 140 characters at a time, at least we are starting.

I was sent the link to an article from a legal website by a reader on “window legislation” and how it is evolving in the fight on child sex abuse.

Yes, it is another homework assignment!  You should read “The Maturing of a Movement: Statute of Limitations Reform for Sex Abuse Victims” by Marci A. Hamilton

Next we need to start looking at the states that have not stepped up to the plate to support the protection of children from predators, be they priests, nuns, rabbis, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, etc…  There is no excuse for any state house across the country to refrain from taking action.  No state has been immune from the child sex scandal in the Catholic Church, other organizations are also concealing similiar atrocities. It is time to stand up and be active in advocating for legislation in every state. 

For me, I have an interest in this debate in 4 states.  If you have read my blog you are familiar with my perp’s activities, at my expense,  in Pennsylvania, Florida and New York. I know he took others across states lines as well.  Of those 3 states, New York has active legislation working through the New York State Assembly in Albany.  They may actually be voting today (June 16).  

Virginia State Capitol, Richmond Virginia

Virginia State Capitol, Richmond Virginia

I currently reside in the Commonwealth of Virginia.   I think it is time that I  start knocking on the Virginia State Capitol doors in Richmond.  Upon which door should you be knocking?

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 administrations of Bishop Timlin and the previous bishops of Scranton buried reports, prevented and delayed reports to civil authorities in order 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 in order 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 very easy for you to compartmentalize your positions.  It must be simple to attack people and issues 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 continuing 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. It is easy to turn away. 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

Copyright

This site is copyrighted by my statement.
Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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