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I have decided to take on a project in an effort to gather together the voices of people blogging on the topic of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.  I am not limiting this to survivors of abuse by priests.  This is going to be open to any blogger who wishes to put their blog up in a “blog roll” that showcases their work along with that of others.  I want to use the power of the blogosphere to bring the various voices on this topic out in a place where interested readers can read a broader spectrum of blog offerings in a centralized location.  Currently there is no such Blog Roll for our community.

This is not meant to compete with Abuse Tracker, the blog by Kathy Shaw that brings together the news of the day in addition to selected blog posts that tell the continuing story of the Sex Crime Crisis in the Catholic Church and other religious communities.  What I am envisioning is a collection of blogs offering opinions, sometimes differing, outside of the established and narrowly focused organizational websites that are putting forward particular agendas.  I want to bring the individual survivor who is blogging to a more prominent position that will enable their voice to find a larger audience. 

I have turned to some professionals in the field that are putting together a proposal for me to build this Blog Roll for Survivors.  I will post the link to this as soon as we can get the coding done.  I am shooting for an early November launch.  I am looking at the list of blogs in the left rail navigation of this page as the basis for the initial launch of the new site.  I may, after I get the kinks worked out on this concept, offer a place where guest bloggers, who do not have their own blogs online,  can put up a single or occasional blog posts.  I need to look at some legal issues and my own time constraints before I commit to that.  For now, let’s call that phase II of this concept.  I want Phase I up and running first. 

If you have a blog on this topic or you know someone who does, and you think this is a good idea, please let me know.  Send me a comment or an email and let me know what you think or if you have a suggestion.  I am all ears. Also, if you have a suggestion on what I should call the site send that along.

I put a down payment on this project so I am committed.  Please help me populate the new site by sending me a link to your blog or by passing this to anyone you know who blogs on Survivor topics.

I am willing to put my money where my mouth is to try to get the survivor community united and our collective voices heard.  I think something like this is long overdue and I am taking this on myself because no one else was willing or able to do it.

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While I have been a little under the weather recovering from a minor surgical procedure last week, I have been looking at some unfinished business.  So let me cover a couple of updates in this post before the night gets away from me.

  1. Still nothing official from SNAP.  The post that I put up over the summer took off and inspired an impressive number of comments, some of which I could not put up on the blog.  David Clohessy promised to get back with me over some issues.  But that did not happen.  I have been reading the SNAP site a little more closely and I have some comments that will form the basis of a separate post very soon. The only “SNAPper” I heard from was “Bob” in MN.  Bob, a real pit bull of a fellow, was quick to pick a fight but even quicker to reveal himself to be a bully.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did call him a “moron” in an email.  (Horrors!).  I did see one of his “movies” making fun of and attacking a victim of clergy sexual crimes.  I was impressed at the fact that a SNAP “Leader” was attacking a victim, it seems to show the mettle of the man and the organization.
  2. “Father” Virgil  Tetherow,  you may know him by a myriad of other names, seems to have taken up residence with a family in Dover, Pennsylvania after his “removal” from his position at the schismatic Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission in York, Pennsylvania.  A reader, familiar with that area in Pennsylvania, reports that Tetherow has told the locals that he  is “between churches”.  Interesting concept considering the shortage of priests in the Catholic Church.  For a moment I think he may have forgotten that he was forbidden from representing himself as a priest or ministering.  I guess that has slipped his mind and I bet he has not let his little home bound flock know that he has a past criminal record.  According to my source he is saying mass in the home for a small community of “faithful” in the home in which he is a guest.  Does the Diocese of Harrisburg track this guy?  Does the Diocese of Scranton?  He is one of their rogue priests after all!
  3. No word yet on my defection request from the Catholic Church.  The request went to the Diocese of Brooklyn about a month ago.  An official with the Diocese of Scranton acknowledged the receipt of a copy of my request, but they cannot act on it.  I am waiting on Bishop  “Nicky the Don” DiMarzio to set me free.  A second request will be going out by registered mail tomorrow.
  4. I am retooling the letter I sent to the U.S. Attorney in Pennsylvania requesting an investigation into the Diocese of Scranton and the support for predator priests in that See at the expense of victims and at considerable, albeit hidden, costs to the parishioners in the Diocese.  More on that in an upcoming post
  5. The Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Scranton has asked me to come meet the bishop.  I would like for her to offer me a reason on why I should make the trip.  What exactly is the Bishop willing to do.  If the offer is for me to sit and explain my feelings and tell him what happened, I recommend you let him read my blog.  If he wants to offer to make a real and significant change in the way the Diocese deals with survivors, I am willing to have the conversation.
  6. I am looking at options to set up a blog roll for people who put out blogs like this one.  I will have more once I have the technology issues resolved.

That is all for the moment.  I have a day before I return to work .  Starting in October I have an ambitious travel schedule over a 10 month window  for a leadership program I am participating in related to my job.  I hope some of the things I pick up there I can apply here.  Maybe I can recommend some training to the leadership of SNAP.

I had a conversation with a Victims Assistance Coordinator from the Diocese of Scranton in August.  She is a very kind woman named Joan Holmes.  She has consistently reached out to me since my initial notification to the Diocese of the events that occurred when I was 13 years old.  While I still think that the position she holds within the diocese has more to do with collecting information on victims and less to do with assisting them, she has been very helpful to me in a number of ways.  She is the only person in the Diocese that I have had consistent, albeit infrequent contact.

What struck me during the conversation was her use of the word “prophet”.  She told me that I was speaking truth and that is what a prophet does.  In looking up the word in the dictionary I found the following:

NOUN  1.  somebody who interprets divine will: somebody who claims to interpret or transmit the commands of a deity 2.  somebody predicting the future: somebody who predicts the future “prophets of economic doom” 3.  advocate of something: somebody who advocates a cause or idea 4.  inspired leader: somebody considered to be an inspired leader or teacher [ 12th century. Via French and Latin < Greek prophētēs “somebody who speaks beforehand” < phētēs “speaker” ]

I certainly do not see myself as a conduit for a deity.  That would require me to have faith that one exists. The Catholic Church has proven to me that you should not take on faith anything that they say.   I may be able to see myself in the third definition, an advocate for a reform of the legal system to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual crimes and the follow-on cover-ups in the Catholic Church. I keep going back to what Joan told me. Her view was that a prophet is someone who tells the truth. If that is so, why aren’t the Bishops of the world prophets? Why hasn’t the Catholic Church been an institution that supports prophets and the truth? Why have they been such an astounding failure at telling the truth? Why do we keep seeing the cycle of discovery, denial, contrition, deflection and distance played out as the game plan from the Bishop of Rome down the line?

Lets see how revelation of sexual crimes plays out in the latest hotbed of the sexual crime crisis in the Catholic Church.  I suspect it will be just as it has been  in Boston, Los Angeles, Ireland, Germany, and Belgium to name but a few. The story breaks and the first thing we hear is that the cases are isolated and that the church itself is innocent (denial). Then comes the uproar and a contrite bishop comes forward to say that he knew nothing of the abuse but now that it is made public that the church will support victims and take action against the perpetrators. Then the tide turns, Bishops or their mouthpieces begin to point out that the sexual abuses are a reflection of society, that these men are sick, gay, or that other institutions have similar problems. This is not an isolated Catholic problem! Finally, they try to put distance between themselves and the victims. They play the “we are protecting the confidentiality of the victims” card.  That loosely translates to trying to silence the victim through any means available. Or they just get nasty and start the campaign, usually through people like Phil Donahue, that paints survivors as money hungry opportunists looking for a quick score at the expense of the poor parishioners that support the local dioceses.  As we are seeing with the reports coming out of Europe in the past few days, we have an instance of the same playbook being taken out and put into action in a different city/country.

I recommend the pope  be decisive and end this debate once and for all.  He should go on tour. “The Pope Benedict XVI Last Apology Tour”. We could have satin jackets made up, collectible plates and spoons, maybe some T-shirts. I bet red shoe sales would go through the cathedral ceiling!  In each city the local Cardinal can warm up the crowd and get them whipped up in a frenzy, tell them that new processes are in place and that the problems of the past are in the past. Groupie nuns can go crazy at the front of the crowd trying to get their pictures taken with the MAN.  “Benny 16” is seriously “the goods”, he is happening, he is a rock star! When they finish the 3 month 71 city tour, the Holy See can claim that all is well and that a return to normalcy is the way to go. There is only 1 small problem. The status quo for the church included priests who committed varying degrees of sexual crimes on innocents while the hierarchy of the church shielded the predators from prosecution to save the Holy Roman Church from scandal. The problems of the past are not in the past. We see new allegations every week. We hear of new victims coming forward after years. We hear of very senior clergy admitting to abuse. One, a Bishop,  even has admitted to abusing his own nephew.

The truth, which seems to be completely lost on the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, is that victims are victimized over and over because the church does not have any idea on how to fix the problem. Even if they did, they do not have the will to fix the problem. Society must enforce established secular laws on institutions like the Church and force them to comply to the standards of decency and the rule of law. (Is it me, or is the previous sentence a real head scratcher? We have to force the church to be ethical, do the right thing and protect innocent children and vulnerable adults.) If they do not comply, they need to be sanctioned. They need to be punished. They need to pay a dear, real price for their complicity and obstruction in the protection of predators and the isolation of victims. They can’t be sanctioned for arrogance by anyone but the people partially filling the pews on Sundays.   

Warning! I am beating the drum again. We need to enact legislation in each state that does not currently have it, to pass laws that will allow victims to seek redress for their grievances against the men and women who committed crimes against them and the institutions that supported, shielded and protected them from being turned over to civil authority.  Criminal behavior should be met with societal sanctions. (Again scratching my head because this all seems just all too obvious, even though it is not really playing out that way in the real world.)

I do not want to be a prophet. I do not want to be the guy in the blogosphere that is screaming at the top of his lungs about the injustice and stupidity in all of this. I do not want to be the one standing up for the other survivors. But, until the Bishops start being prophets and telling the truth, I have no other choice. Until Catholic Institutions lay bear their sins and seek real penance for the wrongs they have inflicted on the victims and their families, I cannot be silent. Until the Bishops, from Benedict on down, open the files on the predators and open the doors to those who are paying an incredible price for being the targets of pedophiles I have to be one of the voices that is shouting out.

How screwed up is it that we need prophets to show us that the direction the church is taking the faithful is the wrong way?  How many other voices are willing to join in?  What, exactly, are you doing?

I was asked the other day if I wanted to reform the Catholic Church.   For the record, I don’t care at all about reforming the church.  It would be easier to change the tide, to reverse the earth’s rotation, or to make time run backwards.  The Catholic Church has operated for centuries in virtually the same manner as it does today.  It is a huge money-making venture that relies on the faithful to blindly believe the rhetoric of the Bishop of Rome and all his minions.  It can only perpetuate itself by keeping those people dipping into their pockets and filling the coffers of the curia around the world.

No, I don’t want to reform the church, I would rather sit back and watch it collapse on centuries of crimes, lies and broken promises.  I would love to see it thrown on the trash pile of history where it belongs.

What I would like to reform is the American justice system.  I would like to see prosecutors at the federal, state and municipal level actively investigate each diocese in the United States for violation of the civil rights of victims of clerical sexual crimes, criminal conspiracy to defraud parishioners and protecting criminals by moving them from parish to parish or state to state to avoid prosecution.  I want all law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges who have allowed the church to “deal with their own” fired and, if warranted, prosecuted for obstruction of justice.

I want members of the state legislatures who block legislation that would protect children and vulnerable adults or allow them to seek redress for crimes committed against them to be exposed and removed from their offices (through the election process).  It is one thing if the bill goes to the floor of a state legislature and gets an up or down vote on its merits, it is quite another for some obstructionist member of the legislature to prevent a bill from ever getting a debate.  In particular, the Chairman of the  Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee, Representative Thomas R. Caltagirone ( House District 127) comes to mind.  The Catholic church has no stronger co-conspirator in Harrisburg  in its campaign to keep victims powerless.  Tommy Caltagirone is thought to be a good, close friend of the Bishop of Allentown, The Most Reverend John O. Barres, D.D, S.T.D., J.C.L.. One can wonder how close these two unattached men really are.

I would like to see the parishioners of the churches across the country send a very strong message.  For a month period, I would like them to refrain from donating or tithing to their church.  Take the money and give it to a local food bank.  They would know that their donation was going to really help people in the community, instead of paying for the pastor’s new Chrysler 300, or his weekend adventure with an altar boy or a vulnerable adult in his parish that he should be protecting and not taking advantage with.  The money could be used to help children instead of keeping the local bishop living in opulent splendor in his palatial residence or keeping the Cardinal from flying first class to Rome to check on the wealth of the church.

I believe that the tax-free status of churches needs to be revoked.  Let them pay taxes and support the community around them.  Let them pay for the services provided by taxpayers (safety, fire, sanitation) just like every other business.  Let’s face it people, churches are really just businesses when you take it down to a base level.  Let them pay as they go and let them be subjected to the same laws that govern other corporations or businesses.

Reform the church?  No thank you!  I want to see the Catholic Church forced to pay a severe cost for their part in allowing children and vulnerable adults to be targeted for sexual crimes.  I want to see them forced to sell assets to pay judgements to victims that they have long tried to demonize and isolate.  I want to see them hurt financially and legally to the point where they realize that they cannot continue business as usual.  I want sanctions not reforms.

Copyright

This site is copyrighted by my statement.
Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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