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A few weeks ago I posted that I had been invited to attend a taping of an Oprah Winfrey Show with hundreds of other male survivors of sexual abuse as children. The show was taped on the 20th of October and will be airing sometime in November.
I did not attend because of a very important training session I needed to attend to begin a 10 month program at work that will take me all over the world. While I did not attend, Tim Fischer did. Tim writes a blog that he calls “The Altered Boy”. I would recommend that you read his blog post on his Oprah experience.
As for me, I am currently in New England concluding my training. I am off to Lexington and Concord to walk the battlefields, with the Schoolhouse Rock song ringing in my ears.
I hope to have an update on my Blog Roll Project when I get back to Virginia over the weekend.
Not a lot of time to write today. I am off on a mission for work and the hours are grueling. I am only on long enough to send you the link for an article on Go Lackawanna, a website based in Northeast Pennsylvania for which I was interviewed.
I did a post in April 2009 on determining who an appropriate patron saint for the victims of pedophile priests. The post entitled “Patron Saint Nomination for Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests “ was meant to be a tongue in cheek stab at the ridiculousness of the Vatican and their inability to actually deal with the continuing child sexual abuse crisis within the church.
Just this week I was reading an article on Key Ebeling’s City of Angels blog about a canonization going on in Australia this weekend ( October 17, 2010)
Little did I know that the boys in Rome were, indeed, working on coming up with a patron saint for victims. An appropriate use of their time considering the inability of the Catholic hierarchy to actually deal with the real problem of real priests, nuns and Catholic lay leaders who have committed sexual crimes against the most vulnerable of god’s children.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Blessed Mary MacKillop. An Australian nun of Scottish descent who founded an order of Catholic nuns in Australia. She and a number of other nuns were excommunicated by a Catholic Bishop with a really bad attitude after one of the nuns (not Mary herself) uncovered and reported a pedophile priest. The exposure embarrassed the diocese. (Hmmmm, why does this story sound familiar?) On his deathbed, the bishop vacated the excommunication.
Sister Mary went on to live a holy life of service. All of which is very well and good.
Here is my problem with all of this. If the boys in the Vatican had time to do all this work on Sister Mary and commend her and her merry band of sisters for exposing pedophile priest over 100 years ago, why haven’t they taken a moment to deal with the ongoing crisis of sexual crime in the Catholic church? Why are they not investigating credible allegations of abuse and taking decisive action to identify and remove from ministry the predators in the church? Why are they not turning these monsters over to civil authority for prosecution? Why are they not assisting survivors and their families deal with the damage caused by these monsters? Why is this still a problem hundreds of years after the Vatican identified the problems of priests who get a thrill from little boys or little girls?
The church solution is to give the survivor community a patron saint to whom we may pray to intercede for us with god. SWEET! Pope Benedict and the boys are making a dead Australian nun into god’s answering machine for victims of sexual abuse by priests and other Catholic religious. Considering the fact that our voices are falling on deaf ears with local clergy, bishops, cardinals and “Benny 16 himself”, it seems the Sister Mary (god rest her soul) is the best we have.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure Blessed Mary MacKillop was a pious, kind and virtuous woman. I have no doubt that she is deserving of being made into a saint by the church. My problem here is that we are here 100 plus years after this woman’s passing and the sexual crime crisis continues unabated. If the best the Vatican can do is give us a patron saint to pray to, it is clear that after all the documented cases of crime, cover-up, obstruction and re-victimization of survivors the Vatican remains blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of the crisis.
How about we find a deceased victim of clergy sexual abuse and beatify him or her? A reader made a comment to that effect on my April 2009 blog post on naming a patron saint. We can attribute the successful prosecution of a pedophile priest or the release of diocesan documents as miracles because the hierarchy of the Catholic church continue to deny, obstruct, attack and abuse. Better yet, we should all pray for excommunication, it seems to be the path to success.
Note to the Vatican: You have alienated so many survivors, many of whom no longer pray. The hotline to Sister Mary in heaven is probably not going to get the prayer volume you may desire. How about giving us a live warm body to talk to who can possibly get something done here on this planet?
Postscript: I am off on a two week long adventure for work. I will check in when I can.
The Pocono Record is updating the case of Father Robert Timchak as he approaches his sentencing date in November. The article is available at the Pocono Record Website and quoted here:
Priest, ex-Notre Dame teacher, awaits sentencing in child porn case
A priest who once taught at East Stroudsburg’s Notre Dame Elementary is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 18 in Pike County after pleading guilty to child pornography possession.
The Rev. Robert Timchak, 44, of Milford, an assistant pastor in Scranton, pleaded guilty in August to 17 counts of child porn possession and one count each of criminal use of a communication facility and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.
After the Diocese of Scranton received an anonymous tip in December 2008 about Timchak’s possible inappropriate computer use, police began an investigation that led to the discovery of explicit pictures of underage boys on his personal computer, according to an affidavit.
Police said Timchak downloaded the photos from two Internet porn sites.
Timchak was a student teacher at Notre Dame from September to November 2007. In December 2008, he worked as an occasional substitute teacher at Notre Dame, “occasionally celebrated Mass” and “possibly” attended school functions there, according to a statement released last November by the Diocese of Scranton.
He substituted in other local elementary schools, including public schools, the diocese said. He was also assigned at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Lords Valley.
The diocese released the following statement this week: “Father Timchak continues to reside at a treatment facility outside the diocese. Also, he is obliged to adhere to the strict limitations already imposed on him by the diocese.
“As with the case of any cleric accused of sexual abuse of a minor, Father Timchak is prohibited from exercising any ministry in the Church. Father Timchak remains on a leave of absence while he awaits the outcome of the legal proceedings in Pike County.”
Four. That is the number of victims of Father Robert Gibson to which the Diocese of Scranton has stipulated. Four.
I don’t get it. I cannot believe that the Diocese of Scranton continues to stubbornly stick to that number. I have corresponded with survivors, family members of survivors, classmates of survivors, as well as friends. I have spoken to officials at Notre Dame High School. The number grows a little higher every time I get an indication that someone is looking for Gibson on Google. Sometimes an email arrives a few days later, sometimes a comment appears. The number I have is Fourteen. Of course, I have names to go with the digits. That is still a very low number. Given the number of parishes, schools and camps he had access to and the number of years in his predatory prime, this man probably had victims that numbered in the hundreds. He probably tried to groom or isolate more than that. This man was prolific in his criminal sexual behavior against minors. Against children!
Four? I think not! And the Diocese of Scranton knows it. Someone in the diocese has access to his “secret” files. Someone can go in and get a feel for how many complaints were submitted. I bet the vast, overwhelming majority of those were covered up. Someone knows about the settlements and the confidentiality agreements that had everything to do with protecting the Bishop and the Diocese and nothing to do with protecting children, searching for victims and getting Gibson out of ministry and into the hands of the criminal justice system. I know of one, the survivor told me himself.
Someone in the Diocese of Scranton has the names of other victims. The Victim’s Assistance Coordinator gave me a name of another victim along with his contact information. (Not the one I alluded to in the previous paragraph.)
I have responded to emails, phone calls and blog comments from classmates of mine, from classmates of my siblings, from siblings of other potential survivors and from parents of Gibson’s other targets.
The magic number is not FOUR. The Bishop of Scranton needs to come clean, now. Not only on Robert Gibson, but on at least TWENTY-FIVE identified Catholic Priests and lay officials of the diocese that have credible allegations of criminal sexual assault on boys, girls and vulnerable adults. Former Bishops have covered up and moved these monsters around the diocese allowing them access to fresh pools of potential victims. The Bishops, only concerned with keeping allegations quiet and victims isolated, showed a reckless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of children in the diocese by moving Gibson and other monsters just like him from parish to parish. And when the heat was too much, they moved Gibson to Missouri. They put him in a Catholic “safe house”. He is still there in Missouri, outside of the jurisdiction that could have tried him for the rapes and sexual assaults he committed over his career.
Just as a recap from a post I did in October 2008, Robert Gibson’s history of assignments:
1959-65 Scranton, PA St. Paul, 1510 Penn Ave. Priests: John J. Vaughan(Vicar Forane, Dean), Joseph F. Ryan, Joseph R. Doggett(’59), Francis A. Conlan(’60-62), Robert J. Gibson
School: 7 Sisters of the I.H.M. 1 lay teacher 484 pupils High school: 10 Sisters of the I.H.M. 280 pupils
Mission: St. Clare’s School: Sisters of the I.H.M. 7 Lay teacher 1 2215 Washington Ave. 401 pupils.
1966-67 directory not available (
1968-1970 Stroudsburg, PA St. Matthew’s, 200 Brodhead Ave. Priests: Thomas J. Cawley,Robert J. Gibson, John J. Bendik
St Matthews School: 7 Sisters I.H.M. 2 lay teachers 311 pupils Missions: St. Luke’s, Stroudsburg; St. John’s, Bushkill; St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap
1971-1974 Stroudsburg, PA St. Luke’s, 906 Main St. Priests: Francis G. Barrett, Robert J. Gibson In residence: John J. Bendik Mission: St. Mark’s, Delaware Water Gap.
St Matthews School, East Stroudsburg, Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School.
1975-82 Brodheadsville, PA Our Lady Queen of Peace Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Jonas, Holy Family.
School: Still associated with St. Matthew’s and Notre Dame
1983 Conyngham, PA St. John Bosco Priest: Robert J. Gibson
1984-95 Canadensis, PA St. Bernadette Church Priest: Robert J. Gibson
Mission: Promised Land, Our Lady of Fatima
1996 -1997 Kingston, PA St. Ignatius, 339 N. Maple Ave. Priests: F. Allan Conlan, Glenn E. McGreary, Joseph B. Wilson In res., Robert J. Gibson Chapel—St. Ann’s
1998-2008 Unassigned or leave of absence. In the case of Fr. Gibson, he was sequestered in the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri and now is reported to be in a hospital in the Ditmer area. The report is from the Diocese. I do not put much stock in the word of the Diocesan spokespeople, they seem to be accomplished liars.
The latest contact was from a family member of a probable victim of Gibson. He came after me on the timeline. I can’t help but feel a little responsible. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t kill him when I had the opportunity. I didn’t turn him in, he had me completely terrorized. I know intellectually that it was not my fault. But the voice in my head hasn’t processed that yet.
Postscript: My middle son is one of the most brilliant minds I have ever known (from his mom’s end of the gene pool). He was counting on his hands as my oldest son’s “love interest” was quizing him on the classic movies he should be familiar with as a modern, well healed male in the 21st century. He was counting off the movies he had seen from her extensive list in binary (his world seems to spin on a slightly different axis, and that makes him a force of nature).
When he got to 4 I started laughing. If you are as smart as he, you know what finger “4” is on when counting in Binary. That knowledge in hand, so to speak, I would like to offer something to the Diocese of Sranton. I got your “four” right here.
I was invited to Chicago to participate, as a member of the audience, in a taping of an Oprah Winfrey show that will discuss male victims of sexual abuse. I had spoken to a producer about 2 weeks ago as they were prepping the episode that will be taped on October 20th.
I am not sure what the actual size of the studio audience is in the HARPO studio. I will guess it will be approximately 300 or so. For this event, the show will be filling the audience with survivors. The sad thing is, they will be turning away hundreds because the venue is not large enough to accommodate the number of people who responded to their search for survivors.
I was offered airfare, hotel, and meal vouchers for my participation. Unfortunately, I am going to be on a training mission related to my job so I will be in New England working during the week when the show will be taped.
I do not know when they will air the episode. I will keep my eye on the station here in southeastern Virginia that carries the show to figure out when I need to set my DVR to record this event. As this is Oprah’s final season before she moves on to other projects, her staff is busy working on programs that have particular significance to her and this topic made the cut.
My hat is off to Oprah for tackling this very difficult subject. I wish I were available to go and see where the conversation went firsthand. I am just happy the conversation will happen and that Oprah will use her considerable clout and bully pulpit to bring this problem into sharp focus.
Check your local listings for time and channel. Tune in!