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It has been an interesting 31 days. I still have not processed it all. I don’t know how to process some of it. I have been told to try to look at these things in the context of “the glass being half full”. What I have found in looking through my own personal lens at all that has happened since May 25th, is that the glass is broken.
In May, Robert Gibson, the Catholic priest who raped me while I was an 8th grade student at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, died. True to form, I was informed of his passing by a source close to the Gibson family and not by the Diocesan official who had promised to inform me of his inevitable death.
To be honest, I was numb. I was neither happy nor sad that he had died, I was not angry at not having had a chance to confront him while he lived. Many of the people who emailed me after I blogged about his passing were quick to offer their thoughts on the man who had committed criminal acts (this was not just abuse) against many, and had betrayed us all. There was another shocking revelation about him that came with the news of his death that should not have surprised me, but it did. Another of his victims shared his story with me as the news of his passing got out. I don’t feel like I should be celebrating the end of a life, no matter how malevolently lived. In his addled later years, I am told he was a shell, a soul lost to dementia. I don’t think I should take any solace in his condition at the conclusion of his life. With the onset of that condition also came the death of truth for me and many others. There was no last moment apology from a dying man, no admission to his crimes, no sense of his prolificity when it came to the number of children he raped, sodomized, tortured or beat while he was being “naughty” during the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. There was no accounting.
Many have told me he is going to get his in the next life. I don’t believe there is a next life and I don’t believe in hell. Gibson escaped this life and atonement for his crimes with the aid of the Diocese of Scranton, the Catholic Church and a network of Roman Collar Crime supporters who probably all breathed a collective sigh of relief as he breathed his last shallow, labored breath.
While this was all going on, the jury in Philadelphia was deliberating the fate of two priests, one accused of molesting a child, the other of covering up crimes and endangering children. As the jury deliberations dragged on, I could not help but wonder if there was a juror who could have been refusing to convict on religious grounds. Perhaps the church had gotten to someone on the jury with threats or payments. Based on my dealings with the church, I saw this as very possible because I do not differentiate between organized crime and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The jury did convict Monsignor Lynn, finally, on only one count of endangering a child. The jury deadlocked on the priest on trial for molesting a child. That was a start, albeit a very poor one.
Monsignor Lynn used the defense of superior orders or the “Nuremberg” defense. It was really Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua who should have been on trial and he “conveniently” died the day after a judge ruled him competent to testify in Lynn’s trial. With Lynn’s conviction we have a lieutenant going to prison while the generals are untouched. While I welcome the conviction as a first step, it is by no means a leap and I do not see it as a major turning point in the struggle to force the hierarchy of the church to come clean on the conspiracy of silence and the further victimization of children and vulnerable adults. I will feel a little better when I see someone in purple or red vestments being led away in handcuffs to serve a long-term behind bars for their crimes.
And then there was Jerry Sandusky’s trial. The defense here was that the victims were seeking monetary awards. They were greedy and willing to bring this kind man down. Sure he was a little overly affectionate, so what if he liked sharing showers with young boys. Luckily the jury saw through that and convicted on almost all counts of the indictment. He will appeal; we will go through all this again. He will put the victims through the scrutiny and the attacks that should rightfully be aimed at him. Just when you thought you heard it all, his stepson came forward and identified himself as one of the victims. I am not surprised.
The true test will be when the Penn State officials who covered up the reported incidents that allowed for other children to be placed in danger of rape and abuse. When I see a Pennsylvania jury convict based on strong evidence I will start to believe that a change is coming.
There are bills that have been stuck in the judiciary committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that are moving, at a glacial pace, towards the floor for a vote. Held up in the Judiciary committee by the imperial chairman Ron Marsico for a long time,the bills finally moved on to another committee because of the intense pressure of the two trials going on in the Commonwealth. Finally, Marsico’s political peril overcame his loyalty to the Catholic Hierarchy. If those bills pass and the governor of Pennsylvania signs them into law, I will start to believe.
In the meantime, I watch the Catholic faithful announce that justice and honor have been satisfied. They mimic the voices from the pulpit that claim the scandal is past and that we must look forward. We must turn a blind eye to the past and to the victims for whom justice and honor have not been satisfied and truth has been denied. We must look to the future and protect the mother church! (Sarcasm intended)
This is not over. The church’s hierarchy has not paid a vulgar price for its vulgar complicity and parishioners’ complacency. It has not learned its lesson and the faithful have not seized power from those who have abused it for centuries. It is business as usual. It is all about power, prestige and keeping butts in the seats for the Sunday morning magic show and keeping the revenue stream flowing. I have such low expectations for the Catholic Church. I have set the bar ridiculously low for the church and marveled at how they continue to fall short.
Nothing has changed, yet…
This is from Philly Inquirer Sunday June 24 page c-4 OPINION PAGE
Outside their own circles, they’re mostly unknown — and certainly not referred to as Victim No. … But other child sex-abuse victims across Pennsylvania are just as entitled to justice as those whose accusations were heard in the sensational trials of a former college football coach and a high-ranking Catholic Church official.
Many of the other victims have also suffered in silence for decades, often unable to admit to themselves the horror of being abused as a child or teen. And if they did decide to come forward, it would likely be too late under the state’s criminal and civil statutes.
These other victims waited even as separate juries wrestled with the charges against former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, whose alleged victims now include an adopted son, and Archdiocese of Philadelphia Msgr. William Lynn — who on Friday became the first U.S. church official convicted in a child sex-abuse case.
Sandusky was found guilty late Friday on 45 counts of child sex abuse. Lynn was found guilty earlier on one count of child endangerment and acquitted on two other charges. The jury deadlocked on two child-abuse counts against the Rev. James J. Brennan.
For victims in yet unknown cases to get their day in court, Harrisburg lawmakers and Gov. Corbett must push aside special interests, including the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the insurance lobby, and carve a path to the courthouse.
A proposal from State Rep. Michael McGeehan (D., Phila.) would do just that, by opening a two-year window for long-ago victims to file civil suits that would allow victims to expose both the accused and those who shielded them.
For more than a year, McGeehan’s bill — and a related proposal to remove abuse-case statutes of limitation, sponsored by State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop (D., Phila.), who was also a childhood abuse victim — went nowhere in the face of determined church opposition.
Wednesday, however, in a sign that lawmakers finally felt the weight of publicity from the two trials, the House Judiciary Committee approved a modified measure crafted by the panel’s chairman, State Rep. Ron Marsico (R., Dauphin). That bill would eliminate statutes of limitation on future criminal prosecutions in child-sexual-assault cases and give victims until age 50 to lodge civil claims.
But Marsico’s measure still does nothing to help long-ago victims.
Apart from the verdicts, the Lynn and Sandusky cases amply demonstrated the need to loosen the statutes, to tighten reporting of abuse claims, and, most important, to provide justice to victims whose predators were shielded by institutional cover-ups.
In pursuit of Lynn’s conviction for child endangerment, prosecutors offered compelling proof that, as the city’s former top prosecutor, Lynne M. Abraham, said, “the cover-up went all the way to the top,” including then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
At Penn State, two top officials face criminal charges that they helped cover up child-molestation allegations about Sandusky. Appallingly, even former university president Graham B. Spanier failed to alert authorities.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to stand with all abuse victims.
If you live in Pennsylvania, and I know a lot of the readers of this blog live in the Keystone State, it has been an interesting few weeks! But now is not the time to sit back and declare victory. We are a long way from that day!
I received a note from Maureen Martinez at justice4pakids calling for people to contact the Rules Chair in Harrisburg to keep the legislation that was crowbarred out of the hands of the Judiciary committee moving to the floor of the State Assembly for a vote.
The content of her email is as follows:
Two verdicts and the bills moved from Judiciary to Rules Committee—what a week it was last week! THIS WEEK IS CRUCIAL!!!!
CALL TO ACTION RIGHT NOW!!! Call to Rules Chair Rep. Turzai to call up 832, 878 and the new bill 2488 for a committee vote. The legislature is only in session THIS WEEK until June 29–then they break for the entire summer. Call Rep. Turzai: (717) 772-9943 or email him at: email@example.com
This is what you can say in an email:
Dear Rep. Turzai- Time is of the essence. Please call up bills 878 and 832 and 2488 (now residing in your committee as of June 20) for a committee vote. The children of PA thank you!
Why are you still reading this, if you live in PA you have an email to write or a phone call to make. Go on, you have things to do!
Returning from an event in Northern Virgina, I decided to call the Diocese of Scranton and get confirmation that Robert Gibson had died. I identified myself and asked for the office that could help me confirm that a priest, formerly of the Diocese, had passed away. I was transferred to another office and, once again, I identified myself and request confirmation that Robert Gibson had died. After a pause, the woman’s voice changed and she told me that she would not discuss the matter with me. I asked for her name and she hung up on me.
Not too long ago I had been assured by the Chancellor that I would be notified of his death. Apparently that was another hollow promise. Shocking!
This morning, after the call to the diocese that was terminated abruptly by a diocesan employee, I sent a note to the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator, I received a terse response from the Diocese:
Please be advised that Robert Gibson died on Sunday, May 27, 2012.
DIOCESE OF SCRANTON
Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer
Phone: 570-207-2216 Fax: 570-207-2236
It is amazing to me that this organization could not even grant me a confirmation of his death without behaving badly. For them, there must be relief that he is passed and the mistaken impression that this is over.
Can someone,(Bishop Bambera), explain to me why his staff is openly hostile to victims of priests that served in his diocese? Can someone perhaps teach a little compassion. For the record, I identified myself and spoke in a courteous manner to the woman on the phone who refused to identify herself. Perhaps the Bishop should, at a minimum, have his staff trained in proper phone etiquette.
But I do have confirmation. The Diocese still doesn’t get it. It really is time for Pennsylvania to change the law and allow all the victims to seek to bring the coverup committed by the Diocese of Scranton into the light.
Just for the record, Robert J. Gibson’s Parish assignment history is located at this hotlink.
I have heard from what I consider to be a very reliable source that Robert Gibson passed away in late May 2012. I do not have a confirmation on that from the Diocese of Scranton. I will be asking for that confirmation as soon as I have posted this.
I don’t know exactly what I am feeling at the moment. Relief, sadness, anger… pick one. I think that the truth died with him.
If you were one of Robert Gibsons victims, you can contact me and I will tell you what I know, I just won’t be able to tell you how I know it. I will have more information soon.
Someone in the Diocese of Scranton is probably breathing a sigh of relief for all the wrong reasons.
I have to admit that sometimes I get really angry over some of the comments that are sent in that, on the surface, seem to want to offer me encouragement but, in fact, are supportive of either the man who raped and beat me or others like him. They are most likely sent by well-meaning people who are not willing to admit that their church is guilty of harboring predator priests as well as other criminal activity. Or they are unwilling to allow that their precious “Father Bob” or “Father Gibson” was a predator who indulged his perverse fetish of raping prepubescent boys as his way to get off. (Excuse me for being blunt.) (Robert Gibson’s assignments as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton are listed here.)
A case in point, I received an email from a reader in response to a reply I left to a comment on a recent post. The original comment was from a friend who was angry that the man who had officiated at her wedding and baptised her children was also the man who sexual preyed on her junior high school classmates (yes, that is an intentional plural). The conflict was weighing on her.
I was also conflicted for years because the same man who had raped and beat me numerous times was responsible for getting my father into an alcohol rehab program during my freshman year of college. The man was a bit of a hero in my family for a long time. I heard about it for years and I seethed at the accolades being offered for him. He used this magnanimous act of pastoral kindness to keep me quiet, keep me in place, keep me from telling my great terrible secret. It was quite a shock to my parents when I finally told them some of the things that happened all those years ago. Acts of sexual predation that the Diocese of Scranton deemed credible based on other reports on the same “priest”. Acts that I know were committed on more children than the Diocese of Scranton cares to admit.
The email I received was a little over the top. I read it once and it bothered me so I walked away from the computer. When I read it later I was upset. The next day I was just angry. I wrote several responses, deleting one after another until I was able to find a way to temper my anger. I am not sure that I was completely successful.
The sender of the email stated that she had gone to Missouri to see Father Gibson. In her words (Sic):
He was a vegetable of a man in bed. He is completely unable to speak or respond. I knew it was him because they told me that was the man in the bed; but I didn’t recognize him. He is an emaciated shell of a person. He is enduring an empty, lonely, desolation of a life.He cannot speak or comprehend. He is Completely cut off from human interaction. It is an empty room with nothing but a bed.
Where the wheels came off for me in this email were statements like (sic):
But I knew Robert Gibson. I believe he would choose to suffer like this. I believe he was so ashamed. I believe he was pained at what he did to you.
When he dies. ….. And my sense it will be soon… Robert Gibson will make it a priority to help you heal. He was a monster to you. He knew that, but he was not able to control his urges. They call it pedophilia.
Did you ever have urges that you could not control?
Michael… I hope and pray (and I do still pray) that you are somehow able to find peace. If there is a God, then I know that Robert Gibson deserves to suffer for what he did to you. I knew him. He had goodness along side the horror that he showed you.
You will be free soon. Your pain is something I cannot grasp. But you will wake up one day and realize you can breathe. That means Robert Gibson has died and begged our Lord to protect you and comfort you. I hope then you will be free.
Let me answer each of these examples in turn. I don’t believe he would choose to suffer. He enjoyed what he did, he liked the power, he liked being dominant and he got off on it. It sexually excited him. Did he have regrets or did he lament his actions? We have no way to know. His only regret was probably that he got caught. But even then there was no consequence of note. The Diocese was more about preventing scandal and keeping the parishioners in the pew for the Sunday morning magic show and tithing. They moved him to Dittmer, one step ahead of the authorities that should have prosecuted him.
He is going to make me a priority after he dies? Interesting concept! If you buy into the “heaven hypothesis” (thanks Maria, I really like that expression) you would think that this man would not get past St Peter. He would probably be on the express train to hell, along with Bishop Timlin and his band of cronies who put themselves above the welfare of children in the Diocese of Scranton.
My favorite… “Did you ever had urges you could not control?”. If you are insinuating that I have had urges to molest, rape or harm in any way, a child, the answer is “NO”! I get this more often than not from the church apologists/zealots, in fact it is one of the church defenses against survivors/victims of sexual predators wearing Roman Collars. They want us to be identified as predators. They want us to be seen as subhuman and threatening. Do not, even for a moment, put me in the same category as Robert Gibson, rapist of children.
“He had goodness along side of the horror that he showed you.” Really! At what point did the “goodness” manifest itself? Or perhaps he did “good” things to keep up the facade of being a caring priest in order to separate his next victim from the herd. Tell me, how do you reconcile the fact that he had all this evil along side of the goodness he showed you?
The idea of Robert Gibson ascending to the right hand of the “father” upon his death is absurd. If there is a “god”, I would suspect that miscreants like Gibson are not destined for any reward in the after life.
I am sure when he does die, he will be buried with the full vestments of the church that turned its back on his victims. I am sure he will have a funeral befitting a man of “god”. I am sure he will be heralded for his goodness and sent to his “maker” for his eternal reward. That will be the final act in the church’s deceit. I doubt his victims will be invited to send him off with the “honors” he truly deserves. I am sure that Diocese will wait for a while to tell his victims that he has died so that there will be not interference with his priestly funeral.
His death will not set me free. I am already free, I have the truth. I have spoken that truth and others have also stood up to say that they were also targeted by Gibson. Some have done so publicly, others have done so privately. As soon as our great terrible secrets were shared, we were all free. He has no power over me. His death will not result in my rebirth. To give his life, his basic ability to pump blood and draw breath, power over his many victims is ludicrous. He is just a pathetic life form.
For those concerned about a possible road trip to Dittmer to see Gibson for myself, I did make the run down I-64 from my home in Virginia to Louisville, Kentucky. While the overhead signs encouraged me on to St. Louis, I did not venture past my Kentucky destination. Gibson is not worth the gas. To all my friends who wrote to me out of concern of what a trip to Missouri would do to me, fear not. I would not do anything stupid. I would not lower myself to commit an act of violence like Gibson did repeatedly to me and to many others. If I was going to burn gas to make a scene, it would be to go to Scranton and engage the leaders of the cult in the Chancellery on Wyoming Avenue.
Remember, my dear readers, if you are currently tithing or contributing to the Catholic Church, you are perpetuating the hierarchy that has put children and vulnerable adults in danger. You have been supporting a corrupt organization that has moved far away from the “faith” it purports to espouse. Your tacit support makes you complicit in their actions.