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An article in the Scranton Times-Tribune online follows up on the story of Carlos Urrutigoiry and his elevation to a position of authority over priests accused of misconduct in a Catholic Diocese in Paraguay.
The National Director of SNAP, David Chlohessy, is demanding the Diocese release the files on the Urrutigoiry and the events that occurred at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, a residential school sponsored by the Society of St. John, a religious order. Urrutigoiry was credibly accused of sleeping with teenage boys as part of his “ministry”.
It will come as no surprise that the Diocese of Scranton will take no action and that the National Director of SNAP will move on to another press release/photo opportunity. The dance continues and yet no progress is made.
According to an article in the Pocono Record on 14 March 2014, a priest who was credibly accused of molesting boys in Shohola (Pike County) and Moscow (Lackawanna County), Pennsylvania has been elevated to the post of Vicar General of Ciudad del Este Diocese in Paraguay. Now a Monsignor, Carlos Urrutigoity will be in charge of investigations into claims of abuse or misconduct by priests in the diocese. (Anyone else see this as the church taking a stand against the sexual misconduct by priests?)
Back in 2002 a lawsuit claimed that Urrutigoity and one of his henchmen, Father Eric Ensey had been “sleeping” with boys as part of their ministry. Protected by the Diocese of Scranton Bishop James Timlin, the priests escaped prosecution by sending them for “psychological evaluation” in Canada. The Diocese has a long-standing process where they send predator priests outside of the jurisdiction that could prosecute them. Timlin and his diocesan risk managers settled the lawsuit but did nothing else.
Now Monsignor Urrutigoity is operating in Paraguay and is in charge of protecting the people of his diocese from predator priests. Despite Bishop Martino’s letter to the diocese in Paraguay, there really has not been anything done. Had Bishops Timlin and Martino had the ability to discern right from wrong or even if one of them had a spine, they would have taken action in accordance with canon law and sought to have these and other predator priests that operated in the Diocese of Scranton defrocked and exposed. But we all know that is not part of the risk calculus for the Catholic Hierarchy.
This crisis continues for three reasons. First, bishops are still protecting the predators at the expense of the vulnerable. Second, coward politicians who are under the cassocks of the bishops refuse to pass any meaningful legislation to hold the institutions that protect child rapists. Third, Catholic parishioners are not holding their hierarchy accountable. I put the most blame on the last group. For all the lip service from lay Catholics about the ongoing crisis, there is no real action to fix the problem and hold people accountable.
Catholics are not doing what they need to do to protect the innocent. I am sure if their Saviour came back today, he would not want anything to do with these frauds.
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…
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.
It has been a while…
I have been struggling with some major issues in my life as of late. Matters involving my family and what is best for them, my job situation, and my own personal happiness are the priority. The blog just did not make the top of the priority list (or the middle for that matter) lately.
Like some of my blogging compatriots, I have been questioning whether keeping OFF MY KNEES going is really in my best interest. I have been asking myself if this is moving me forward or if this is helping me sort out the mess I have created in my life. I don’t think it is. As a result, the number of posts on this blog have slowed down considerably. I do not know if I will be pulling the plug on this, but it is a definite possibility at this point.
I have to sort out the path to normalcy and happiness for myself. No one else can do that for me. I need to chart my own future and put down what is not working for me. People close to me have been telling me to get rid of the things that are not making me happy. An article I read not long ago recommended that on your 50th birthday you should let go of the 50 things that are not working in your life. The universe is telling me to change. It is almost beating me on the head at this point. I am listening, finally!
I have pissed off a lot of people with this blog. Some of them I care about. Others (read as the apologists for the Church, the people who cannot see what is in front of their upturned noses and those that should have done something to deal with the crisis and did not) could fall off the earth tomorrow and it would not mean a thing to me.
People in the Victim community (and by victim, I mean those who will not move forward but just sit wringing their hands waiting for someone else to save them) are mad at me because I dared to question the leadership of SNAP and their methods. (OK ,Bob from SNAP MN, you can start the hate mail again, I need a good laugh, you would not believe how bad I need to laugh at one of your ridiculous epistles.). Others are focused on reforming the Catholic Church. News Flash—- THAT IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!
I have read the hate mail, read the threats of legal action or bodily harm. I have been called delusional, deeply disturbed and crazy. Not only from those who zealously and blindly defend those in their church who have enabled pedophiles but from the lemmings in the victim community who support a national leadership that has proven to be nothing more than a self licking ice cream cone (keep those donations coming, folks). Catholics seem to be particularly adept at writing the kind of vitriol that can only serve to prove that they will punish or attack anyone who dares to questions their leadership failures.
The Catholic Church and other organizations that prey on the victim community for their livelihood are going to continue to try to maintain control and separation over survivors in order to either preserve treasure or create it. The only way forward is through the state legislatures and the courts. I would love to see the day when Federal prosecutors raid every diocese to get the files of the predators and expose the full extent of this crisis.
For years I have said that the only way to make the Catholic Church do the right thing (because as a religious entity, they are incapable of showing compassion, doing the moral thing, and following their own teachings) is to hold them to a legal standard that will punish them so severely and devastate their war chests so completely that they will have no choice than to do what is right and just.
Sad, isn’t it?
So for now, I will leave the light on here. The plug is not being pulled yet. I will check in on the blogs of my fellow survivors and I will support the effort to change the laws of this country to allow for harsh punishment for all sexual predators who prey on children and vulnerable adults. I will support and campaign for all legislation that allows for the prosecution of all those that had information on credible allegations and failed to report them (to include lots of jail time), I will support the stripping of non-profit tax benefits to any organized religion, let them pay into the communities that they are willing to destroy.
If given the opportunity, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the States of New York or Florida, I will sue the Diocese of Scranton for the truth on Father Gibson and those that protected him and allowed him to prey on me and many more. (Note, I did not mention money, I want the truth)
For Gibson’s other victims, please contact me. Stay in touch. There is hope and power in numbers. Just please understand that I cannot solve all this with a blog. I am not the answer, I am just one survivor asking questions, seemingly in the dark.
None of this will ever be fixed while everyone sits on the sidelines. So what are you doing?
I have been trying to sort out so many things in my brain over the last two months. Writing posts did not make the top of the list.
I have a list of topics for posts that needs some attention. There was a great post on Tim Fischer’s blog “Altered Boy” that talked about the holidays. I wanted to riff off of that and add my own personal talent at torpedoing the holiday season. Never got to it.
The news never stops coming of priests committing sexual crimes and dioceses spending more time pointing out that they are being unjustly spotlighted when there are other cases of abuse in other religions. Deflection, right out of the Vatican playbook. I wanted to comment on that. Never got to it.
Legislation is pending in Virginia to extend the statute of limitations on sexual crimes. I let myself down on that one. I will get to it, and soon.
The emails don’t stop coming. That is not a bad thing. It can be stressful and heartbreaking when you read the email from a survivor who has sent me his or her story. A story not shared with a spouse, family or a close friend. It is shared with me by someone who I have never met, but with whom I am permanently connected. In some cases, the great terrible secret remains only now I am a party to it. Some of them are Robert Gibson’s victims. (Note to the Diocese of Scranton, While you claim that he has had 4 victims, I have spoken to many more than that.) The most recent was an altar boy who Gibson groomed at the parish that proved to be his last. He used the same games, the same manipulations he used on countless others.
On the plane from San Diego to Atlanta the other day, I received an email from a Notre Dame classmate who stumbled on this blog. There was an offer of support (gratefully accepted) and a mention that, as an adult, there were questions about odd behavior on the part of Gibson. That so many people consistently tell me that they thought he was odd is very telling.
I have a lot to catch up on. Many topics need to be addressed and more questions need to be asked. I will try to be more consistent in my postings. In the meantime, I still want to hear from survivors and people who are willing to stand up to protect children, even when the Catholic Church seems to be incapable of doing the right thing. The crisis continues, whose side are you on?
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 have completed my defection request correspondence and mailed it off to the Diocese of Brooklyn on my way into the office this morning. I suspect it will hit Prospect Park West sometime on Monday or Tuesday. I was sure to include a copy of my baptismal certificate to help the research process along, you know how these bureaucracies can grind on when all the source documentation is not readily available.
I also provided a courtesy copy of my defection request to the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the Diocese of Scranton. On the outside chance the Diocese of Brooklyn may have some questions I don’t want the folks on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton to be surprised when an inquiry comes in about Father Gibson and his taste for sexually assaulting little boys.
I am giving it a couple of weeks for an initial response. If I hear nothing, I will resubmit via registered mail.
The clock is running.
My next letter writing campaign will be to the US Attorney for Pennsylvania requesting an investigation into the long-term criminal conspiracy to cover up sexual crimes and obstruct justice by the Diocese of Scranton and the Bishops that have guided that curia.
By Michael Baumann
The Vatican appointed Monsignor Joseph Bambera as the 10th Bishop of Scranton. Bishop-elect Bambera is a native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania and is only the second local priest to be appointed to lead the Scranton See. He has been running the day-to-day business of the Diocese since the premature retirement of Bishop Joseph Martino in August 2009. With a vacancy in the Bishop’s chair, Cardinal Rigali of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese.
Bishop-elect Bambera will be ordained and installed as Bishop during a mass at Saint Peters Cathedral in Scranton on April 26th. At that time he will take over a Diocese that has reeled under the ineffective leadership of his two predecessors. Bishop Martino retired well before the tradition retirement age for Bishops amid several controversies over the closing of churches and schools in the diocese, heavy-handed political threats, intolerance and interference with Catholic Universities in his See and the perception among his critics that he employed bullying tactics to force compliance while avoiding contact with his flock. Bishop James Timlin was active in the cover-up of sexual crimes committed by more than 24 priests in the Diocese of Scranton over the years.
Bishop-elect Bambera will take over a Diocese struggling to balance the rich traditions of ethnic parishes and schools with the requirement to be fiscally responsible. He will be dealing with skeptical and often hostile members of his church who are puzzled at the actions, inactions and decisions of his immediate predecessor, Bishop Martino. Bishop Martino may go down in the history of the Diocese of Scranton as “The Great Divider”.
If I may be so bold as to offer the Bishop-elect a piece of advise… Get out and talk to your flock, listen to what they have to say about issues that are affecting their lives. Even if decisions have to be made at the Diocesan level that will be unpopular and will impact the structure of parishes and the assignment of resources (money, priest assignments, facility maintenance) go out and explain why you came to the decision you have made.
One of the things I was impressed with about Bishop-elect Bambera was that his goal after being assigned to run the Diocese temporarily, was to return to his parish. There were no reports that he aspired to the seat of this See. I hope this is indicative of his sense of service, his attachment to his parishioners and his compassion.
Perhaps this man will be the Bishop of Scranton who will reach out, in a meaningful way, to the community of survivors of sexual crimes by clergy in this Diocese over the years. I would offer that Bishop-elect Bambera should meet with survivors at a location such as the University of Scranton to discuss the abuses of the past (both by the priests who committed sexual assaults on children and vulnerable adults and the Bishops and other church officials who protected those criminals at the expense of the victims).
I would like to meet with this man to discuss the topic of sexual crimes committed by priests in his Diocese. I would like him to hear from as many of us as possible and hope that he would be open to listening and shaping real course for change. (Joan Holmes, Bill Genello, and/or James Early, if you are reading this, it may be a good time to tell the new boss that survivors would like to speak to him). I will happily make the trip north to meet with Bishop-elect Bambera.
The door is open, maybe now would be a good time to talk.
Note: If you are a survivor of abuse at the hands of a Diocese of Scranton priest or other religious and would be interested in meeting with the Bishop-elect, contact me and I will try to arrange a meeting at an appropriate and safe location.
From the Associated Press this morning:
Scranton Catholic schools superintendent investigated over sex abuse allegation
January 12, 2010, 11:20AM
SCRANTON, Pa. — A northeastern Pennsylvania prosecutor is looking into a sex abuse allegation against the superintendent of schools for a Roman Catholic diocese.
Luzerne County District Attorney Andy Jarbola said Monday that his office is looking into claims reported to the Diocese of Scranton about Superintendent Joseph Casciano. Jarbola says the statute of limitations has run out in the case but his office is reviewing the allegations of inappropriate touching.
Casciano has taken a leave of absence. Diocese officials have not given a reason for the leave. A phone listing for Casciano could not immediately be located Tuesday.