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Since my last post, I have spoken briefly with an investigator. I am looking forward to a more in-depth interview with him. He initially offered to meet me here in Virginia until he realized that I was much further south than he expected. Contact has been made. He seems to be working a very large case load for the Diocese of Scranton, which is not surprising at all because the bishops there were protecting a number of predator priests.
I will let you know when a more detailed interview is conducted and I will pass any information that is made available to me.
If you share an experience similar to my own within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I urge you to contact the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-888-538-8541 .
This is from an email that FACSA sent out Yesterday. It was important enough to come out of my self imposed archive.
Last April, the PA Attorney General’s Office established a toll-free phone number for survivors of child sex abuse (who were PA residents, or were abused by someone in PA) to call if they wanted to file a report of being sexually abused or molested as a child under 18 no matter how long ago the abuse happened or no matter who committed the abuse.
The AG’s office is asking victims from all the places/institutions and all the alleged criminals that have literally gotten away with soul murder. Hopefully, the AG’s office will be able to take further steps to expose the criminals and the criminal institutions that aided and abetted the perps.
While your specific abuse may have happened so long ago that there is no criminal or civil charges you can file, by your identifying perps and complicit institutions now, other victims may gain the courage to come forward once they realize they were not the only one abused by their perp. Additionally, we anticipate there are many institutions over the years that have hidden cases of child sex abuse when it happened and with the children they were supposed to be protecting. The perps and the institutions need to be held accountable for the damage that happened.
Please call this number. Leave a message. Someone will call you back.
Your story could be of help to other victims.
And then SHARE, SHARE, SHARE this email/post!
PS: If you lived in the Allentown Diocese when you were abused, please also contact Rep. Mark Rozzi.
On Facebook: Private Message Rep. Rozzi at https://www.facebook.com/VoteRozzi
Via Email: MRozzi@pahouse.net
This morning I read an article on-line from CatholicCulture.org on the United Nations probe into torture and the Vatican. I find it amusing that the UN, the world’s most ineffective organization, is creating theater of the absurd with the Holy See, the world’s most recalcitrant organization.
The piece I was reading, written by Phil Lawler, wanted to express the author’s opinion that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal did not go far enough in their discussion on the legal position that the Vatican is only responsible for sexual abuse by priests that occurs within the territorial limits of Vatican City. Mr. Lawler wanted to add a few more points on his own. The first of which is:
“First, while sexual abuse is reprehensible, it isn’t torture, as that term is ordinarily understood. If the UN expands the definition of torture to encompass other forms of cruelty, it could erode support for the existing pact, which is based on an international accord that this one particular form of behavior—torture—should be stopped.”
How nice of him to admit that sexual abuse is “reprehensible”. Not torture? That is another matter altogether. While I may not be a Harvard graduate (I only graduated from a Jesuit University), I can read a dictionary. Depending on which dictionary you are reading, either online or a more traditional bound volume, torture is defined as “the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something”; “anguish of body or mind, something that causes anguish or pain, the infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure”
Mr. Lawler, I will say that you are completely wrong on the first point. The sexual abuse I suffered at the hand of Robert Gibson was torture. Over the nine month period when the sexual crimes were committed against me he was, in fact torturing me for his own perverted pleasure. He was causing severe pain and violating my 13-year-old body in an effort to coerce my cooperation, my silence and to punish me for rebelling when I did so. I can assure you, based on my first-hand experience, he derived a great deal of sadistic pleasure from the power he was exerting over me. He employed both physical abuse and rape (as if there is a difference to anyone but the apologists for these monsters) as well as threats and psychological tactics to keep me in line and submissive to his actions. When I fought back, he threatened me with death until death ceased to be an issue with me. He then resorted to threatening retaliation against my siblings if I did not comply. Mr. Lawler, does this not fit the definition of torture as it is “ordinarily understood”? If it does not, please enlighten me with the correct definition.
His second point:
“Critics of the Church charge that sexual abuse by priests was widespread because of Catholic teachings and Vatican policies. But the UN would be setting a bold and dangerous precedent if it claimed that religious beliefs promulgated in one place (in this case the Vatican) were the cause of criminal acts in another.”
Tell me, Mr. Lawler, if the culture of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not allow for a blind eye to be turned on the problem of priests raping children and vulnerable adults, what did? I am waiting for the typical “we did not know it was happening, and when we found out we took action”, “it was gay priests doing these terrible things” or the ever popular “this was all a result of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s societal attitude towards exploring sexuality.”
We know that priests were moved around frequently to avoid prosecution and to keep their activities hidden from parishioners. The lack of action, other than to conceal the predators, is widely documented. Sorry, you will lose on that one. The Catholic Church is amazing in its ability to conjure excuses, blame the innocent and claim aggrieved status because they are being picked on when other institutions are not held to the same standard. None of these excuses allow the hierarchy of the church to abdicate their accountability for protecting these predators.
Gay priests are not the problem! Let me say that again. Gay priests are not the problem! If they were how do you explain the girls that have been victimized over the years? Pedophile priests are “the problem”. They like children because they like the power of their position and they get off on the terror they inflict on the most innocent. They like torturing them. (There is that pesky word again) .
As for the alleged issue of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s, that argument seems to ignore the documented cases of clerical abuses for decades prior to the 1960’s.
His final point:
“Finally, does the UN want to be in the business of deciding which religious doctrines are acceptable, and which encourage anti-social behavior? (Some people consider circumcision a cruel procedure; would the UN commission entertain a claim that it is torture?) The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups pressing the UN for action against the Vatican, argues that the Church engages in “psychological torture” by banning contraception.”
The classic deflection! Who does the UN think it is judging the Catholic Church? Mr. Lawler, are you reducing the rape of children and vulnerable adults to “anti-social behavior”? Really?! It is criminal, immoral and inhuman. Anti-social is the least of the descriptors for the kinds of harm done to children by predator priests. But Catholic apologists have to minimize the most heinous and point at the shortcomings of others to dismiss the torturous behavior of those priests (over 6,000 credibly accused and listed on Bishop Accountability.org). On top of it all, let’s throw circumcision or the abortion issue on top of this to totally deflect the discussion away from the elephant in the room. What a lame non-point to be made! That elephant in the room is the church’s inability to deal with the problem of predator priests raping, almost at will, with the knowledge that the church will do anything to avoid scandal, even if it means that children will be victimized, repeatedly, and the predators will enjoy the protection of the bishops.
I don’t want the UN to go after the Vatican. It is a fool’s errand. I want to go after every bishop who turned a blind eye to the torture, rape and beating of children and vulnerable adults. Those “men” are responsible for the culture of protection that these predators operated within. The individual dioceses throughout the world who condoned and concealed these predators while vilifying the victims need to be held accountable.
It is not a matter of religious doctrine being acceptable or not. It is a matter of an institution conspiring to conceal “Roman Collar Crime” in order to keep the funding stream coming in. And it does not matter if the institution is a Catholic Diocese, a Baptist Church, a Jewish Synagogue, Penn State University, the Boy Scouts of America or any other entity. We should, as a society, be standing up and saying the rape of children is wrong. (I know that may be a wild idea to some.) We should be saying the institutional protection of pedophiles is wrong. We should be holding predators and their protectors responsible, criminally and civilly.
We should be in The International Court of Justice in the Hague prosecuting these people for crimes against humanity. Bernard Law and others like him should be in a cell. The United Nations is uniquely positioned to make noise and do absolutely nothing. The Vatican may be embarrassed (although I do not think they understand the concepts of shame or accountability) but all they have to do is wait for the noise to stop. The UN is only good at making noise.
Mr. Lawler, I would have responded to your article on your site but you have to be a donor to voice an opinion and that pretty much guarantees that you will hear nothing but rave reviews of your “cogent” argument. Personally, I can’t imagine you getting it any more wrong.
Dear readers, you do not have to make a donation to make a comment to this site, unlike the rules at CatholicCulture.org. I don’t take donations, there is no place on my blog that will enable you to send me money. I will be honest and say if you are off topic or are spouting vitriol on either side of the argument I will edit or delete. But I will not charge you a nickel to offer your thoughts.
 Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torture?show=0&t=1399470363
 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition principal copyright 1993
I received the invitation to my high school reunion about a week ago. I knew it was coming, I had talked to a classmate organizing it on the phone a few weeks ago. I had also had conversations with a friend who is going, I was encouraged to go along. Notre Dame High School Class of 1978 will be meeting on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of our graduation in May.
It has been about 10 years since I saw some of my classmates. During the intervening years since our 25th reunion a lot has changed. In that time span I came forward with my information on Father Gibson. I am a little apprehensive about what may await my return. Since I became a reluctant activist, mostly due to the continued lies and concealment of predators by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, I have brought to light the dirty secrets about Father Gibson that the Diocese of Scranton has long hoped would remain undisclosed. Several of my classmates have had this man baptise children, he has officiated at some of their weddings. Their memories of the man may be significantly different from my own. Then again, there were others, perhaps in my class or the classes that came before ours at Notre Dame that share the a similar great terrible secret as my own.
I do not have many personal items that date back to my time in Northeast Pennsylvania. The 1978 yearbook is long gone, as was my high school ring, lost on one of the many Navy moves over the years. Remarkably, my diploma turned up, in pristine condition, in a box in my parent’s home in Massachusetts after three or four moves of their own. Some thirty-five years later it is finally in a frame alongside some other items from my curriculum vitae. A few photos were also in that box, including one from an 8th grade drama production that has since made an appearance on Facebook after I sent a scanned copy to a friend.
The last time I was in East Stroudsburg was in 2008 to speak to the District Attorney for Monroe County. My name and statement was added to an existing file of complaints that were outside of the statutes of limitation. I spent one night in town and left as soon as the interview was concluded. I had no illusions that anyone would have recognized me. My family had left the area by the early 1980’s. I had cut ties with just about everyone I had known in the area and decided to leave Pennsylvania, forego entering law school, and make a clean and permanent break. During that 2008 visit I did drive around to look at once familiar places, noting the changes that 30 years had brought. With the exception of driving around the towns of Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg, including going up the hill on Highland Road, I really have not spent any significant time in the area. Funny, the school’s address is on Spangenburg Avenue but I don’t think I ever used that road even once in the 5 years I was a student at NDHS.
I have had contact with some members of my high school graduating class or the classes with which my siblings attended NDHS in the past few years. A few emails and phone calls came in the wake of the discovery of my blog or finding the article that appeared in the Scranton Times in 2008. Most of the contacts have been positive, a few have been a little more confrontational. I am curious, perhaps a little apprehensive, about what, if any, reaction will await me at the reunion.
I am providing this link to John Salveson’s article in Notre Dame Magazine. As President of Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse (FACSA), Mr. Salveson is leading the charge to change laws to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual predators and the institutions that have protected those predators. His frustrations are very similar to frustrations that I and other survivors have experienced.
FACSA is an organization that is doing a lot of good, tangible work supporting survivors of child sexual abuse. They are doing so without a lot of fanfare and self promotion.
I encourage you to read Mr Salveson’s article and then go to the FACSA website to support their efforts to protect children.
I want to thank everyone who sent this article to me, especially my Dad.
I am working on posting articles on this blog more regularly. With furloughs ongoing at work, I am going to have more time to spend here.
The past year has seen some spectacular events that have given some hope to survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands pedophile predators in our society. Indeed this crisis knows no borders and is not limited to those of a certain faith. We have seen the conviction of a Catholic Bishop for covering up sexual crimes committed against children, the conviction and imprisonment of Jerry Sandusky for committing those crimes and a monsignor in Philadelphia for carrying out a program of protecting pedophiles at the expense of innocent children and parishioner’s money. Large institutions still are willing to sacrifice the innocent in order to protect the privilege of the few at the top and to prevent scandal from coming to light.
For me personally, I have had to come to grips with the death of the predator who counted me as one of his many victims. He was prolific throughout his life in targeting boys in dysfunctional family situations from alcoholism to catastrophic illness. He hid behind his Roman Collar and he found the protection of a Diocese that was willing to move him around to different parishes and ultimately out of the diocese and the state to keep him safe from prosecution.
With the announcement that the Pope has offered his resignation, something not done in over 600 years, just as the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa” has aired on HBO (see the promo here), I wonder what the future of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church will be. I can safely say that the entire College of Cardinals who will be voting in the next few weeks were elevated to helm of their respective curiae by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. In a word, they are very conservative in the mold of the men who hoped to shape their church by selecting Cardinals who shared similar conservative outlooks on the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
The one piece of the puzzle that continues to vex me is the Survivor Community. The community that speaks for the victims. There isn’t really a strong confederation of groups in the United States that networks survivors and promotes an agenda in the State Capitols. There is no larger, worldwide organization that stands up for the survivors, that is a solid united front for the people who have been neglected all these years.
At this point I will say, again, that I don’t think SNAP is effective because its national leadership seems disconnected from the rest of us. The organization is not a network, despite its name. There is a vocal element out there that feels that the organization is an arm of the Catholic Church because of the way it is formed. They base this claim on the letter that follows:
Personally, I am not convinced this is a smoking gun. I think this was more of the birth of an organization that did not know how to chart its own course at its genesis. But I will let you come to your own conclusions.
During the last week I have been having a heated electronic correspondence with another survivor who has accused me of rolling over on the survivor community and stunting a dialogue between us. I have been accused of many things in the past few years from all sides of this issue. But, as much as I hate to admit it, my correspondent has got me thinking. We talk about a survivor community as if it really exists. We talk about networks but we are not networked as a community.
I need to know what the expectations of survivors are (I hate the word victim). I need to hear the thoughts of others with similar experiences on what needs to be done. I need to know what expectations are out there. If we are going to be a community, a network there is needs to be a common philosophical and pragmatic basis to gather the various groups into a confederation, an alliance or a coalition.
There are a lot of egos in this community. Mine to be counted among them. There has to be a way to come to some kind of accord in order to optimize the talents, energy and, if need be, the anger that resides within the universe of survivors and their supporters.
If no accord can be reached, is there another way to harness the energy of survivors to achieve tangible goals for our society so that we can remove the veil of protection that pedophiles in large institutions have enjoyed in the name of saving the reputation of those institutions? I have said it before and I will continue to say that I had to keep my great terrible secret alone for all those years, my perp had help keeping his.
My questions are not rhetorical, I need to know. I need you to tell me. I think we all need to have the discussion in a civil manner. But the discussion needs to be had, by the entire community, if there is really a community out there.
I am waiting to hear from all of you.
While glancing at my WordPress.com dashboard I noticed that this will be my 200th post on this blog. I am amazed I have stuck to it this long, although my posts have been less frequent as events in my personal life demand my attention. For this post I am beginning a series on the Catholic playbook. These are the strategies that the Church and its apologists use to downplay the sex crisis that continues to play out around the world. I have been keeping notes over the last five years on reactions to media stories, blogs similar to mine and message boards. There are too many to do in one sitting so I will try to do them in installments. I think you can safely say that these strategies are employed by any organization that takes a risk management approach of covering up and denying instead of being proactive and forthright. The RCC has been using these tactics for centuries. (That’s right, this sex crisis is not the result of Vatican II as the very conservative zealots will have you believe).
Here is installment 1 of the RCC Hierarchy Playbook:
It is in use again. The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) hierarchy is pulling out their playbook on how to spin their position on the myriad of crises in which the church is embroiled. The good old boy network has been fostering corruption, scandal and criminal activity for centuries. Why would it be any different in the 21st century.
In the wake of the conviction of Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia, the hierarchy’s public relations goon squads are trying to minimize damage in the media, isolate other potential “crisis hotspots”, and brainwash “the faithful” that all is well and that the one holy catholic and apostolic church is on solid footing, just as St. Peter placed it. You can keep coming to church and filling the collection plates.
The playbook is predictable and predatory. It can be broken down into several broad categories. We start with: ( I shouldn’t have to say this but… sarcasm runs amock in this post). (If you are a Diocesan Spokesperson, try to keep up, I try use a lot of one syllable words, if you get confused you can use the google machine.)
Paint the Victim as a Predator
1. Victims are only looking for money! Greed is one of the deadly sins. The hierarchy of the church must have people believe that the victim of sexual crimes committed by priests, nuns or lay representatives are only out for a quick, large payday. Gloss over the damage done by the predators who enjoy the top cover of the church while targeting victims for their own pleasure, that is not relevant! Father “Fill in the Blank” is not called to account for his actions, crimes and deceptions. No, we can’t have that. Let’s go after the victim who has carried his/her great terrible secret of violation for years or decades. We lurk in the shadows for years for the opportunity to litigate and force the church to pay for sins it did not commit. The victim is the bad guy in his/her search for justice.
2. Victims will bankrupt us. Ignore the palaces, art work,massive princely mansions, the expensive cars, summer retreat spots, first class flights to Italy and land used to hide pedophiles in Catholic minimum security facilities. Ignore the vast resources of the Catholic Church worldwide. Wealth that is beyond the comprehension of most mortals is not to be considered. Cardinals and bishops have had the audacity to claim poverty in the face of claims that substantiate their complicity it protecting pedophiles in their attempt to protect the church from scandal. Dioceses have attempted to use this tactic in court but have failed. They will cry out that they have to close schools and parishes to pay for settlements and awards to victims of predators that they have shielded. Funny, it would seem that the best way to avoid scandal is to not create one! But I digress. Has it ever occurred to anyone in the hierarchy of the church that predator priests, by their actions and in total disregard for the good of the church, continue to prey on children and vulnerable adults and open that organization to scrutiny, penalty and sanction? Can I have a big “DUH” from the congregations?
3. Victims of sexual abuse are likely to be abuser as well. Make me the new monster! There is no proof of this, but the church and their apologists take this out for a spin on a regular basis. Paint me as the new threat to children and vulnerable adults! Once again the church needs you to suspend belief in the overwhelming evidence of institutional cover ups and re-victimization. Never mind that priests, nuns and lay members of the church have abused their positions of power and were given refuge, financial support and the institutional blessing of the church while victims were ostracized and painted as monsters. Urges, surely the victims have them and seek the same carnal pleasures that they were forced to comply with. Really?! Again, the church is lying to protect its treasure. It relies on the blind stupidity of the parishioners who believe everything they are told.
AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE:
4. The Priest is only guilty of being seduced. No kidding! You would be amazed at the number of times this has been thrown at me by “Good Catholics” and priests. It was my fault that he raped me. I tempted him, I led him down the path to this. Let’s for a moment suspend belief in reality that sexual activity with a minor under the age of consent is, at a minimum, statutory rape. Let’s for a moment suspend the logical notion that children who have not gone through puberty are generally not sexual creatures. Let’s suspend belief that an adult man is unable to distinguish between right and wrong. These acts, in my specific case, were not tender, passionate acts. They were brutal, criminal acts that resulted in injuries to my person, my well-being, my psyche. They stole my innocence, my faith, my trust and my ability to deal with the everyday world around me. At age 13, I assure you, I did not seduce a priest. He raped me, repeatedly. They were acts of violence. Acts of intimidation, dominance and depravity. Anyone who can embrace the idea of a child seducing an adult in this manner has, in my opinion, a seriously flawed thought process.
The next installment will be: “There is nothing we can do about it”
If you want to add to the discussion, feel free to comment…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!