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ConfirmationStainedGlass

I bet the stain glass artist wants this one back! (You can’t make this stuff up!)

With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August 2018, I have seen a resurgence of visits to this site, thousands of visits reading multiple posts. In the analytics, I can see the search terms people are using, mostly the names of predator priests or a specific Pennsylvania Diocese. While I am happy that people are reading to become more aware of  the scope of the problem, I worry that they are not actively engaging in the discussion and, in Pennsylvania, calling their Senators to move legislation forward that will enable all victims of child sex crimes (rape, molestation, abuse…) to seek justice and to allow the true scope of this crisis to come into the light.

To be perfectly honest with you, I did not expect all of this to come back at me as forcefully as it has. For as much as I have talked on this subject over the last ten years in my blog and to reporters for various publications and media outlets, I was not expecting this amount anger, embarrassment, guilt, and grief to well up in me the way it has in the last two months. It just doesn’t end.  My partner (should I really be calling her my “girlfriend” in my middle 50’s?), eloquently refers to all of this as “the scab being ripped off the wound”. I have had a lot of sleepless nights and discussions that have caused me to physically shake since the report was released. When I do sleep, the nightmares come back.  It has been easier for me to address the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis as a broader subject than to discuss the specifics of my personal experience.  Even now, 44 years removed from that horrible nine-month period of my life at age 13, talking about Gibson has a visceral effect on me.  All these years later I still have to ask,  why did he choose me?  What did I do?

I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am not a complete mess (only partial), I am alive, I have a job, I have a support group, my partner has my back (she always thought Gibson was creepy).  My high school classmates are horrified at what happened to me and others they knew.  I am not an alcoholic (I probably should be, but I won’t drink out of a bottle I have not opened myself or watched being opened because of Gibson), I am not an addict. I have battled depression for years. And, for the most part, I have been able to function in society.  I can count the number of people I truly trust on 2 hands with fingers to spare.

Keeping the secret for as long as I did was the cause of a lot of damage.  That secret sabotaged relationships with my parents, siblings, my former wife, children, and friends.  It profoundly changed the trajectory of my life and left me doubting every decision and action (personal and professional).  Gibson’s voice is the voice of doubt, dissension,  and depreciation in my head to this day.  I cannot shake him off.

In the wake of the Grand Jury Report,  the emails and phone conversations all seem to come down to one question: What do I want out of all of this? To date, this is what I have come up with: (In no particular order, I am spit-balling here)

  • Bishop Joseph Bambera needs to resign with immediate effect.  As Vicar of Priests in the 1990’s under Bishop James Timlin, Joseph Bambera returned “Father Ned” (Robert J. Gibson) to a rectory in the Diocese.  Bambera let a known pedophile back into the world where he was caught grooming a child again.  It is a quintessentially American concept that those who have the ability to change things, to protect the vulnerable, also have the responsibility to do so.  In this, Joseph Bambera fails completely, all the while falling back on the excuse that he was following Bishop Timlin’s orders.  As I have said on this blog before,  I have no confidence in Joseph Bambera’s ability to credibly lead the Diocese of Scranton because of his complicity in Robert Gibson’s case and others.
  • I want all Catholic Cardinals and Bishops in the United States to offer their resignation to the Vatican.  The Pope should accept the resignations of any of those prelates who have had any involvement in a sexual crime against a child or vulnerable adult or were involved in covering up such activity or campaigning to defame a victim that has come forward to report rape, molestation or abuse.
  • I want the U.S. Attorneys across the country to investigate and bring charges against the Dioceses that conspired to move predator priests across state lines to “move the problem”.  Personally, I was taken across state lines to New York and Florida by Gibson.  The Diocese knows this.  I think that the Dioceses and the US Council of Catholic Bishops represent a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the RICO Statute (18 U.S. Code, Chapter 96).  Let the Federal search warrants flow!
  • I want the “facilities” that held Predator priests, such as the  Vianney Center in Dittmer Missouri, investigated for their role in hiding these men.  They are complicit in moving them across state lines and may have violated Federal Law.
  • I want the Diocese to turn over all files in the Dioceses’ “Secret Archives” to Civil Authorities for review to determine what the Dioceses actually knew.  I want the truth.  I would love to see Robert Gibson’s (Father Ned) file.   The Diocese only admits to Gibson having six victims.  I have spoken to more than six that could tell me his modus operandi.
  • I want to see the file on me at the Diocese of Scranton.  I am sure that there is a file cabinet in the Victims Assistance Office that contains a folder with my name on it.  Before the shredders start to overheat, I want to know what is in my file.   In the last week, I had someone claiming to be a Diocesan Priest who may have known my family back in the 1970’s asking for information about my parents.  If I were paranoid, I would say this could be an effort by the Diocese to profile me in advance of potential civil action if the window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate passes and is signed by Governor Wolf.  I would also like the Diocese of Scranton to admit that they use the Victims Assistance office to collect information on victims to allow the Diocese to develop a risk strategy to protect themselves.
  • I want to see all four recommendations proffered by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report to be adopted into law. I will not accept the Church’s offer of a Victims Fund.   That is part of a risk strategy to minimize financial liability on the part of the church and does not serve justice.  If they wanted to protect their interest, they should have protected the children and not the predators.  You reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7)  I do not buy the calls of poverty and threats of bankruptcy.  Those recommendations are:
    • Change the criminal Statute of Limitations for all sexual crimes committed against children
    • Open a civil window for victims
    • Enact criminal penalties for those who fail to report child abuse
    • Restrict the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements
  • I want the people who write to me to tell me that I should be thinking about the priests who are innocent and doing “God’s work” in the community and the negative impact on them as a result of all the publicity to stop.  REALLY?!  Thousands of children and vulnerable adults worldwide over decades, centuries, millennia who have been targeted by priests in the church and you want me to worry about Father ______________ (fill in the blank) and how he is coping with all this?   Why are the “innocent” priests not standing up en masse and calling for the removal of church leaders who are part of the problem?  Why are they not screaming at the top of their lungs calling for reform? Why have they stood by silently when they have had information or suspicions that children were at risk?  Innocent Priests?  SHOW ME!
  • I want to know what the University of Scranton and other Catholic colleges and universities are going to do to foster a discussion on this issue, listening to all points of view on the crisis and leading the way on educating the Church on the history of sexual crimes committed.  I want them to develop a way forward to protect the most vulnerable among us.   If all you are going to do is rename buildings and rescind honorary degrees from the Bishop involved in the cover-up you are only paying lip service to the problem.  I am challenging the President of the University of Scranton, my alma mater, to stand up and be an agent of change.  I am willing to talk to you and represent the victims and survivors.  I am part of the University of Scranton Community  (Once a Royal, always a Royal) and I demand that you take a stand more substantial than renaming dorms in the upper quad.  If you are not willing to do this, let me know where I can return my diploma.
  • Actis formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica.  This is an action item for the Diocese of Scranton. I want out.  I want my name off the rolls.  I want the Diocese of Scranton to coordinate with the Diocese of Brooklyn and make the break with me permanent and official. I am no longer a Catholic, and I want official acknowledgment in a document signed by the Bishop himself.  You should also do this pro bono. (So much Latin!  My Jesuit education is showing again.) I am not going to pay an indulgence for this service.  I have a spot on the wall where my diploma from the University of Scranton currently hangs that may be available soon.
  • I want the parishioners of Catholic Parishes to understand that they are funding the protection of predator priest.  Many of these guys are still on the payroll even if they have been laicized.  Are you happy that you may be paying for a golf membership for a pedophile?  The members of the Catholic Church should stand up and demand both accountability and responsibility from their leadership.

And, more than anything else, I want to be done with this.  I want to put this down and go back to a quiet life. I want to be able to turn out the lights on this blog (I am sure the boys in black on Wyoming Avenue want that as well).  If you think for a moment, dear reader, that I enjoy this, you are out of your mind. This is physically and emotionally exhausting.  I am angry at the lies, I am mad at the way I have been treated both as a 13-year-old and as an adult who reported the crimes committed against me.  I am angry that people still rally behind those who protected pedophiles at the expense of their victims.  I am tired of the lies and the attacks on the character of survivors to advance a false narrative that the Catholic Church is doing everything they can to address the issue.  They are doing everything they can to stick to their risk strategy.

That is my list for now.  I am sure I will come up with more items as I think about all of this.

 

 

 

 

 

Senator Lisa Baker (R) has been identified as a key vote on window legislation before the Pennsylvania Senate that would allow victims of child sexual assault the ability to take civil action against the people and organizations that have been covering up abuse for years.  At this moment, we think she is a “No” vote going forward.  That means that she  supports the denial of justice to all victims of child sex abuse, rape, and molestation.

Is she your Senator?   If yes, pick up your phone and call her office at (570) 675-3931.  Her constituents are from Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming Counties.  Attached is a spreadsheet where you can see the specific municipalities.

Calls/visits from her constituents would be incredibly helpful for the movement to pass the two-year window.

She seems to support a fund by the Catholic Church to pay restitution to victims. The fund will only perpetuate the silence the church has been seeking.  It also denies justice to those outside of the Catholic Child Sex Crime Crisis.

Pick up your phones!

 

A few days ago, Susan Matthews, a blogger advocating for the protection of children and reform in the Catholic Church on a blog called Catholics4Change, discussed the proposed Bishop’s Compensation Fund.  The proposed fund would allow the church to control the amount of money paid out to victims/survivors and allow the Dioceses some damage control.

This Compensation Fund is not one of the recommendations in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  It is a church recommendation that is more of an effort to stop Statute of Limitation changes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and prevent a window that would allow survivors to seek justice in the courts.  I am completely opposed to allowing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church control of any part of the settlement of victim/survivor grievances against predator priests and the hierarchy that protected them.

You can read Susan Matthews’ blog post by clicking this link:

Bishops’ Victim Compensation Plans Ignores Greater Good

Susan and her co-editor, Kathy Kane operate out of the Philadelphia area and have produced a lot of good work.  I highly recommend reading the site and following it for future updates.

I am the second son of an Irish-American Catholic family.  My older brother was given the name of my father.  My beautiful, devout mother named me after Michael the Archangel.  Today, September 29, is the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel.

In Catholic Angelology, Michael is one of God’s stormtroopers.  He appears several times in the Book of Daniel.  In the New Testament, it is Michael the Archangel that leads God’s armies against the forces of evil (Book of Revelation 12:7-9).  He is seen as a protector which is why he is the patron saint of police officers and paratroopers, amongst others.  Michael is also the angel of death, he is the one who gives souls the chance to redeem themselves before passing.   Was my mother arming me with the shield of Michael?

My mother has never called me by any name but Michael. There are precisely two people who are important to me that call me “Mike,” my younger sisters.  Seeing that I nicknamed my youngest sister “Bitsey” when I was three years old, I am lucky she does not address me with something more profane.  My other three siblings have always called me Michael.

20180928_194138 (2)

The Saint Michael the Archangel Statue that was given to me by Nana on the occasion of my first communion in 1968.

When I received my first communion in 1968, my maternal grandmother gave me a small wooden statue of Michael the Archangel.  Oddly enough, I still have it 50 years and a dozen moves later.  Over time the wings of the statue have broken off.  No amount of glue would keep them in place and, eventually, they vanished.   I think the statue stayed with me all these years because he has given up his wings.  As the photo shows, he still has some fight left in him.

In the Easter Virgil of the Roman Catholic tradition, Michael alone is named out of all the angels and archangels.  The Roman Catholic prayer to St. Michael asks the Archangel to protect the church from evil.  The prayer is as follows:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle;
be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do you, O prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and the other evil spirits
who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls.

In some dioceses, this prayer is being invoked to help protect the church from the attack coming from people like me.  I think those people should be careful what they pray for.

As I have stated before in another blog post, I no longer consider myself to be a Catholic.  I do not believe in God.  I think there is an evil that resides in men who rape children.  I think that the bishops and church officials that protect these monsters are the defenders of that evil.  My question to them is simple.  Do you want to be transparent and honest with me or would you prefer to wait to try to redeem yourself with my namesake?  Your call, Excellencies. If it helps with your decision,  I will remind you that I am not the angel of death.

 

 

 

Penn Live is reporting that another Grand Jury is about to release a damning report on the Catholic Church’s dirty little secrets regarding the rape and sexual assaults on children and vulnerable adults.  Will this make the people of Pennsylvania stand up and say it is time to confront this issue and the organization that has been providing cover for the criminal acts of priests?   I don’t think it will matter.

You can read the article at PENN LIVE!

If the boys in black at the Chancery Building in Scranton aren’t sweating, they should be.Scranton Chancery

If something is not done, I won’t be surprised if people start taking matters into their own hands.

I would like to know why many survivors, including myself,  who contacted the office responsible for conducting the investigation were never called in for an interview.  As I wait to read the report, I know that no matter how damning it may be, it is only the tip of the iceberg.   I also know that all the Bishop’s lawyers will do everything in their small minded power to bury all of it.

It may be time for torches and pitchforks!

I don’t post here very often anymore. But when an email arrived in the early morning hours this past Friday with a link to a story on PennLive.com about the death of a prolific Archdiocese of Philadelphia pedophile I felt the need to pass the information along.

brzyskiJames Brzyski, alleged to have had more than 100 victims while a priest in the Archdiocese during the 1970s and 1980s died in Texas a few days ago.   The Archdiocese sent him to “treatment” (read that as hidden from civil authorities by the Archdiocese) after being credibly accused of sexual assault.  He walked out of treatment and left the ministry.  The Archdiocese only told parishioners that he departed for “medical reasons.” Like most predator priests in Pennsylvania, he was neither charged or prosecuted for his sex crimes against children because of the statutes of limitation.

Brzyski was living in the Dallas, Texas area when an investigative reporting team from The Philadelphia Inquirer found him. He declined a request to be interviewed.  Within a month of being discovered, he was found dead at the Super 7 Motel in Fort Worth.  You can read the article from the Inquirer here.

I want to send my condolences to his victims.  The truth and extent of his crimes may have died with him.   I know from personal experience that the death of the priest who raped children brings a broad range of emotions for a survivor.  There is relief that the monster is dead. There is also anger that he made it out of this life without having to answer for his sins,  face his victims or pay for his crimes.  What may be potentially worse for survivors is the knowledge that the Archdiocese is breathing a sigh of relief that another of the pack of wolves they have protected and supported for years is no longer causing a scandal for the church.

When  Robert Gibson died in 2012,  I was numb, confused and angry.  Not so much at him, but at the Diocese of Scranton for choosing to shield him, deny the truth and not make the simple decision to protect children.

The death of James Brzyski tears the scab off the wound for all his victims and their families.  His death does not make the pain any better, it just makes it different. If you were one of his victims, reach out.  Don’t shoulder this burden alone.  What he did to you was not your fault.

I do not believe in heaven or hell. I don’t have the option of wishing he would burn in hell along with the rest of the Roman collar criminals.  I would like to see the wrath of the survivor community come down on those in the hierarchy of the church that protected monsters like James Brzyski.  I really don’t care if that justice is awarded in a courtroom or on the streets.

Link to the section on James Brzyski in the Grand Jury Report on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Dallas News Report on Brzyski’s death

 

 

 

 

This is from an email that FACSA sent out Yesterday.  It was important enough to come out of my self imposed archive.

1-888-538-8541

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.

1-888-538-8541

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.

1-888-538-8541

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

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:

snap incorporating paper

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.

News reports on the major networks this morning have broken a story that Pope Benedict is resigning his position.  Right now there is just speculation on the reasons for the pontiff stepping down.  This is the first papal resignation in 600 years.

In a Vatican that has been consumed with scandal from the child sex abuse crisis (still ongoing) to mismanagement to bank fraud, the boss is calling it quits.  It could be age, health or a multitude of other reasons for his decision to choose this moment to step down.

Stay tuned!

…views on this blog as of this evening.  It is a little unnerving to see that this little conversation I am having, mostly with myself at times, has attracted that much traffic with just over 200 posts released into the internet.  Perhaps I will see 100,000 by the weekend!

Somehow it is now 2013.  And we are already half way through January.   I will admit that the passing of 2012 into the history books gives me a sense of relief.  I feel like I have been holding my breath underwater for most of the year.  It was a year of personal challenges, uncertainty at work, a separation agreement that should have taken weeks went on significantly longer and the last shallow exhale from the man who stole so much from so many.  He made it! He won the race to the grave without being held publicly accountable.  He was aided and abetted to the end by the Diocese of Scranton’s hierarchy and the Servants of the Paraclete at the St. John Vianney Center in Dittmer, Missouri.

Yes, good riddance 2012!

We start 2013 with more stories of priests and lay teachers on trial, overly redacted files from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a bishop still holding on to his See despite his conviction in helping to protect a pedophile.   Lets also throw the ongoing targeting of American Nuns by a church hierarchy so corrupt and arrogant that they can bully with impunity, while the faithful sit in the pew remain passive.

Here we go again!

But there is hope for this year to start off on a positive note!  Justice4PAkids  is holding a Jan 23 press conference in the  Harrisburg State House Rotunda at 10 am for introduction of new bills for abolishing statute of limitations (SOLs) for sexual crimes committed against children. Maureen Martinez, Justice4PAkids President, is encouraging people to come out and support the cause. She requests that you please RSVP to: info@justice4pakids.com if you can make it.  If you can support this group, please do so.  They are really leading the charge for justice and accountability in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania!

I am hopeful that 2013 will be a good year on many fronts.  I wish you all a happy and healthy new year.  I wish you all  the truth and justice for which we all seek.

Copyright

This site is copyrighted by my statement.
Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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