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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

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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:

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.

I put a blog post on January 16 entitled 99,601.  I thought it was pretty innocuous, more of a “I’m still out here” piece than anything else.   It drew a vitriolic response from one reader who decided that it was more of an exercise in narcissism and that I should be taking a more vocal stand against the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).  To be honest, this is my blog and I am going to write as often as I am moved to on topics of my choosing.  If you don’t like it I would like to direct you the freshly pressed section of WordPress.  There is some really neat stuff there.

If you have read this blog for any length of time you will know that I do not have a lot of love for the National Director of SNAP.   I have voiced my opinion on SNAP and the way the national board conducts business.  I wrote a blog post entitle Parting Company with SNAP that spun up a lot of comments and heated discussion, some of it too nasty to approve on both sides of the discussion.   Do I really want to rehash that?  Not so much!   I don’t think, as a blogger, I need to announce annually  that I am not a fan of the national leadership of SNAP.  I still hold out hope that at some point the Survivor community finds a network where we all get an opportunity to work together collectively to advance a legislative agenda that will lengthen statutes of limitation

Instead of pointing out, again, that I think SNAP is a self licking ice cream cone, I choose to spend my time and some of my money supporting organizations like the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and Justice4PAKids and their efforts to change laws and do real and tangible good.  They are making a difference.  SNAP is more focused on having 2 conferences this year, one here in the States and the other in Ireland.   I guess the National director is working on improving his standing in the airline rewards program of his choice.

At this point I would add that I am very impressed by some of the state SNAP coordinators.  Becky Ianni in Virginia is the real deal.  I have only met her twice, but she is a force for good in the northern Virginia and Washington DC region.  I would gladly support any effort she led.   Karen Polesir has helped me on occasion and is active in a coalition of groups working to get SOL and window legislation through the State Assembly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I support people like Kay Ebeling who has been reporting (not blogging, reporting) on the sexual abuse crisis for years and has gotten little support from   the survivor community.  She has been inspiring and I consider her a friend.  Funny, the vocal ones have the church, its apologist and many survivors attacking them.   I guess that is the point I am circling here.   Even in the survivor community there is a chasm between elements.  Being a good, compliant survivor or victim makes you a darling to some of the national groups.  Dare to criticize them and see how quickly you are on the outs.  Lessons learned from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church I guess.

For now I look at the future.  I think that change will come but it will not be led by a national organization.  We don’t have an effective one.  It will be led by regional groups, some affiliated with larger organizations, some will be independent.  Fools will rush in and out.   We all need to stay the course.   We really will not get anywhere if we are sniping at each other.

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…

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq_ed_board/Abuse-trials-miss-other-victims.html

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.

I am not sure if the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is just asleep at the switch or if it is incompetent when it comes to allowing  an institution, in this case, The Pennsylvania State University, to investigate itself.  The Trustees at Penn State are launching an inquiry into the allegations of  sex crimes committed by former Football Defensive Coach,  Jerry Sandusky.

In a statement released yesterday, the Board announced that it would appoint a committee to “undertake a full and complete investigation of the circumstances that gave rise to the grand jury report” at its scheduled meeting on Friday, 11 November.  They also promised swift action.

Why is it that we allow institutions to investigate themselves?  If there is an ongoing criminal investigation, the University needs to cooperate with professional investigators to allow the truth to be discovered.  With all due respect, the Board of Trustees has a vested interest in mitigating the damage to the University’s reputation as well as the reputation of Joe Paterno and the football program in Happy Valley.  It is not in their best interest to allow the full story to come out and negatively impact donations from alumni and patrons of the University. 

There is the additional question of whether the University violated the Clery Act which requires colleges and universities to disclose certain timely and annual information about campus crime and security policies. All public and private institutions of postsecondary education participating in federal student aid programs are subject to it. Under the provisions of the act, Institutions must make timely warnings to the campus community about crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees.  Penn State has obviously failed in this obligation. (More information on the Clery Act is available at the Security on Campus, Inc website.)

 The U.S. Department of Education is charged with responsibility to investigate and enforce the law.  The Department of Education should be investigating this case, not the Penn State Board of Trustees. 

Given the statement of the President of Penn State, Graham Spanier,in which he offered his unequivocal support for his Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and Vice President of Finance and Business, Glenn Schultz,  it is clear that any University run investigation will be designed to avoid further scandal and mitigate damage. It is time for an outside agency with an experienced investigative team to step in and do a complete and unbiased investigation.

The Department of Education and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania  need to step up and run any investigation to determine the full extent of any cover up of crimes committed by Penn State employees.  The University must also clean house of all those you showed bad judgement or aided in the coverup of crimes committed against minors.  If that means that Joe Paterno and University President, Graham Spanier need to go, so be it.

Finally, lets not forget the victims in this case.   A ninth victim came forward yesterday, there are likely to be more.  Mr. Sandusky seems to have been a prolific predator.

This blog fully supports efforts to get Pennsylvania House Bills 832 and 878  brought to the floor of  the General Assembly for a fair vote.  It also supports the organizations that are working hard to see those bills passed and to insure that victims of sexual crimes, children and vulnerable adults, have an avenue to seek justice from the predator that targeted them and the individuals or institutions that protected those predators from being brought to justice.  Jutice4PAKids and FACSA are leading those efforts in Pennsylvania.

UPDATE:  Coach Joe Paterno has announced that he will retire at the end of the season.  He also advised the Board of Trustees not to concern themselves with his status as they investigate.

After a long day working on a project, I came home to find an email in my personal account announcing a press event on 1 March to discuss the Pennsylvania Child Victim Act Legislation that will be introduced in Harrisburg by State Representatives Louise Williams Bishop (isn’t that an ironic last name?) and Mike McGeehan.

While I am trying not to get my hopes up, if this legislation is successful and finds a way to become law, I and many others would be able to seek something we have been denied by the Catholic Church, the truth! (I bet the boys on Wyoming Avenue thought I was looking for a payday!) I want someone to actually tell me the truth, answer my questions and be up front and honest. Shocking, my demands have always been so unreasonable! (Do I need to tell you to adjust your computer sarcasm setting, again?)

Here is the text of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse press release:

FACSA ACTION ALERT

WHAT: Press Conference to discuss PA Child Victim Act Legislation
WHERE: The Harrisburg Capitol Building Rotunda, Harrisburg PA
WHEN: Tues. March 1, 2011 at !0 AM
WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Any one interested in supporting legislation that will hold the criminals who commit child sex abuse accountable.

FURTHER DETAILS: State Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Mike McGeehan, D-Phila., will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 1 at the state Capitol Rotunda to discuss legislation introduced (H.B. 832) and (H.B. 853 ).
The purpose of the news conference is to discuss Rep. Bishop’s legislation that would abolish the statute of limitations on both criminal and civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse and to discuss Rep. McGeehan’s legislation to reopen a two year window to bring civil suit for victims of childhood abuse whose statute of limitations have expired.

Attending the news conference Tuesday will be Bishop, McGeehan, Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, SnDdeN – (NSA) National Survivor Advocates Coalition, Tammy Lerner (FACSA) The Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, Sherry Sensenig, (PROP) Parents Reaching Out to Parents, Marita Green (VOTF-GP) Voice of the Faithful of Greater Philadelphia, Joy Wuenschel, SNAP-Philadelphia Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests, Pam Erdely, (SNAP) Pittsburgh.

State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop D-Philadelphia Mike McGeehan D-Philadelphia

Our mailing address is:
The Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse
740 Cornerstone Lane
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Our telephone:
(215) 870-0680

End Text for FACSA.

If you are a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I ask for your active support. Call your Representative and Senator in Harrisburg and demand that your legislature do the right thing to protect children and to afford the opportunity for justice to those who have been long denied that justice.

“The Message” is not getting out.

The SNAP Conference will be held in Washington next month so I thought I would gather my thoughts on how I see the current landscape in order to help me determine how I will spend my time at plenary sessions and breakout sessions.  In the two years (almost to the day) since  I reported Father Robert Gibson to the Diocese of Scranton as my abuser I have learned some valuable lessons and I have decided that there are things that we, as survivors of perp priests need to address if we want to get some traction and find some success in effecting change.  The point of this concept paper, manifesto, white paper, whatever you want to call it, is to offer the challenges I have identified and possible solutions for your consideration.  Be aware this might be just the ramblings of someone frustrated with the state of affairs we are in at the moment.

The major challenges I see for survivors and organizations of survivors are as follows:

1. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States, and around the world for that matter, want to keep survivors isolated, quiet and incapable of getting the message that the problem of priests committing a variety of violent, sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults still exists. Bishops will lie, cheat and conceal information that proves that predatory priests operate in their curias and that the hierarchy of the Diocese has protected them. If caught, they will simply say that they didn’t know raping/molesting children was a criminal offense.

2. The public has grown weary with the story.  After high profile cases and reports in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia and the recent findings released concerning abuses in Ireland, the public seems to have the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes to the ongoing story of predator priests.  I have even heard the phrase “post pedophile priest scandal” in relation to the new order in the church.  I must have missed the Pope declaring “Mission Accomplished!” from the back of the “Pope-Mobile”.

3.  The people carrying our message are spread thin and are in a reactive mode rather than a practive mode.  If you are driving your message only when the other side is giving you an opportunity, they are controlling the story.

4. Victims are slow to come forward.  I know this from personal experience. I waited 33 years before I was willing to go public.  I think that many victims did the same kinds of things I did, they looked on line for their perp.  They looked to see if he/she was reported, had died, had gone to jail, etc…  Many look for support from other victims and groups only to find websites with out of date contact information and broken links.  They don’t know how to tell there story so they go the church and tell it.  The church works hard to keep that story under wraps.  Victims of Sexual Abuse should not go to the Diocese. The Diocese will do what they can to protect themselves,  hide the story and lie to the victim.

5. The organizations that do exist seem to lack local organizations  to help support a cohesive plan to help victims and their families.  Coordinated efforts to spread the word, support legislation, and seek justice seem to be inadequate to compete with the resources, power and influence of our adversary, the Bishops and their supporters.

6.  We have not successfully countered the Bishops’ campaign that tells people that we are attacking the church for our own personal gain.  They have painted us as greedy and focused on destroying the Catholic Church in the United States.  It seems that our focus is on leaf-letting parishioners entering the church or writing letters to the editor when the Bishops are using public relations firms, lawyers and intimidation to get there message across. They also seem to believe their own press that the crisis is past.  “All is well, come back to church and bring your check book”.

So what are we to do?

1. Focus the message.  We need to clearly define our goals and set out to reach those goals and measure how effective we are in achieving those goals.

2.  Coordinate and energize our base.  Not only other victims, but those that are sympathetic to our message:  families, groups that are seeking reform in the Catholic Church, legislators, law enforcement, judicial officials, the media, and bloggers.

3. Develop a legislative agenda to help protect children, hold those people responsible for crimes or covering up crimes accountable in both the criminal and civil courts.  Find sympathetic lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to champion this agenda and then do the hard work necessary to get the agenda passed. Make it a crime for an organization to shield a child molester/rapist.

4.  Clearly define what we want our end state to be.  If an organization’s mission does not translate to a tangible achievable end state, it is doomed to fail. It will become a self licking ice cream cone.  It exists for the purpose of perpetuating itself.

5.  Convince the public that the first call a victim should make is to the police or the office of the district attorney.  DO NOT GO TO THE DIOCESE WITH THE REPORT. These are criminal matters for law enforcement and the justice system to deal with.  The bishops will not do the right thing when left to their own devices.  If you haven’t figured that out, you need to go to Abuse Tracker and start reading.

6.  Determine how we will measure success in the interim.  What makes us successful?  We should track:

  • number of perp priests identified
  • indicted
  • removed from ministry
  • convicted
  • number of bishops removed for hiding pedophiles
  • legislation drafted, debated, brought to a vote, passed into law
  • assistance provided to victims and their families
  • number of outreach programs developed
  • seminars conducted with teachers and church workers to help them identify behavior that is inappropriate

There are more metrics we can track, these just rolled off my brain.

7.  Identify who is  accountable to the victims.  Are the organizations that exist today to support victims effective?  If the  leaders of organizations that support victims don’t meet objectives do we have the ability to seek new leadership?  Some are volunteers and we should honor their service.  There are people who draw a salary off donations out there that should be shown the door if they are not successful.  If  lawmakers are siding with the church to deny justice to victims, their constituents should be told and hopefully those lawmakers will be shown the door during the next election cycle.

8. We must stop the practice of civil authority allowing the church to investigate allegations of criminal activity by priests.  The church is not a law enforcement agency and is not proficient in determining the circumstances of crimes.  Leave that to the police, the justice system and investigative reporters.

I see 4 major areas where I think our community should be focusing their efforts.

1. Identifying the bishops, their lawyers, public relations firms, lobbyist and supporters who are enabling the pedophiles to continue to prey on children.  Fighting to expose them, remove them and if appropriate punish them in criminal and civil courts.  They are fighting and winning because we are not fighting with the same level of resolve.  Get this straight in your head, we are fighting an adversary that will employ ruthless tactics to wear us down and defeat our efforts. These bishops have a great deal to lose in terms of power, influence, treasure and status.  They will not go down without a fight.

They will employ tactics to beat us through attrition (wear down our human and material resources until we are an ineffective force) or through disruption (attack our organizational cohesion and effective functioning so that we cannot operate as a coherent whole).  Both defeat mechanisms are designed to break our resolve to continue fighting for the truth, reform and justice.

Right now the Bishops control the battle rythm, we need to seize that initiative and hold the moral high ground.

2. Protecting children and vulnerable adults.  This is where education, awareness and a legislative agenda come into the picture.  The Bishops will only abandon their current strategy when the consequences for their actions are more than they can bear.

3. Engage groups with similar goals.  We need to partner with groups that seek reform in the church, protection of children and protection for victims of crime.

4.  Establish clear channels for victims who need assistance to find the support they need.  We should be supporting each other and identifying resources to help victims and their families deal with the social, mental, physical and legal problems that they face.  We should not be sending these people to the Bishops for assistance because the Bishops are a very big part of the problem.

A last thought and then I will wrap this one up.  If  we truly have a network, we should be able to utilize the network.  We should be able to communicate with each other without having to go through a filter.  We need to shake the cobwebs off the message boards and reestablish communications with each other.  We cannot be effective in getting any message out if we are not communicating with each other.  Organizations  needs to clean up their points of contact to make sure that victims can actually make the initial contact with the organization through a real person.  A little website clean up is appropriate for more than one victim’s rights organization.

We need to have a place for people to submit blog links and post their thoughts.  Kathy Shaw does an excellent job with the Abuse Tracker to keep all of us up to date on stories in the media, but we don’t have a consolidated blog roll for our community.  We need to leverage technology to get our message out.  You know that the Dioceses across the country are spending big money on shaping and communicating their message and they are not doing it by leaflet.  We need to blog, tweet, and really network.  We cannot be a network in name only.

We have a capable and ruthless adversary.  We are not going to be successful if we don’t leverage the resources available to us to effect change and get help for those who need it.   We cannot win if we do not come together as one.  That is the message I will carry to the SNAP Conference in August.  What message are you going to send?

I am frustrated.  Admittedly, some of the frustration comes from a tyranny of distance.  I am in southern Virginia and the diocese that I have an issue with is 400 miles worth of driving north of here.  I would love to have a face to face conversation with the Bishop’s advocate so I could look her in the eyes and see whether she is part of the problem with the Diocese of Scranton, or part of the solution.   I want to meet with the other victims of Father Gibson and victims of other priests in the Scranton Diocese.  I’ll make the drive, but it takes planning and timing.

I am frustrated by the New York legislature, they had the opportunity to do the right thing with the Child Victims Act of New York and yet they still have not passed it.  SNAP had a presence in Albany to lobby for votes.  They asked for photos and people to come to the Capitol to put a human face on an inhuman scandal.  I would have loved to drive to Albany to take part in the event, but I again, it was just too far at a time I needed to be in the office in southern Virginia.  I don’t know how it went nor have I seen any reports or photos of the SNAP event.

I am frustrated with SNAP and the other organizations out there that are advocating for victims.   SNAP is a  national organization, but at the local level they are not always there.  If you look at their website there are  points of contact listed that are no longer active. To use a term my wife, Melissa coined, these sites are becoming “Cob-Websites”. I know that the heads of organizations like SNAP are trying to do the right thing, but I think that they are losing victims who are already hesitant to come forward, by having broken links and out of date contact information.   Nothing is more frustrating than trying to speak for the first time and finding the point of contact you are trying to call is no longer there.  That happened to me 2 years ago when I decided it was time to end my silence.  The name listed on the SNAP website for this part of Virginia was no longer acting as a SNAP contact.

I am frustrated that for many people watching from the sidelines, there is a perseption that this is a Catholic Problem.  It isn’t.  It is a Baptist problem, a Jewish problem, a Mormon problem, and a Lutheran problem.  It is a local, statewide, national and global problem.  If you don’t believe me, take a look through Kathy Shaw’s blog Abuse Tracker.

I recommend that SNAP does what it can to energizes the base .  The tools  to do just that may be right under our noses.  Computers, iPhones, cell phones, blackberries and other electronic devices can be employed to pull us together. The SNAP website offers hints on writing letters to the editor and handing out leaflets.  That is all good stuff.  But why don’t we connect all our blogs together?

A few suggestions:

For the SNAP Conference in Washington, DC over the weekend of 7-9 August why don’t we set up Twitterfalls to track what people are say and see how people are reacting to speakers and break out sessions in real time.  Why don’t we webcast key meetings or speeches to the people that want to listen but can’t make it to D.C.? (That was an idea from Kay Eberling).  Why don’t we have an interactive online community to allow for the free exchange of ideas, strategies, support and discussion?  It could be a central location for blogs, allow people who don’t want to set their own blogs to submit articles when they are ready to do so.  We have Bishop Accountability, Abuse Tracker, SNAP, FACSA and other websites, but they seem to be more for the presentation of information.  We need discourse, interaction and community. We need to work on legislation on the state and federal level.  We need to work together.

We will not succeed as a community in our search for justice and change if we are isolated from each other. So why don’t we use the computers in front of our noses to effect a change and hold the bishops accountable for their sins of ommission as well as their sins of commission.

My Twitter address is OffMyKnees.  I plan on Twittering from the Conference in Washington DC this August.  If you have a twitter account, follow me and I will follow you.  We all need to start having a discussion, if we start with 140 characters at a time, at least we are starting.

Copyright

This site is copyrighted by my statement.
Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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