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I have a healthy skepticism when it comes to anyone actually prosecuting the institutions that have made it a business practice to support and protect pedophiles that groom, sexually abuse and rape children within that institution. There is a risk calculation, no doubt, that guides these institutions to deny claims of abuse, attempt to discredit victims and protect the predators.
In the post prior to this one, I put out information released by the Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse (FACSA). They are looking for victims of sexual abuse to dial in, regardless of how long ago the abuse took place. It is imperative that we document the files on the institutions that protected predators and turned a deaf ear on victims.
The Attorney General’s office in Harrisburg has a Sexual Abuse Hotline, 1-888-538-8541. I called the number on Monday morning. I had a recording tell me that the line was not in service. I tried later in the morning and was surprised to have a live person answer the phone and take my information. She told me the name of the investigator looking into the Diocese of Scranton and said she would pass my information along. I will wait and see if anyone contacts me. If they do I will let you know. I do not expect much, but I would like to document the file against the Diocese of Scranton.
If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a child (under the age of 18) within the state of Pennsylvania, you should call the hotline and make a report. The person answering the phone will give you the name of the investigator for the Diocese(s) that are applicable to your particular circumstances.
Within the Dioceses in Pennsylvania there have been at least 292 credibly accused priests. That, to me, seems to be a low number. In my case, the Diocese of Scranton admits to only (!) four victims of my predator. I know that number is low. Ridiculously, insultingly low. These predators were prolific.
If you have a story to tell, now is the time to do so. Please call the number, 1-888-538-8541 and be heard.
I guess we shall see where, if anywhere, this will lead.
***Disclaimer: the misspelling of “Alltona” on the map was embedded in the .gif file I pulled from the Diocese of Harrisburg’s website.
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
“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”
An article on the Vatican Radio’s Website reported on a request from Pope Francis for forgiveness for the priests who committed sexual crimes against children. During his prepared remarks to members of BICE [International Catholic Child Bureau] whom he received on 11 April 2014 in an audience at the Vatican, he deviated from the prepared text. That deviation for his text was captured in the English translation of the Pontiff’s prepared statement provided by Vatican Radio:
…. I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…
Before I start this conversation I am being mindful of my fellow survivors and their families, some are no longer here because of the damage caused by predator priests. We have been subjected to endless promises of reform and lies about accountability. This is important to me as survivor of rape by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. At the risk of appearing to be hopeful enough that these questions will somehow come to the attention of Pope Francis, I will address my questions to him directly.
Your Holiness, I have some questions I must ask so that I can understand the meaning and intent in your words. Holy Father, from who are you asking forgiveness? An honest question, I promise you. I am convinced of your sincerity when you say you “feel the compelled to personally take on all the evil”. If you do so, why do you qualify your statement by saying that the number of predator priests are “quite a few” in number but not when compared to the total number of priests? YourHoliness, you start off by marginalizing the depth of the crisis. Why should I trust what you go on to say next?
Are you asking survivors/victims for forgiveness? Are you asking your Church? Are you asking us to forgive those who committed such heinous acts of depravity that destroyed our trust, our faith and injured our beings? Or are you asking us to forgive those that hid and protected these monsters? Are you asking us to forgive those, both religious and laity who have expended the treasure of the church to support evil and attack us, as if we were the cause of the crimes committed against us? They painted us as monsters or opportunists looking for an easy pay out. Are you asking for forgiveness for the marginalization of our suffering, the suffering of our families, the lost potential of our shattered lives? Are you asking for forgiveness for the irreparable damage and damnation of those who chose not to right a wrong but to isolate and vilify the survivors? Are you asking forgiveness for those who put the comfort of the church ahead of the safety of children?
Holy Father, it does not matter if there are a relatively small number of predator priest relative to the total number priests in the church. It does matter that many of your Bishops chose to mitigate risk and protect predators instead of maximizing justice and protecting children. You say the church is aware of the damage and that you cannot take one step back. Until you take one step forward your Church will remain aware but ineffective and uncaring. Until you take action to cut the cancer of protection for predators from the ranks of your bishops your Church will not be stronger.
You speak of sanctions. You want to take action to deal with the problem. Your Holiness, with great respect I ask you, what are you willing to do? My Catholic education instructs me that forgiveness is earned through acts of contrition. The words are hollow if they do not come with action, with change and with the will to live a life that is true to the values and faith that you profess.
Words are important. Words have meaning. Holy Father, please show me that your words are sincere and that you will finally take the action necessary to protect children and vulnerable adults. Unless there is an accounting, unless the truth is more important than the comfort of those that have protected predator priests, your words will be lost on the wind.
Show me your committment, your actions, the meaning in your words.
This post was picked up and reposted on: Catholic4Change. Thanks Susan!
An article in the Scranton Times-Tribune online follows up on the story of Carlos Urrutigoiry and his elevation to a position of authority over priests accused of misconduct in a Catholic Diocese in Paraguay.
The National Director of SNAP, David Chlohessy, is demanding the Diocese release the files on the Urrutigoiry and the events that occurred at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, a residential school sponsored by the Society of St. John, a religious order. Urrutigoiry was credibly accused of sleeping with teenage boys as part of his “ministry”.
It will come as no surprise that the Diocese of Scranton will take no action and that the National Director of SNAP will move on to another press release/photo opportunity. The dance continues and yet no progress is made.
According to an article in the Pocono Record on 14 March 2014, a priest who was credibly accused of molesting boys in Shohola (Pike County) and Moscow (Lackawanna County), Pennsylvania has been elevated to the post of Vicar General of Ciudad del Este Diocese in Paraguay. Now a Monsignor, Carlos Urrutigoity will be in charge of investigations into claims of abuse or misconduct by priests in the diocese. (Anyone else see this as the church taking a stand against the sexual misconduct by priests?)
Back in 2002 a lawsuit claimed that Urrutigoity and one of his henchmen, Father Eric Ensey had been “sleeping” with boys as part of their ministry. Protected by the Diocese of Scranton Bishop James Timlin, the priests escaped prosecution by sending them for “psychological evaluation” in Canada. The Diocese has a long-standing process where they send predator priests outside of the jurisdiction that could prosecute them. Timlin and his diocesan risk managers settled the lawsuit but did nothing else.
Now Monsignor Urrutigoity is operating in Paraguay and is in charge of protecting the people of his diocese from predator priests. Despite Bishop Martino’s letter to the diocese in Paraguay, there really has not been anything done. Had Bishops Timlin and Martino had the ability to discern right from wrong or even if one of them had a spine, they would have taken action in accordance with canon law and sought to have these and other predator priests that operated in the Diocese of Scranton defrocked and exposed. But we all know that is not part of the risk calculus for the Catholic Hierarchy.
This crisis continues for three reasons. First, bishops are still protecting the predators at the expense of the vulnerable. Second, coward politicians who are under the cassocks of the bishops refuse to pass any meaningful legislation to hold the institutions that protect child rapists. Third, Catholic parishioners are not holding their hierarchy accountable. I put the most blame on the last group. For all the lip service from lay Catholics about the ongoing crisis, there is no real action to fix the problem and hold people accountable.
Catholics are not doing what they need to do to protect the innocent. I am sure if their Saviour came back today, he would not want anything to do with these frauds.
This year has been full of trials, disappointments and setbacks. It also has been full of discovery, new friends, old friends and the promise of new adventures. 2013 has been a hard year and I don’t mind saying I am glad to see it go.
I have not written much on this blog this year. Fits and starts mostly. I watch the news and I watch the continuing saga of people in positions of authority abusing children or vulnerable adults. I read what is put out there by groups trying to reform the church and I see the Pope is even offering to reach out to survivors. I still see that the institutions that these predators work within still look at the sexual crimes and damage to actual human beings as part of a risk management calculation. I still see legislation withering while politicians genuflect to special interests to keep justice from those that deserve it.
Last week I threw a few lines out there and the first response was allegedly from a predator wanting to taunt me and others. The email (email@example.com) was familiar, a pseudonym based on an Italian saint. Oddly, Gabriel Possenti is the patron saint of “handgunners”. A veiled threat, perhaps. It would have been more of a threat if the author had spelled the saint’s name correctly. I guess being “Mr. Oregon” in his youth (not that there is any record of that honor) did not require the ability to spell the name used for “extracurricular” online activities. Activities that led to his pleading guilty of charges related to child pornography. Yeah, I know you are still out there. I know you are doing your taunting from your schismatic church.
How do I start doing this again. I just listen to the taunting of those who think that they will get away with the crimes they have committed. I just start looking at the new, credible allegations that keep coming. I look at the Pennsylvania State Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman, Ron Marsico who is actively quashing statute of limitations reform. That obstruction allows a credibly accused Catholic Priest by the name of Guy Marsico to be beyond the reach of his victims. I think I need to research this potential conflict of interest. Is “Marsico” that common a name in Central PA?
There is still much to be done. I guess I need to keep writing until I have more answers.
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.
“When one goes looking for something, one rarely finds it, but when you least expect it, the object of your search tends to fly up in front of you.”
This is a hard topic to write about. What happened all those years ago, the coverup by the church, the discord in the survivor community. I find myself both drawn to writing and wanting to put all this down and walking away to something else, anything else. I have had people recommend both courses of action, some more profane that others.
I wrote a piece not too long ago looking for the “Survivor Community”. There was no response from the “community”. I know someone is reading “Off My Knees”. I see readership numbers that mystify me everyday. I am even more perplexed when I have not had a post for a little while and the numbers start to climb into the hundreds per day. Usually that is the indicator that something has stirred in the universe and another person in authority (priest, coach, teacher, cop, relative…) has been identified as a molester/rapist of children or that a major piece of legislation has come to a head or that someone has died. When I see random peaks in readership, I go to the analytics that I track for my blog looking for an explanation.
I do get emails from survivors or people close to a survivor looking for answers, advice or a conversation with someone who understands all too well what happened all those years ago. I am very wary of requests for phone conversations and even more concerned about requests for face to face meetings. I am also hesitant to offer advice, mostly because I still have more questions than answers.
The other night I was tracking activity in this blog that turn out to be someone who was reposting a blog post I had written. That is when the thought came to me. As Survivors, we don’t trust each other. Is it possible that what we have in common also alienates us from each other? Our vulgar initiation into this universe of survivors makes us ever vigilant and doubtful of the motives of our correspondents. We will read each other’s posts on blogs and message boards, but there is a hesitance to respond, to act, to come together. For many, we have not really given up the great terrible secret that we have carried for so long. We may be silently watching from the comfort of our own world. Many are not engaged. Many are not ready to be engaged. Many are too tired of all of it to be engaged.
While we may have a great deal in common, we, as a group, do not really talk very much. I kept quiet for well over 33 years. All that silence keeps things from happening. It keeps the well-organized people who protected the criminals who preyed on us strong. It keeps them on the street, it keeps them from being called to account for their complicity.
Our silence also fails to shape the message of our community. Silence is seen by consent by groups that are putting forward an agenda. Those agendas are not always in our collective interest. Within our community there are bitter divisions. Some of the worst vitriol I have seen spewed at survivors has come from other survivors. Discourse between us is not only discouraged, it is often attacked when the message does not support the “national position” .
We still need to find our collective voices, we still need to learn to network. Most importantly, we must understand that, while there is a common thread, we all have very unique experiences that don’t always fit nicely into the general picture being painted of the community. Just as I am amazed at the inability of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to tell the truth, I am amazed at the sometimes vicious tactics used between survivors.
Differences in points of view should be expected. But the infighting and the polarization in the survivor community are doing nothing but helping the people/organizations/institutions who desperately want us to remain silent and subservient.
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.