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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!

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Exhibit A,  for your consideration.  On Groundhog Day in 1998, Bishop Timlin, in his capacity as the Bishop of Scranton, removed the priestly faculties of the Diocese in the case of Robert Gibson for “reasons of health” (wink, wink!).  Is it common to remove the priestly faculties of a man who has a legitimate physical ailment?  If you go back through the files I think that every pedophile/sexual predator removed from his parish/diocesan posting for sexual abuse probably has a similar letter for “reasons of health”.   I suspect that you will find that across the country and around the world because that was the way the coordinated actions of the Church Hierarchy worked.

timlin-decree-on-gibson

 

By affixing his signature and seal before a witness, James Earley (who also signed the document), Bishop Timlin, actively and with full knowledge of credible accusations of Gibson’s sexual crimes, set out to deceive the parishioners of Gibson’s previous assignments, the Diocese of Scranton and the Catholic Church as a whole.  He did so in an official church document.  This is nothing short of fraud and conspiracy to protect a pedophile.

In fact, if you gather all the letters removing the priestly faculties of the men credibly accused  of sexual misconduct, molestation and child rape I think you may have a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Case.

18 U.S. Code § 1961 or “RICO” is a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.  I believe the Diocese of Scranton qualifies as an “ongoing criminal enterprise.”  The fact that the Diocese moved Gibson across state lines to a church run center in Dittmer, Missouri satisfies the “interstate” conspiracy portion of the statute.

I think the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Pennsylvania needs to get active and involved.

US_Seal_3DA letter by was released by the President of the University of Scranton, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., to the University on August 20, 2018, concerning the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  It outlines proactive steps being implemented at the  “The U” as a result of the findings presented by the Grand Jury.  Some of the actions include the renaming of buildings named after bishops in Scranton implicated in the report as covering up abuses and rescinding honorary degrees conferred on those bishops.  The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Members of the University Community,

 The recent release of more than 1,300 pages of grand jury proceedings detailing sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania and failures by Church leaders in responding to these situations is justifiably generating international attention and outrage. Since the report’s release last week, the University has considered how best to respond to the deeply disturbing report and to past honors and recognition it has bestowed upon individuals named in it.

Earlier today, I consulted with a group of administrators, faculty, alumni and student leaders to recommend a course of action to the Board of Trustees. This afternoon, the Board met in special session and unanimously approved our recommendations.

With sympathy for and in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will rescind honorary degrees and rename campus buildings recognizing Bishops Jerome D. Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick, and James C. Timlin. As documented in the report, these Bishops covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm’s way.

Buildings previously named for these three Bishops will be renamed as follows:

McCormick Hall will be renamed MacKillop Hall in honor of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart and who publicly exposed the sexual abuse of children by a priest. In her life, she faced persecution and excommunication, during which she was assisted by the Jesuits until later being absolved. Pope Benedict XVI named Sr. Mary Australia’s first saint in 2010.

The name on Timlin House will be removed and Mulberry Plaza, the complex in which the building is located, will be renamed Romero Plaza in honor of the late Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who will be canonized by Pope Francis on October 14. Murdered in 1980 while saying mass in San Salvador, Archbishop Romero remains an inspiration to millions, including many on the University’s campus who have made the moving pilgrimage to El Salvador.

Hannan Hall will be renamed Giblin-Kelly Hall in honor of the late Brendan J. Giblin ’06 and William H. Kelly Jr. ’93.  Brendan was a graduating senior at Scranton and o-captain of the swim team when he was tragically killed while on Spring Break in Panama City.  Bill worked for Bloomberg, LP in Princeton, N.J. and their affiliate, Bloomberg Tradebook LLC, in New York City. On September 11, 2001, Bill attended a conference at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center, Tower One, and was killed in the attack that destroyed those buildings. Since Bill and Brendan died, their family and friends have devotedly kept their memory alive, transforming tragedy into good in support of future students at Scranton.

In choosing to honor St. MacKillop, Archbishop Romero, Brendan and Bill, we hold up the example of their lives as a reminder always to be a voice against abuse and violence no matter the cost, to champion the poor and oppressed, and to treasure the bonds of friendship and community that are at the heart of The University of Scranton.

These actions are important, but the gravity of the information we now know demands even more of us. As a Catholic and Jesuit university founded by the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will strive together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report. As a university community, we look forward to working with the people of the Diocese to assist in facilitating discussions and reflection in the long but hopeful process to rebuild trust and find peace. In support of this initiative, the University is devoting resources to advance the programs and projects that emerge from our collaboration.

Additionally, I recognize that stories from the past two weeks can trigger painful memories for members of our campus community who themselves are living with the lifelong scars of sexual abuse. Please be assured that the staff of the Counseling Center and Campus Ministries are available to help students and that the University’s employee assistance program is always available for faculty and staff.

On this journey, I ask that you pray for the healing of all victims of sexual abuse and their families and that you pray also for the people of the Diocese of Scranton and the Universal Church.

Sincerely,

Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.

President

For the first time since a lengthy confession with Edward Gannon, S.J. in his library office at the University of Scranton in 1981, I feel a little bit of the weight being taken off of me.

This is a significant start to an open dialogue on the depths of the problem of covering up sexual crimes committed against children and a way forward to protect children and vulnerable adults in the future.

As a member of both the University of Scranton and the Survivor community, I am proud of my university for taking these initial decisive steps.

Michael Baumann, ’82

 

 

 

Since my last post, I have spoken briefly with an investigator.  I am looking forward to a more in-depth interview with him.  He initially offered to meet me here in Virginia until he realized that I was much further south than he expected.  Contact has been made.  He seems to be working a very large case load for the Diocese of Scranton, which is not surprising at all because the bishops there were protecting a number of predator priests.

I will let you know when a more detailed interview is conducted and I will pass any information that is made available to me.

If you share an experience similar to my own within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I urge you to contact the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-888-538-8541 .

I am writing this from the low country of South Carolina.   A break needed to assess where I am and where I am going.   I am also working on a project that I will keep under wraps for the time being.  The first steps are proving to be very challenging.

After the post  from July where I asked the question “What is it going to take?” I did not hear crickets, but I also did not hear a lot of consensus.  Most of the comments were via email to this blog and, as a rule, I don’t publish the contents of email unless I have the permission of the correspondent.

I keep coming back to the same basic conclusion.  We, the community of survivors, don’t trust each other.  I am sure someone with a lot more education in psychology can explain all this.  In fact, I would love to hear the explanation.

What I have discovered is that there are divisions within the community that baffle me.  There seems to be a concern that someone’s abuse is more important, more devastating, more valid than another.

There is no criteria to determine who is a survivor and who is not.  There is no experience barometer to determine who had it “bad enough” to be in the “club”. I almost hesitate to say the word “community” anymore.  I really don’t think there is one.  There is no network, there is no organization because we cannot come to a definition of who can be considered a survivor.  And that serves the interests of the predators and the institutions that have protected them.

It is not a competition. It is a very destructive game of “I had it worse than you”.  Can’t we agree that is awful, devastating, damaging and life altering?   It is completely confusing to me that the people who should have the most empathy for survivors are other survivors.  And yet, that is where I find the most intensely judgmental collection of individuals who are often very vocal when anyone offers an opinion other contrary to the “norm”.

If this is the game, I don’t want to play anymore.   I have better things to do than sit around comparing stories of abuse and the levels of devastation caused by that abuse.   I will leave that sorting to someone else.

It is not all SNAP’s fault either.  We can wax poetic about how screwed up an organization, any organization may be.  We can waste our time affixing blame.  Or we can get organized, concentrate on the predators and the institutions that protect them and move forward.  At some point this has to stop being about individuals and it has to start being about something greater.

If we are to have that kind of community of survivors, we must not sit in judgement of each other, we must work together to change the environment that has allowed predators to target children and vulnerable adults.  If we cannot do that, we have already failed.

It seems that what it is going to take is empathy for each other. Once we have that we can start to be more organized and focused on changing the conditions that allow an environment for abuse and criminal conspiracies to protect predators to exist.

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote a blog post in February, 2013 titled “Is there a Survivors’ Community” in which I was looking for answers from survivors about our community, our way forward and who speaks for us.  In May,2013 I expressed my frustration in another post, “Crickets, Silence on the net…” that I did not hear from anyone in the survivor’s community.  According to the analytics I see on this blog, plenty of people read the original but no one offered their thoughts.

Here we are again and I am wondering why we can’t move forward.  I am wondering what the factors are in keeping us separated, unorganized and losing ground in efforts to change legislation and have society take the problem of sexual abuse and rape of children and vulnerable adults seriously.

A reporter contacted me a while back on a story concerning a priest accused of molesting a young boy.  He had already published the story but wanted my feedback.  He had used a quote from SNAP for the article, the same inane drivel that the National Director of that organization generically applies to any and all cases of abuse on which he is queried.  It made me wonder.

What is it going to take?  What would it take to get a coherent message from the survivor community to articulate the message that children and vulnerable adults are at risk from predators who enjoy a certain level of top cover from institutions who are more concerned with a risk management strategy than with the protection of those who need it most?  Is there a way that the message can be successfully crafted and articulated?  Can it be molded into a strategy that allows for the development of stronger laws to protect victims and enable the predators and their protectors to be held accountable both criminally and civilly?   Can we develop a voice that is institutionally agnostic and not narrowly focused on the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of American, Penn State or any other notorious institution with a history of child sexual crimes?

The other side of this argument is well-organized and well-funded.  Despite the fact that organizations like the Catholic League are notorious for spewing lies and portraying victims as predators or being responsible for the abuse inflicted upon them,  we have no credible organization, at the national level, that can present a coherent case for the need for change in legislation, education, institutional culture, and society in dealing with predators who prey on children.  We have no credible counters on Fox News to the Bill Donohues of the world.

We don’t need shrill fundraisers who only seem to hang around looking for the next donation to pay the salary or travel expenses for the next hit and run media opportunity. (It must be convention time again.) We need serious people who can step up and credibly do the work.  We need to actually network the survivors of child sexual abuse, their supporters, law enforcement, the criminal justice system and the legislatures in all the states to move in the direction of making the punishment so vile for crimes of this nature for both the predator and the institution that protects the predator that there is no where for the predator to find a safe haven.

As with many stories, the public eventually gets weary and loses interest.  That is what institutions like the Catholic Church want.  They want everything to blow over, go away, disappear.  The predators want that as well so that they may return to the business of grooming their next victim.  Perhaps it is time to find our national voice, our national strategy, our universal calling to actually effect a long-lasting change.  The shrill voices from Chicago and St. Louis have proven that they are not up to the task.   Who will step up?

Are you still out there?

 

ImageThe last time I had gone to a reunion, the great terrible secret was still under wraps.   I had gone with 2 purposes, one of them was to find out if Gibson was still alive and destroying lives.  The second was to try to exorcise the memories of what had happened.   I was unsuccessful.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend(2014)  I found myself pulling into East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  It has been a while.  The last time I was in the area I was meeting with the District Attorney’s office in Monroe County to go over the events that occurred in 1973-1974.  After a one night stay, I left to return to my life in Virginia.

 Now I was back.   My great terrible secret is no longer a secret.   Not long after arriving at my hotel and meeting up with a friend, I made the trip up the hill to see how the years had changed Notre Dame High School.  As it was the weekend, there was no activity on top of the hill.  Over the years I have discovered that people had nicknames for the round chapel building that looms  in front of the classroom building.  I had referred to it as “the Silo” for years.  Others have called it the “trash can” or the “pill bottle”.  The chapel contained within had been used, at least during my time at the school, for quiet  meditation, small masses, a quiet place to sneak off with a “significant” or “not so significant” other, or a place to get high.  For me it was the location of a couple of significant beatings from “Father” Robert Gibson to keep me in line.  One such beating was interrupted by Sister Beatrice, at least temporarily.  After looking around for a few minutes, I had my fill,  it was time to move on and see the rest of town.

Stroudsburg looked essentially the same.  Although the addition of a couple of hookah bars, a head shop or two and some empty store fronts were definitely not of the late 70’s, early 80’s vintage I remember.  Everything changes.  At least there is activity on Main street.  There are many small towns that can no longer boast of that.

The reunion was on Sunday at the Barley Creek Brewery in Tannersville near Camelback Mountain.   It was a perfect spot to have a gathering of about half of the class of 1978. While nervous about what kind of reaction I would get knowing that some of these people knew about what had happened, I had to walk up and see what would happen.   For the most part, the conversations that turned to the subject of Father Gibson were supportive. More than one person felt the need to tee up their own personal horror on the subject, which was fine.  I think that anyone who wanted to say something about the matter, did so.  If someone still has something to say, email me here.

A couple of the comments from people struck me.  Two different classmates wondered aloud about why the priests didn’t just have sex with each other.  Why did they go after children?  My response is that it was not about sex.  It was about power, control, dominance and ego.  Gibson took advantage of his position as a Pastor and a teacher to control his victims.  I don’t know if he was gay.  Frankly, I don’t care.   A gay priest does not necessarily equate to a pedophile predator.  No, all those years ago it was about control and terror.  It was about getting off on the knowledge that he could do what he wanted, when he wanted with the victims he groomed with little fear of consequence.  Besides, he had the Diocese of Scranton, Bishop Timlin in particular, there to cover his mess, move him to a new crop of victims and allow him to start over.  He had institutional backing.

There was no illusion of love or care.  There was only threats of retaliation and physical harm if the victim looked like they were going to tell someone about what he was doing.

I left the reunion feeling a little better.  I was not treated differently.  It was funny to me how quickly the social order reestablished itself in the group.   Even after 35+ years we fell in with those we survived high school with.  Although this time, the illusion of  the masks we hid behind in the school on the hill seemed to be a little less visible.  Will I go back to another reunion?  I am not sure.  There has been a lot of water passed under the bridges I had burned all those years ago.   I am grateful that I saw as many old friends as I did.   A note for the people who were on the same page as me in the yearbook, thanks for your support.  I had heard from all three in the years after my revelation.  You are all gentlemen and I proud to still have you as friends.  For the three women who were also very supportive over the years (all three were at dinner after the reunion), I wanted to thank you as well. You all have helped me understand that I was not at fault for what happened all those years ago.  There were some pretty amazing people in that class.

For the matriarch of “the family”, I can never hope to repay you for all you have done for me since the first day of 8th grade.   My world would have been completely and tragically different without your support, friendship and wisdom.  You had a profound influence on a lot of lives and I think it is time you understood that.  I know I am not the only one who has let you know that recently.

Here’s to the Class of 1978!

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”[1]; “anguish of body or mind, something that causes anguish or pain, the infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure”[2]

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.

[1] Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torture?show=0&t=1399470363

[2] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition principal copyright 1993

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Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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