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I have been struggling with this decision for a while. I have decided to archive this blog, at least for now. I think I have accomplished as much as I can using this forum. I have been working on two other projects, one of which was completed over the weekend. The second will take a lot more time and most of my energy when I am not dealing with other important aspects of my life.
There have been a great many changes in my life since I came out publicly about what happened to me all those years ago. The discoveries made along the way were, at the same time, shocking, disappointing and liberating. I have spoken with other survivors, some whom I knew as a child, and shared a similar experience. For many of us, the stories are frighteningly similar, the aftermath intensely personal and for some the damage is just much more than can be expressed in words.
I am still frustrated by the lack of a coherent, organized voice to unite the survivors and advocate for a meaningful change in our laws and the way society looks at the problem of pedophiles targeting children. It is so much bigger than the Catholic Church, Penn State, the Boy Scouts of America or any other institutions that based their handling of the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults on a risk calculus more suited to protect their financial status and reputation.
Perhaps there will actually be a viable network of survivors at some point. There are groups who are making a difference in their own back yards. I wish them luck and I will lend a hand when I am able to do so.
It is just time to do something else. I will keep the blog on-line because people are still coming to it. I really don’t understand the numbers that still come everyday. But, for now, I do not think I will be posting unless something significant occurs. I will keep the email account open as well. I will delete the vitriol from the apologists who regularly spew their venom and ignore the trolls, I will monitor the rest.
I wish you all well.
By Michael Baumann
The Vatican appointed Monsignor Joseph Bambera as the 10th Bishop of Scranton. Bishop-elect Bambera is a native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania and is only the second local priest to be appointed to lead the Scranton See. He has been running the day-to-day business of the Diocese since the premature retirement of Bishop Joseph Martino in August 2009. With a vacancy in the Bishop’s chair, Cardinal Rigali of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese.
Bishop-elect Bambera will be ordained and installed as Bishop during a mass at Saint Peters Cathedral in Scranton on April 26th. At that time he will take over a Diocese that has reeled under the ineffective leadership of his two predecessors. Bishop Martino retired well before the tradition retirement age for Bishops amid several controversies over the closing of churches and schools in the diocese, heavy-handed political threats, intolerance and interference with Catholic Universities in his See and the perception among his critics that he employed bullying tactics to force compliance while avoiding contact with his flock. Bishop James Timlin was active in the cover-up of sexual crimes committed by more than 24 priests in the Diocese of Scranton over the years.
Bishop-elect Bambera will take over a Diocese struggling to balance the rich traditions of ethnic parishes and schools with the requirement to be fiscally responsible. He will be dealing with skeptical and often hostile members of his church who are puzzled at the actions, inactions and decisions of his immediate predecessor, Bishop Martino. Bishop Martino may go down in the history of the Diocese of Scranton as “The Great Divider”.
If I may be so bold as to offer the Bishop-elect a piece of advise… Get out and talk to your flock, listen to what they have to say about issues that are affecting their lives. Even if decisions have to be made at the Diocesan level that will be unpopular and will impact the structure of parishes and the assignment of resources (money, priest assignments, facility maintenance) go out and explain why you came to the decision you have made.
One of the things I was impressed with about Bishop-elect Bambera was that his goal after being assigned to run the Diocese temporarily, was to return to his parish. There were no reports that he aspired to the seat of this See. I hope this is indicative of his sense of service, his attachment to his parishioners and his compassion.
Perhaps this man will be the Bishop of Scranton who will reach out, in a meaningful way, to the community of survivors of sexual crimes by clergy in this Diocese over the years. I would offer that Bishop-elect Bambera should meet with survivors at a location such as the University of Scranton to discuss the abuses of the past (both by the priests who committed sexual assaults on children and vulnerable adults and the Bishops and other church officials who protected those criminals at the expense of the victims).
I would like to meet with this man to discuss the topic of sexual crimes committed by priests in his Diocese. I would like him to hear from as many of us as possible and hope that he would be open to listening and shaping real course for change. (Joan Holmes, Bill Genello, and/or James Early, if you are reading this, it may be a good time to tell the new boss that survivors would like to speak to him). I will happily make the trip north to meet with Bishop-elect Bambera.
The door is open, maybe now would be a good time to talk.
Note: If you are a survivor of abuse at the hands of a Diocese of Scranton priest or other religious and would be interested in meeting with the Bishop-elect, contact me and I will try to arrange a meeting at an appropriate and safe location.
In the time that has elapsed since I made my initial report to the Victim’s Advocate at the about the abuse that occurred, I have spoken to only 2 people who have an official affiliation with the Diocese. Joan Holmes, the Victim’s Advocate, has been helpful in providing information and offering support from the beginning. I spoke to her as recently as 1 November. I find her to be sincere and genuine in her work to assist the people who come to her with claims that range from the inappropriate to criminal. I cannot imagine that she sleeps well after listening to some of the stories she is told. Mrs. Holmes is not a direct employee of the Diocese, she tells me she is an independent contractor.
The second person I have spoken with is Mr Bill Genello, the communications director. He struck me as dismissive and condescending in our brief phone conversation in July, 2008. I won’t belabor that as it was the basis of an earlier post to this blog.
The point I am trying to make is that I have never been interviewed, either in person or over the phone by anyone who was actually looking into the claim I was making. There has been no effort, that I am aware of, on the part of the Diocese of Scranton to investigate the circumstances surrounding Father Gibson’s activities while I was with him. One would reasonably think that the Diocese would be interested in either vindicating a priest accused of criminal activity or document his activity in an effort to remove him from any environment where he could repeat his behavior.
I wonder why the Diocese of Scranton has not conducted an interview with me. If they did an investigation, I find it incredible that they would not include the victim’s story as part of the process. If they have not done the investigation, can they tell me why?
I can only speculate as to the reason that no investigation has been initiated. Some possible reasons could be:
- Father Gibson has admitted to the offenses
- Given his past admissions to other complaints and the nature of my complaint, the Diocese has decided that it is more than likely that I am telling the truth
- The Diocese understands the the statutes of limitations have expired both in criminal and civil courts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and have made the decision to just not deal with the issue because they are protected from liability
- The Diocese just doesn’t care
The Diocese has an obligation, under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to take allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and investigate all complaints. Article II of the document requires an assessment of claims of sexual abuse. How is it possible that a determination can be made without interviewing the person making the claim?
Article VII of the Charter states:
Dioceses/eparchies are to be open and transparent in communicating with the public about sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved. This is especially so with regard to informing parish and other church communities directly affected by ministerial misconduct involving minors.
Has the Diocese of Scranton informed the parishes, schools and camps that Father Gibson has been assigned to of the claims against him and his admissions of sexual abuse of minors? Have they mentioned him by name and indicated the years he was at the respective parishes and schools? I would be willing to wager that they have not complied with the Charter in these matters.
There has been no investigation into the claims I have made. Once again, I believe it is because the Bishop of Scranton and the people around him are not interested in coming to terms with the sexual abuse that they have been covering up for decades. It is business as usual on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton.