From what I’ve heard the last couple of days, I was overly optimistic that common sense would prevail in the immediate wake of Bishop Robert Finn’s firing/resignation.
There have been several disappointing, unofficial developments — disappointing from my personal perspective and that of tens of thousands of Kansas City area Catholics yearning for more enlightened Catholic leadership.
Among the developments —
:: Interim Administrator Archbishop Joseph Naumann has decided to stand behind the pending reassignment of the Rev. Richard Rocha, currently director of diocesan vocations, to pastor at St. Thomas More in south Kansas City. Rocha, a conservative priest, will succeed Thomas More’s extremely popular pastor of six years, Rev. Don Farnan, who is widely considered a liberal and progressive priest.
:: Farnan has not budged from his decision to decline a transfer to the parishes in Gallatin and Hamilton, Missouri, and instead will take a leave of absence. (He told me last week that he had also given consideration to going in a different direction altogether, perhaps working with missions or Catholic Relief Services, the “humanitarian agency” of the Catholic Church in the United States.)
:: Rev. Vincent Rogers, pastor at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Gladstone, will, indeed, take over at Visitation Church in the South Plaza area. The prospect of an arch-conservative pastor like Rogers has so upset many in the Visitation community that the outgoing pastor, Rev. Pat Rush, who is retiring, sent an e-mail to parishioners saying, in effect, “calm down and be prayerful.”
For the majority of parishioners at Visitation and St. Thomas More, those developments are — or will be, when officially confirmed — extremely disappointing.
In my last post (and thanks again to the thousands of people who read it and the dozens who commented) I speculated that Naumann, stepping into a huge controversy, would rescind the transfers of Farnan and Rogers and reconsider Finn’s desperate, out-the-door machinations.
I guess I should have known better…A former diocesan priest who is a good friend, sent an e-mail about that post, saying: “I have a lot of doubts that Naumann will rescind the appointment of Rogers and Rocha… Naumann and Finn are in the same ideological camp.”
It appears, then, that as far as the diocese’s interim leader is concerned, it’s “full speed ahead” with the orthodoxy and rigidity that ultimately played a big role in bringing Finn down.
This is very unfortunate, but, as is always the case with Catholic Church administration, little or nothing can be done about it.
…But all is not lost. It’s important, I think, for disillusioned Catholics in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to focus on the larger picture because several rays of sunshine are peeking through the cloud cover.
Consider, for example —
:: “King Finn” is dead, and in Pope Francis the Church is finally blessed with a forward-thinking leader who is steadily loosening the vise that his predecessor tightened around the heads of the faithful.
:: Crux, the Boston Globe’s online site “covering all things Catholic,” reported recently that the Vatican’s special commission on clergy sexual abuse has given Pope Francis a proposal on how to discipline bishops who fail to protect minors from sexual abuse by clergy under their oversight. Marie Collins, a member of the commission, would not divulge any details but said, “It’s gone to the Holy Father and it’s up to him when he makes a decision.”
:: The Archdiocese of Chicago recently got a new leader, Archbishop Blase Cupich, a former pastor in Omaha, who is thoughtful, intellectual and moderate. (Cupich succeeded the now-deceased Archbishop Francis George, one of Pope John Paul’s arch-conservative henchmen.)
Here’s a taste of Cupich’s approach. In April 2011, he spoke at a two-day conference at Marquette University law school. His subject was “Harm, Hope and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal.”
Among other things, Cupich said it was essential that church officials maintain a “visceral connection” to the pain and damage done to those abused by priests, and that bishops needed to continue soul-searching or risk “regression or complacency.”
Can you imagine Finn saying anything like that? Urging church officials to put themselves in the shoes of victims of clergy sexual abuse? Hell, no! His perspective was always looking down from his lofty perch, from where he ruled with mitred head and croziered hand.
Let’s hope Francis will assign Kansas City a bishop like Cupich, someone whose eyes are open and heart is big. If that happy circumstance should come to pass, the diocese could truly get on with shedding the suit of armor that Finn has cloaked the diocese in the last 10 years.