When a scandal is broken open, like the one with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and, closer to home, the one involving the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, you expect to see certain developments.
Those developments usually include firings, resignations and sometimes criminal charges.
In the case of Murdoch’s News Corp. and its employees’ phone hacking, paying off police and compromising politicians who were intimidated by the powerful Murdoch dynasty, we’ve seen just that.
Two top Scotland Yard officials have resigned, including the Metropolitan police commissioner; two of News Corp.’s top executives — Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton — have resigned; and 10 people, including Brooks, have been arrested.
Today, New York Times’ media reporter David Carr wrote in his column that “the flames of the scandal edge closer to Mr. Murdoch’s door.”
The dominoes are falling even though Murdoch hurried over to England from the U.S. and began apologizing all over the place. In a letter that was published in all British papers over the weekend, Murdoch said his company and its English subsidiary, News International, had not come to grips with its excesses promptly. “We are sorry,” his letter began.
It’s fitting, of course, that apologies are not enough. Murderers and corrupt executives apologize all the time, but most still go to prison, and some are ordered to compensate their victims.
But look at how it goes in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Bishop Robert Finnochio (I’d love to take credit for the name, but that goes to a friend who shall be unnamed) has apologized several times for failing to report to police, for many months, the fact that a parish priest had taken and electronically stored upskirt photos of little girls at a parish school in the Northland.
Bolstering the computerized evidence was the statement (more than a year ago) of a school principal who said that a parent had reported finding a pair of girl’s panties inside a planter in the priest’s back yard.
As I have said before, this is a true scandal — even though The Kansas City Star has not had the courage to tag it so.
Many Catholics in the diocese, particularly the parents of children who have been “exposed” to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, the offending priest, are seething. A chorus of calls has come for the bishop to be prosecuted and to resign.
The bishop has apologized:
“I deeply regret that we didn’t ask the police earlier to conduct a full investigation.”
“I must acknowledge my own failings…As bishop I owe it to people to say things must change.”
“As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize…for them. Clearly, we have to do more.”
Fine, but what about the loss of confidence in his leadership? How can he possibly be trusted to do the right thing in the future?
And, in the larger picture, what about the Catholic Church’s proven habit of overlooking priest sexual abuse in the hopes of salvaging clerical careers?
In his column, Carr, of The Times, quoted a lawyer for the family of a phone hacking victim as saying, “This is not just about one individual but about the culture of an organization.”
It seems to me that the lawyer could just as easily have been describing the Catholic Church in general and the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in particular.
And, still, life at the Vatican in Rome and at 20 W. Ninth Street in Kansas City go on the same as ever.
At the 20 W. Ninth building, which the diocese purchased last year, workers are finishing up Bishop Finnochio’s spacious and elegant living quarters on the third floor. He’s obviously not planning on going anywhere soon and not too worried about being kicked out of his job, which only the Pope can do.
Since he’s going to be with us for a while, I think he should direct the construction workers to install a very wide mirror in his bathroom so he can check out the end of his nose when he gets up every morning and before he goes to bed every night.