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Posts Tagged ‘Bishop Robert Finn’

Three things in particular have cropped up in the news in recent days that call out for closer inspection under the JimmyC microscope:

Charlie Wheeler’s financial dilemma

The amazing parallel between the Rutgers and Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese scandals

The Star’s telling story about why MGE didn’t shut off the gas valve to JJ’s

***

I’m proud to call Charlie Wheeler a good friend. I admired him and wrote a few stories about him during his years as mayor, from 1971-1979. Since retiring in 2005, I have worked as a volunteer in two of his last three political campaigns: county executive in 2006 and state treasurer in 2008. In the 2011 mayoral race, while working as a volunteer for Mike Burke, I helped arrange for Wheeler, who was also in the race, to throw his support to Burke shortly before the primary election. Burke, in one of the slickest political moves I’ve ever seen, also managed to reel in former mayors Dick Berkley and Kay Barnes. It wasn’t enough, of course, as Sly James, with his big personality and big head start, went on to beat Burke handily.

I learned several years ago that Charlie didn’t pay close attention to his finances, preferring instead to roam about town as an ambassador at large and dispenser of witty and insightful political observations.

P1000331

Photo by JimmyCsays

As far as I can tell, while Charlie helped quite a few people get rich (or richer) while he was mayor, such as the late Frank Morgan and lawyer I.I. (Double I) Ozar, he never made a dime off politics, other than his salary. He’s similar, in that respect, to the late, great House Speaker Sam Rayburn, who was one of the two or three most powerful men in politics for years but died with about $25,000 to his name.

So, last week, out comes the story on page A4 of The Star, saying that Wheeler is facing the loss of his home on 53rd Street, just west of Loose Park. He has fallen way behind on his house payments, particularly taxes and homeowner’s insurance, and the house is scheduled to be sold on the courthouse steps this week.

He and his wife, Marjorie, who is an invalid, are supposedly moving into a duplex on Pennsylvania, which, I understand, might be owned by a friend.

My arm’s length observation on the situation is that regardless of how beloved a person is or how clean his reputation is, he’s still gotta write the checks for what he owes. My less-than-arm’s-length observation is that I sure hope this turns out OK for Charlie and Marjorie and that we don’t see a photo in The Star of their personal property stacked up on the curb of West 53rd Street.

Charlie, if you’re reading this, listen to me: One story is enough.

***

I trust that most of you are aware of the situation at Rutgers University, where the athletic director, Tim Pernetti, failed last year to fire basketball coach Mike Rice after he was made aware of videos that showed Rice physically and verbally abusing players during practices. The Rutgers president, Robert Barchi, subsequently went along with Pernetti’s decision to fine Rice $75,000 and suspend him for three games. The key thing here is that Barchi did not view the videos, or at least says he didn’t.

barchi

Robert Barchi

The shit hit the fan last week, however, after ESPN got ahold of the videos. The clips prompted an immediate outcry, and late last week Pernetti resigned and Barchi was clinging to his job. He was apparently spared because he had not actually seen the videos. (It should be noted that some faculty members are continuing to call for his head.)

I was in Philadelphia over the weekend — Rutgers is close by in New Jersey — and I read everything I could get my hands on about the scandal. In Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, a sports columnist named Bob Ford explained in a single sentence how Barchi managed to slip the noose:

“One does not become a university president without cultivating a close relationship with deniability.”

I had already been thinking how closely the Barchi-Pernetti situation mirrored the scandal surrounding Bishop Robert Finn last year.  After it surfaced that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan had surreptitiously taken pornographic photos of elementary school girls at the parish where he was pastor in Kansas City, North, Finn attempted to shift the blame to Vicar General Robert Murphy, saying that he himself never saw the photos and that he relied on Murphy’s assessment that the photos were not pornographic.

In other words, Finn gave himself deniability.

That didn’t fly with a Jackson County Circuit Court judge, of course, who found Finn guilty of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse. Now, Finn, who is on probation for two years, stands as the most senior Catholic official convicted in the church’s long-running child sex-abuse scandal.

Nevertheless, Finn has refused to resign, even after ruining the reputation of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese. Like Barchi, he’d rather carry on tattooed with shame than bow out gracefully and allow his organization to start afresh with new leadership.

***

The Star’s “Mr. Energy,” reporter Steve Everly, confirmed for readers on Sunday why MGE did not shut off the gas valve to JJ’s restaurant before the Feb. 19 explosion that killed server Megan Cramer and injured several others. The reason? It would have been costly and time consuming to restore service to customers in the area.

Restoring service involves utility employees going around from house to house, business to business, relighting pilot lights.

Everly wrote:

“Instead of shutting the valves when the smell of gas was in the air before the February blast that leveled JJ’s restaurant, Missouri Gas Energy waited for a backhoe to arrive from Raymore — more than 20 miles away — in a failed attempt to vent the leak.”

God help us…We’re on our own, aren’t we?

MGE employees tell a fire department crew that they have the situation “under control” — meaning they’re sitting on their hands waiting for a backhoe — and the firefighters get on the truck and drive off. All the while, several sitting ducks, mostly JJ’s employees, go about their business having no idea what’s in store for them.

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Lots of news today. Let’s get right to it…

:: The New York Times reports that “Grandpa Joe” Paterno “transferred full ownership of his house to his wife, Sue, for $1 in July, less than four months before a sexual abuse scandal engulfed his Penn State football program and the university.”

Hmmm. Now, why would Pa-Pa want to put into his wife’s name the house that they had jointly owned since 1969?

The Times quoted Wick Sollers, a lawyer for Pa-Pa, as saying that the Paternos had been engaged in a “multi-year estate planning program” and that the transfer was “simply one element of that plan.”

The Times also interviewed Lawrence A. Frolik, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in elder law.

“I can’t see any tax advantages,” The Times quoted Frolik as saying. “…It sounds like an attempt to avoid personal liability in having assets in his wife’s name.”

Looks like Grandpa Joe did what any guy would do if he’s expecting a run on his bank account — disperse the assets.

:: Closer to home, The Star reports that Bishop Robert Finn slipped the criminal noose in Clay County and has agreed to enter into a diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor for covering up the Shawn Ratigan child-porn case for at least five months.

The agreement calls for Finn “to meet face to face” with Clay County Prosecutor Daniel L. White or his successor every month for the next five years “to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse levied against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese’s Clay county facilities.”

That would include churches, schools, gyms, among other buildings.

Don’t you just love it that the mighty bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph is going to have to report to the prosecutor like a wayward kid would report to the principal? The bishop, who has dozens of many minions at his disposal at diocesan headquarters, 20 W. Ninth St., trucking up to Liberty once a month, with his big hat in his hand? SWEEEET!

I fully expect Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to follow suit and put Finn in a separate diversion program. That means he’d have to grab his mitre and staff and head to the Jackson County Courthouse once a month, too.

Finn couldn’t have screwed things up any more than he did with the Ratigan case, but I bet he’s going to be a model enforcer from now on…Of course, he’s still a disgrace and would leave office if he really cared about the institution and people he’s supposed to be serving.

:: The Star also reports that Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters lost its battle to get full, retroactive, city pension benefits for about 300 ambulance workers who formerly worked for MAST. (MAST received city funds but was not directly under its jurisdiction.)

An arbitrator ruled that the city would not have to provide pensions that had been estimated to cost $30 million over 10 years. In June, the City Council voted to give the employees supplemental pensions estimated to cost $6 million to $10 million over 20 years. So, if the ruling holds, taxpayers should be off the hook for at least $20 million.

Wright

It’s not often that Local 42 and its president, Louie Wright, don’t get what they want. But just about any time they don’t, it means Kansas Citians should celebrate because tax money is being saved.

For his part, Louie told The Star’s Lynn Horsley that he was “extremely disappointed.” Naturally, a lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court is a possibility.

With Louie and Local 42, it’s never over until all remedies have been exhausted.

:: Now here’s something unusual. Louisville football Coach Charlie Strong said that the Cardinals lost to Pittsburgh last Saturday because the players were “more focused on a video game than they were on Pittsburgh.”

A new video game — “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” — was released recently, and Strong said the players got preoccupied with the game, instead of the game.

The things coaches have to deal with these days….

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The subject of today’s post is my favorite dartboard figure, Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn.

To get into it, I’m going to borrow the template of local sports commentator and blogger Greg Hall, who has made a name for himself locally with his “Off the Couch” columns.

Greg’s schtick is quoting what somebody says and following it with his own observations. As fuel for my bonfire, I’m going to use Sunday’s lead story in The Kansas City Star, which appeared under this headline: “How Will KC Diocese Heal?”

The story was written by Judy Thomas, Mark Morris and Glenn E. Rice, all of whom have covered aspects of the child-porn case of Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a priest who is charged with felonies for allegedly taking and distributing lewd photos of young girls.

On Friday, Finn and the Kansas City diocese were indicted on misdemeanor charges related to his and the diocese’s failure to report, for five months, reasonable suspicions of child abuse. If convicted, Finn could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined up to $1,000.

So, here we go with a special edition of JimmyCsays. (All introductory quotes were taken directly from people whom the reporters interviewed.)

Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty, a member of St. Louis Parish on Swope Parkway: “I think he has taken action. I don’t know more of what he can do…I believe that Bishop Finn demonstrated integrity and Christ-like virtue in repeatedly admitting his failure and undertaking significant change throughout the diocese.”

JimmyC: What more could Finn have done? Uh, how about getting his head out of the sex-abuse sand and vowing, when he became bishop six years ago, that he would not tolerate it in his diocese? As for “undertaking significant change,” yes, he definitely has done that. Unfortunately, it has involved railing against abortion and drawing a sharp, horizontal line between the clergy (the top layer of Finn’s cake) and the laity (the lowest layer).

(P.S. I’m pretty sure that Dougherty is former director of DeLaSalle Education Center.)

Jason Berry

Jason Berry, author of “Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church: “His credibility is shot. But I would be very surprised if Finn is withdrawn. The pattern is they dig in their heels and stand by their man.”

JimmyC: Tammy Wynette couldn’t have said it better. The International Business Times quoted a Vatican spokesman as saying Sunday that Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican would not attempt to interfere with the legal process. “We have no intention of intervening in that procedure,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. “Any intervention could be interpreted as interference.” Yes, the Vatican would hate to involve itself in a case that affects the most vulnerable of God’s children.

Becky Summers, diocesan spokeswoman: “(Finn) continues to perform his pastoral duties with energy, dedication and enthusiasm…As part of his pastoral duties, he meets with priests every day. And, I would imagine that he will be discussing (the criminal allegations) with them.”

JimmyC: And here’s how one of those conversations might go…Priest: “Say, bishop, what’s up with that criminal charge against you?” Bishop Finn: “It’s a bunch of bullshit, Father. I’m continuing to perform my pastoral duties with energy, dedication and enthusiasm. Now, get back to preaching against abortion.”

Pat O'Neill

Pat O’Neill, public relations consultant and a member of Visitation Parish: “My guess is that (diocesan) fundraising is in limbo and will remain that way until there’s some resolution in the criminal case, and some definitive determination of what happens to Bishop Finn.”

JimmyC: Do you hear that thunderous, clapping sound? It’s Catholic wallets slamming shut.

Jim Caccamo, chairman of the diocese’s Independent Review Board: “Most of our priests are honorable, trustworthy, loving, committed me who have served the church and the parishioners for years. It has got to make them feel terribly sad.”

JimmyC: Many of them undoubtedly do feel that way, and most in that group probably are liberal priests whom Finn has relegated, for the most part, to small and remote parishes.

Carolyn Cook, a Kansas City Catholic: “Moving him somewhere else won’t help. He needs to be taken from the church. He’s an educated person and can go teach.”

JimmyC: A-men.

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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.

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Today’s blog entry starts with a joke:

This guy dies and finds himself outside the Pearly Gates, at the end of a snaking, miles-long line of people who are awaiting their final accounting with St. Peter.

The people in line are understandably nervous, wringing their hands, wiping their brows, standing on tiptoes and craning their necks to see what’s going on up front.

St. Peter

All of a sudden, like an earthquake starting deep in the earth, the sound of thunderous cheers and jubilation begins rolling through the line. The joy is so overwhelming that people in line are getting knocked off their feet as the celebration ripples backward.

Our guy is one of those knocked down…He jumps up and screams hysterically, “What is it? What is it?”

A jubilant voice can be heard over the cacophony: “They’re not countin’ fuckin! They’re not countin’ fuckin!”

***

I’m sorry if that offended any of you, but there’s a point to it:

The Catholic Church has been so myopic over the years about issues like pre-marital sex and abortion that it lost sight of the importance of protecting children and the need to identify and cull out bad-apple priests.

In a way, I hate to keep harping on the latest priest-impropriety scandal in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, but Bishop Robert Finn’s parrying and counter punching cry out for comment. (Also, it sells…I mean, it gets a lot of views.)

First, the bishop appointed former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to investigate the botched handling (by Finn) of the Father Shawn Ratigan child-porn case. Then, he appointed a vicar for clergy, a new position. Last week, he created another new position — ombudsman and public liaison officer — and appointed a former assistant Jackson County prosecutor.

My first reaction to this flurry of activity at 20 W. Ninth is that those of you who are looking for work might want to consider applying at the diocese. Looks like jobs aplenty down there.

I have also learned that the bishop has ordered that all diocesan employees get refresher training in a program called Protecting God’s Children, which many dioceses adopted several years ago to ensure safe environments in all parishes, schools, and diocesan programs.

The diocese website says of the program, “The focus of the FREE training is to increase awareness about the nature of child sexual abuse.”

Now, all I can figure on this retraining mandate is that it’s the old trickle-up theory: Finn must be hoping that by putting the employees through more rigorous training, the environment will become so sensitized that even he will be moved to protect God’s children.

Here’s the main reason all this foment out of diocesan headquarters is so laughable: It’s completely redundant.

As letter writer Jennifer Randle of Overland Park eloquently put it in today’s Kansas City Star:

“Why would anyone believe new procedures would help this diocese when the current ones, had they been followed, would have resulted in Father Shawn Ratigan’s activities being reported to the police when the leaders of the diocese first became aware there was a problem a year ago?”

She went on to say, “My thanks goes to The Star for giving this topic as much press as it has to point out that nothing has changed regarding the protection of priests who abuse children.”

Here’s Phase II of the story.

As I have said all along, I think nothing will really change with the church unless people vote with their feet and their wallets. When the money stops flowing, backing the hierarchy into a corner, the church will have to take drastic action.

Fortunately, there are indications that the cash funnel is narrowing. An Associated Press article on Page A12 of The Star today said that contributions to The Vatican fell nearly $15 million, or 18 percent, last year “amid tough economic times and the explosion of the priest sex-abuse scandal.”

Contributions to the Vatican from individual dioceses around the world were down from $31.5 million in 2009 to $27.36 million in 2010.

(On a positive note for the church, the report noted that the Vatican returned to profitability after three years in the red, but that simply indicates, to me, that the Vatican, like many organizations, has had to slash expenses.)

I believe the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese is going to see a sharp decline in contributions this year at the diocesan and parish levels. Many people, I think, will sharply curtail their giving, and, after a while, some of those who cut back their giving will leave the church.

A lot of Catholics, however, will feel compelled to remain true to the church because it’s such an integral part of their lives. And I think that one reason many of those “cultural” Catholics stay put is because, deep in their hearts, they believe the safest and surest path to eternal salvation is through “the one, true Church,” the one that has St. Peter as its foundation.

A lot of Catholics, while they believe that non-Catholics will also go to heaven, have that niggling fear that they shouldn’t leave that big, wide road they’ve been on all their lives; that any other road could lead somewhere scary.

Well now, I’m going to put on my big hat, take up my staff and speak ex cathedra — that is, invoking the doctrine of papal infallibility — and as a Catholic turned Disciple of Christ.

It’s OK to walk. Go in peace. Be not afraid.

There, that’s what JimmyC says on this Fourth of July, 2011, year of Our Lord.

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In the last four days, the picture has grown dimmer for Bishop Robert Finn, and the evidence of wrongdoing at the highest levels of local Catholic hierarchy has grown stronger.

And all because of two articles in The Kansas City Star.

The first was a thoroughly researched and beautifully written profile of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who stands charged with three felony counts of possessing child pornography. It ran on Page 1 on Saturday.

The second was an “As I See It, ” Op-Ed piece by Pat O’Neill a respected marketing consultant in Kansas City. It ran on Page A-11 on Monday. O’Neill, a practicing Catholic, called for the resignations of Finn and Vicar General Robert Murphy, and he challenged prosecutors to bring charges against the two.

The profile and the opinion piece served as a one-two punch that took a lot of  steam out Bishop Finn’s time-killing initiative two weeks ago, when he appointed former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to investigate the diocese’s handling of sex-crimes cases, including the Ratigan case.

Morris

Rice

First, let’s look at the profile, which bore the by-lines of federal courts reporter Mark Morris and Northland reporter Glenn E. Rice. Rice has been on the Ratigan-Finn story from the start; this story represented Morris’ first work on the story.

Two of the main points that Morris and Rice established were, first, that Ratigan is — like Finn — a crusading, pro-life cleric, and, second, that Ratigan and Finn have spent time together.

The fact that they have more than a passing relationship could well indicate that after lewd photos of young girls were found in Ratigan’s laptop computer, Finn was loath to turn in a priest whom he knew quite well and who shared his pro-life stance. That’s been my conviction ever since Mike Rice, a former KC Star reporter, wrote a comment on this blog May 20, saying that he knew of people who had stopped attending Mass at Ratigan’s Northland parish because of his conservative ideology.

Regarding the Finn-Ratigan relationship, Morris and Rice dug up records revealing that in January 2007, Finn joined Ratigan and 40 high school students from St. Joseph for a bus ride to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life rally.

One of the most fascinating glimpses of Ratigan’s pro-life zeal was that he had his Harley-Davidson motorcycle decorated with themes that celebrated life.

“The gas tank bore the image of an angel bringing a baby down from heaven,” the story said, “while another spot carried a cross emblazoned with a ribbon reading, ‘Pro-Bikers for Life.’ ”

The entire story is a great read, but it contains, in particular, two killer paragraphs.

One is about Ratigan’s propensity to gamble. (He played the Missouri Lottery, for example.)

“In December 2010,” the story said, “whether he realized it or not, Ratigan placed one of the lowest percentage bets of his life when he handed his laptop computer to a repair person. Would the technician notice the allegedly lewd photos of girls under the age of 12? And if so, would he mention the photos to anyone?”

Wisely, the reporters let the questions hang in the air because everyone knows the answers.

The second memorable paragraph spelled out what happened after church officials seized Ratigan’s computer.

“The next day, Ratigan, the son of a man who suffered from profound depression, retreated to his garage, fired up the pro-life Harley and waited for death.”

We all know how that episode came out, too.

***

O’Neill’s column carries a tremendous wallop in no small measure because he is well known in Catholic circles and even served for a time as communications consultant to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

O'Neill

In his piece, O’Neill showed that he, too, can turn a phrase. Consider this:

“When Bishop Finn arrived here in 2005, he was one of a new wave of American bishops charged with turning the tide of public opinion away from the abuse scandals and back to core conservative Catholic values and respect for the church and its priestly vocations. Instead, Bishop Finn is up to his collar in a flood of renewed scrutiny and anger.”

O’Neill went on to point out that despite hundreds of reports of priest sexual abuse over the last two decades, “only a handful of pedophile priests and no complicit church supervisors have been subjected to civil punishment, i.e., jail time.”

The column concluded with a flourish:

“The time has come for us to harness our collective anger and embarrassment and use that energy to change the way our church and our dioceses operate, once and for all.

“After all these years, it is starkly obvious to me that there will be no change for the better in the Kansas City diocese until men like Bishop Robert Finn and his Vicar General Robert Murphy are forced to resign, and criminals in collars are subject to secular trial and incarceration.”

In the p.r. battle that is being waged between Bishop Finn and his supporters on one hand and his critics on the other, the advantage has once again shifted to the critics, partly because of a great news story and a damn good p.r. man.

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Bishop Finn must be in agony right now.

Here’s a man who arrived in Kansas City from St. Louis six years ago, riding the crest of a big conservative wave that Pope John Paul II had set in motion in an attempt to wash liberalism out of church hierarchy.

Attaining the rank of bishop at 52 years old, he must have had visions of rising in the ranks, becoming at least a cardinal and — who knows what he saw in his dreams? — maybe the first American pope.

And now? His career is in tatters. Everywhere he turns — even to the editorial page of The Kansas City Star — he sees and hears calls for him to resign as a result of the latest priest-impropriety cover-up.

One of his priests, Shawn Ratigan, is in jail — six months after he should have been because of Finn’s foot dragging — and another, Michael Tierney, was suspended last week after a retrospective, hurry-up review found “credible reports alleging sexual misconduct with minors.”

Finn has been scrambling around, doing his mea culpas, hoping to hang on amid a situation that seems to be building to a crescendo. I was astounded, for example, to open the paper Saturday and read the editorial calling for Finn to resign.

Historically — probably because the editorial board sees its mission as primarily secular in nature — The Star has steered clear of religious matters on the opinion front. For the paper to plunge head deep into the controversy is a strong signal of the degree of the problem.

“…there was a disturbing pattern in his diocese,” the editorial states. “As of now, 18 current and former priests have been accused of abuse. Given those numbers, Finn can reasonably be held to a higher degree of diligence than he exhibited. And it’s understandable that some parishioners perceive a cavalier manner in which he loitered with allegations.”

The Star calls him cavalier. Others have characterized him as “self-important.”

Relatively few Catholics have risen to Finn’s defense. So obvious are Finn’s shortcomings that even most of the knee-jerk defenders of Catholic hierarchy have been silenced.

And listen to what a couple of committed Catholics have had to say about Finn.

Richard E. Smith, Altamont, Mo., letter to the editor, June 3:

“I have always been a Catholic. I will always be a Catholic. I don’t really know how to be anything but a Catholic. I firmly believe in the infallibility of the pope in matters of faith. Bishop Finn, you are hurting my church. Please resign.”

Ken Hansen, Smithville, letter to the editor, June 4:

“…the bishop was dishonest with his flock. He says he didn’t bother to look at any pictures, interview Father Ratigan directly or read a warning letter from the principal at St. Patrick School. If protection is truly a top priority, Bishop Finn should have been totally involved. He gave this whole thing about as much priority as a bid on a new furnace.”

Bishop Finn will probably not be fired, partly because of the church’s goofy managerial system.

The pope appoints all 5,065 bishops (as of the beginning of this year), and only the pope can remove a bishop…Now, whoever heard of a manager having 5,000 direct reports? How could one person possibly keep tabs on 5,000 employees?

I wonder if Pope Benedict XVI is even aware of the problem in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.

Here’s another strange fact, from a website called catholic-pages.com.

“All bishops are also required to submit a quinquennial report to the pope (i.e, every five years) reporting on their diocese and any problems that may have arisen in their diocese or difficulties the faithful are facing. At about the time that this quinquennial report is required, the bishops of the region make their visit ad limina Apostolorum where they travel to Rome to pray before the Tomb of St Peter and to meet individually with the Holy Father to ensure he is kept aware of the state of the Church throughout the world.”

With 5,000 bishops, that means the pope would have to meet with an average of 1,000 bishops a year, or about three bishops a day just to catch up with what’s going on in the far corners of the world… like America.

Unfortunately, Finn has been here six years, and if he had his quinquennial meeting with the Holy Father, it would have taken place last year.

Rats!

Now, you might be wondering what kind of activity or heresy is likely to get a bishop in deep water. I did a Google search for bishops getting fired, and the most recent case I found was that of an Australian bishop, William Morris, whom Pope Benedict dismissed early last month because he had argued that the Catholic Church should consider ordaining married men and women because of a shortage of priests.

The Morris flap had gone on for five years, and his diocese is in an uproar as a result of Benedict’s decision.

You see, then, what the church’s idea of a grave problem is.

As for Finn and the possibility of resignation…probably won’t happen. Without a clear threat to his job status from Rome, I suspect he’ll keep apologizing, keep meeting with angry Catholics (as he did Friday night at St. Thomas More) and try to ride out the crescendo.

Of course, as I’ve said before, that route will clearly cost the diocese members and money. It’s been gratifying to me — a former Catholic who left because the church was looking backward instead of ahead — to see the reaction to Finn’s attempted cover-up.

He now regrets it. He’s miserable, and people of good sense are fuming. It’s a bad combination, and it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen.

Here’s the worst case scenario, again from catholic-pages.com:

“All bishops, (except the pope, Bishop of Rome) are required by Canon Law to tender their resignation if sickness or other grave reasons make them incapable of carrying on their role, or when they reach the age of 75.”

Hate to say it, but it’s possible we could have Finn another 17 years.

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