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Posts Tagged ‘Pope Benedict XVI’

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 But I would be very surprised if Finn is withdrawn.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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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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Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses on “Bishop Robert Finn — hidebound prelate of Kansas City-St. Joseph.”

Now, three more questions need to be addressed.

1) Why did Finn apparently fail to review the pornographic photos found in the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan’s laptop?

2) Why did Finn choose not to report Ratigan or turn the evidence over to police for five months?

3) Should Finn resign or be fired?

***

First, the diocese’s handling of the evidence.

I think we can safely assume that Finn did not review any of the images personally. If so, that is a complete dereliction of duty.

In his statement, released Friday afternoon, after coming under a blizzard of criticism, Finn said:

“In mid December of 2010, I was told that a personal computer belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan was found to have many images of female children. Most of these were images of children at public or parish events. I was told that there were also some small number of images that were much more disturbing, images of an unclothed child who was not identifiable because her face was not visible.

“The very next day, we contacted a Kansas City, Missouri, police officer and described one of the more disturbing images. At the same time, the diocese showed the images to legal counsel. In both instances we were told that, while very troubling, the photographs did not constitute child pornography, as they did not depict sexual conduct or contact.”

Now, ask yourself, what should have been Finn’s first words after hearing about such photos?

“Let me see them for myself.”

Right? Of course.

But, no, he chose to avert his eyes, turn his head and see no evil.

Why? The answer, I believe, lies in the answer to the second question that needs to be addressed. So, on we go…

***

Finn’s failure to call police about the photos, mostly up-skirt images of clothed girls 12 and younger. (The Star’s Saturday story, said, however, that at least one nude photo focused on a girl’s genitals.)

As everyone knows, Finn is a very conservative bishop — one of those that the late Pope John Paul II and his successor, Benedict XVI, have stacked the deck with. In turn, the ranks of conservative bishops have placed the most conservative priests in the biggest churches so they can set the desired tone and reach the most people.

The renegades, i.e., the liberal priests, have been relegated to the hinterlands of the diocese, for the most part. Many of those priests are simply trying to hang on until they reach retirement — not so differently than many long-time reporters and editors at The Kansas City Star.

Ratigan was in a prominent Northland parish, St. Patrick’s. What was his philosophy? I don’t know personally, but listen to what former KC Star reporter Mike Rice said in a comment regarding Friday’s post:

“I don’t know Shawn Ratigan but do know of people who stopped attending Mass at St. Patrick’s because of his religious ideologies, which I hear are similar to Bishop Finn’s. I cannot help but wonder whether Bishop Finn held back on going to authorities because he considered Father Ratigan an ideological ally.”

That evidence might be a little thin regarding Ratigan’s ideology, but I think it certainly stands the test of common sense and believe it’s safe to assume that Finn and Ratigan are fellow conservatives.

And just as it could well be more difficult for a liberal bishop to turn in a liberal priest, it seems to me that Finn, as Rice suggests, shirked his managerial responsibility because he just couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger on a like-minded soul.

Same goes for reviewing the pictures. It was a lot easier for Finn to determine that the photos did not constitute pornography when he merely had them described to him rather than view them himself. He washed his hands of that responsibility in his statement, you might have noted, when he said that the photos “did not depict sexual conduct or contact.”

So, the answers to questions one and two, in my opinion, is one and same: Finn was giving Ratigan a huge, undeserved benefit of the doubt and trying to shield him as long as possible.

***

Finally, should Finn resign or be fired?

I’ll let an eloquent commenter to Friday’s post, concernedcatholic, make the case.

She wrote:

“Finn must resign. I hope that the media holds his feet to the fire on this. We, as Catholics, cannot tolerate this.

“Finn’s lack of judgment demands that he no longer serve as bishop. Ratigan was only reported to the police after he disobeyed the bishop’s order to stay away from children. It is not illegal to disobey the bishop. If Ratigan’s activities warranted police investigation in May, they certainly deserved investigation back in December.

“When the photos of little girls were discovered on Ratigan’s computer, how could Finn not wonder what else Ratigan might be doing? Did Finn not wonder if the photos were the tip of the iceberg? Did the parents of these children not deserve to know that their children had been exploited?

“Please join me in demanding that Finn resign. His actions are indefensible.”

Powerful stuff…especially, to me, the line about parents deserving to know that their children had been exploited.  That’s the real horror in the non-reporting for five months: Justice has been delayed for the victims, and other potential victims were exposed to the creep who was running around loose.

In any other arena, Finn would be out of a job today. Even Warren Buffet let his top guy go after an ethical transgression.

But it doesn’t work that way in the Catholic Church. It keeps making noise about the importance of sniffing out abusive priests and protecting the children. But it just doesn’t happen.

It would shock me to the core if Finn resigned. And, by the same token, Pope Benedict, who is also guilty of covering for abusive priests, certainly won’t be a hypocrite and fire him.

Expect the merry-go-round to keep on turning, then.

It’s pathetic.

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