CNS has a nice puff piece on how bishops make nice with diocesan review boards. Would have been interesting to ask some big-city archdioceses and a few key hot spots: Chicago, Los Angeles, New Hampshire, Santa Rosa, Kansas City. Can we have some real Catholic journalism, please? Do you think the new cutting edge will have something to say, or will it cede all reporting on this to the secular press and the loyal opposition?
David Gibson did ask the archbishop of that first hot spot. Cardinal George’s comportment is hardly ideal, and gives further credence to the notion that these bishops just don’t get it.
And we then have Kansas City.
That situation was a big worry last week for us, and while another tragedy has superceded it in our minds, I have heard from a few contacts in my old parish and diocese.
One thing that is incomprehensible to me is how the Kansas City-St Joseph diocese could embark on an outreach to men addicted to pornography … yet fail to recognize it when it pops up in the very midst of their clergy. Were they at all serious about it? Or is porn seen as a white middle-class non-celibate indulgence with images of unclothed women? A way to reach out to sinners, but heaven forbid that any taint of reform should touch the institution or those who people lead it.
Bishop Finn’s apologists insist he was acting within legal bounds, offering his troubled priest every possible benefit of the doubt. On the other side, you would have people who think the bishop must go. And I wouldn’t discount that opinion as the extreme fringe. Others think prison time is not out of bounds, and they’re not talking only about the offending priest.
My former parish has a troubled history with offending clergy. One priest with one credible accusation was in-residence for years before people learned in 2002 of that one accusation. You can imagine the firestorm that hit during the Boston episode. “I’ve lost all my credibility,” the pastor (who had allowed him to preside at school Masses and hear confessions of kids) confessed to me.
Some of the rest of it was simple and seemingly innocent stuff: two visiting priests were evaded by altar servers because of uncomfortable touching things: helping with a cincture or a poke or tickle. One priest objected directly: I want the servers in the sacristy with me so I know they’ve shown up.
“No, Father,” I explained, “That’s not going to happen. I brief them on extra liturgy things in the narthex, and I want them ready to process on time.”
What I didn’t explain was the wide latitude our server parents were giving me. As a parent, I can tell you our sense of safety for our children does not dull as time passes. And these days, no priest gets a full pass.
I was reminded that Fr Shawn was a photo nut for the year he was assigned to serve our parish. Nobody really thought much of that. The parish web site and bulletin boards had a lot of his stuff on it.
As for Bishop Finn, I’m not sure what to write. I think he has lost a great deal of credibility as an administrator and as a moral leader. He approves an initiative against porn and starts an outreach to men plagued by it. That’s a very good thing. But his own statement seemed rather dodgy. He showed compassion to his priest, but it almost seems he wanted to avoid getting his own hands dirty.
On the other hand, he showed a lot of fortitude allowing himself to be confronted by hundreds of angry parishioners last Friday night. From NCRep:
As soon as you knew what was going on, why the Hell didn’t you tell me something?
Bishop Finn conceded and is reported to have said:
I should have done differently in this regard and I’m sorry. Don’t trust me. Trust our Lord Jesus Christ, trust his Church.
Believers have faith in Christ. But many don’t know what the Church is. Is it a bureaucracy we are counseled not to trust? A failed ideology that wraps itself in the mantle of virtue but fails to protect the innocent? A community of believers who take responsibility for their faith?
It’s a hell of a thing for a bishop to tell us not to trust him. Being trustworthy is an admirable virtue. Scouts know it. Any of us in significant relationships expect trust. We cultivate it and attempt to give it to others. Maybe we can quote, “Put no trust in princes.” But in a society of any population beyond one, trust is what makes it go. We’re not all going to retire to chapels in individual adoration here. We’re going to keep going to Mass, sending our kids to church events, hire people to serve us, and endure the appointment of Cardinals Rigali and Law and their committee. The bishop needs to live up to the trust people (should) put in him. And if he can’t live up to it, he should make way for someone who fits the bill.
No, I don’t think Bishop Finn should resign. At worst, he’s a naive ideologue. He and his diocese are stuck with each other for seventeen more years. He’s already alienated most of the liberal wing of his flock. And now he’s added parents to that list. As a bishop, he is responsible for all of them. He may cede trust to the Almighty, but on this planet, he’s responsible for the faith of his diocese. And as a man, he’s responsible for his conduct–legally, personally, and as an administrator.
I hope he prays long and hard about it all. But I don’t think we should let him off the hook because his nose got bloodied on this one. Time to get up, dust off, and go back to work. But I don’t envy him that task.