Bishop Finn Profiled

The Kansas City Star published a good profile on Bishop Finn in Saturday’s religion section.

On administrative reorganization:

A new leadership team is better able to take a fresh look at the various diocesan agencies, Finn said. “It would be difficult to ask people who have helped to form and shape them to be willing to set them aside to see if we should make adjustments.”

My sources tell me in some instances people were not even asked to make adjustments, but merely asked to leave. Do you give people the opportunity to surprise or disappoint you? Or do you anticipate disappointment and make the move you might want to make? Tough call, either way.

On the demise of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry:

While training laity is important, Finn said, “I didn’t feel we could continue to put that amount of resources for a small number of people.”

The small number of people being those hundred or so who study in New Wine and the Master’s Degree Program. Another tough call. Half a mil a year is a substantial investment for lay ministry. Most dioceses don’t make it. Our diocesan parishes pay some of those costs, and it might not be unthinkable to ask lay people to contribute to their own formation/education in these areas. We invest in seminaries, too, and seminarians and their parishes do not pay all of the educational costs involved there either. The common understanding in ministry is that a person is formed for service, and the benefit returns to the people served.

I think I have less regard for Bishop Finn’s decision here. The diocese isn’t in dire financial straits. CPLM had been working hard the past few years to develop and expand a Spanish-language track in New Wine and the result of an especially large recruiting effort is being left high and dry because of the budget cuts. Much more money is put into seminary education. That’s not money misspent by any means, but our understanding is that the priests we ordain exist to serve the Church as a whole. And as a whole, the people are willing to make such investments. Also troubling is that the new bishop didn’t meet with any of the CPLM staff during his coadjutor year. It’s difficult to ask people you don’t know to make tough adjustments. But in the secular world, we lay people make adjustments all the time.

On a study commission for lay education:

Although Finn has authorized a study of adult education, “there isn’t going to be a program in the immediate future for training laity,” (CPLM director Denise) Simeone said.

I think the study commission is in a tough spot. Would they have a green light to reconstruct something like the CPLM if the parishes wanted it? And if lay formation for ministry goes by the wayside, was it a done deal before the committee even met? Probably a tougher spot to be in than asking lay staff to adjust priorities, but maybe there’s something here I don’t see.

Rock seems to think Finn is a good choice for bishop. He describes him as thoughtful, without ecclesiastical ambitions, prayerful, willing to tolerate opposing views, and aware of his inexperience and the need to appoint good people in key positions. I’ve met the new bishop a few times, heard him preach on a few other occasions. My sense is that he has a good mind and a very prayerful spirit. Once or twice during his homilies, I’ve seen something like a crack open up in his reservedness and the passion for faith shining through. I can’t deny I didn’t like his emphasis on the Mass when he preached at the diocesan convocation for teachers.

I’d consider him an unorthodox choice for a bishop. He certainly has room to surprise us in Kansas City. I’m more concerned about potential administrative fumbling than his ideology. Except for our new vicar general and chancellor, the staffing decisions all over seem not well thought out. But I’m still willing to wait and see how things turn out. In my mind, he’s an underdog, and I can’t help but root for the underdog to pull it out well in the end.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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