Thanks to his diocesan apology this past weekend, the Bishop Finn fiasco is hitting the Catholic national stage. I’ve seen a few conservative news collection sites pick it up. The Catholic News Service, too, leading off the news briefs section Monday this week.
Commentary, especially on the Kansas City secular news sites, are angry. The Catholic Key blog’s commentariat seems to be tilting against the bishop. It’s not every day you read calls for a bishop’s resignation on an official diocesan site.
I think the bishop has a Saint Joseph, Missouri meeting still ahead: the parishes Fr Shawn served in 2005-09.
I found one blogger who was present at last Friday’s meeting, who posted today on it.
Let me say at the outset that the people of St. Thomas More are to be commended. I had spoken with two different parishioners there prior to the meeting. Both of them used the word “lynching” to describe what they were expecting. I thought that the meeting, while surreal to watch and painful to listen to was well managed and civil. The pastor, Fr. Don Farnan, is to be commended as well. Many people expressed legitimate concerns for their children, for Diocesan processes and for the decisions that were made. It could have become ugly. It did not.
What this blogger calls “surreal” describes an event beyond our experience or expectations. One feels the ground underfoot shake and give way. One feels the drop in one’s inner organs. It is not a place of spiritual contentment. Maybe “dark night” comes close.
I’m a little curious about the defense of Bishop Finn in the linked post, that “the bishop should be considered innocent until proven guilty.” From what I’ve read, the bishop has admitted his guilt. (Though some criticize his overuse of first person plural, I will give the man his due–it’s a statement unlike most any other issued by a bishop under fire.) He has conceded he failed as an administrator. That’s not a criminal offense. But it is a failure of morality, intellect, and courage.
Keep in mind this was also a parish in which Fr Shawn seemed to have a good first year in ministry. Unlike school personnel, I didn’t see him interact with students on a day-to-day basis. I did see him work well with altar servers in a public role. Nothing inappropriate. No hint at all of impropriety. That’s why for me, my family, and our friends, this comes as such a shock. It has a surreal quality to it.
One complaint from the blogger linked above, that “it was obvious that many of those in attendance (at the St Thomas More meeting) were relying on news reports and hearsay with which to form their opinions,” struck me as a bit disingenuous. Conservative sites, by and large, seem to be keeping their hands off this story, waiting developments. With the first lawsuit, the diocese will likely not be offering a lot of news. Most likely, the only thing people have right now are secular or liberal Catholic sources, or the pre-blogosphere Catholic medium of choice: gossip.
And while the bishop isn’t really likely to resign, one deacon candidate did not go through with his ordination Saturday:
After a great deal of soul searching, prayer and reflection, I have decided not to accept the call to Holy Orders that I have received.
Because of the recent disclosure of failures within the diocese to protect the people of St. Patrick Parish from harm, I cannot promise respect or obedience that is a part of the diaconate ordination. To me this breakdown in the system that was put in place to protect God’s children is inexcusable.
Surreal: that sums it up well for everyone. And pain, no doubt, will be with us for a while yet.