Surreal and Painful

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.

And we have battling fan and anti-fan pages.

Surreal: that sums it up well for everyone. And pain, no doubt, will be with us for a while yet.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Surreal and Painful

  1. FrMichael says:

    In a sordid story like this, cheers for the deacon candidate who backed out at the prompting of his conscience. He has more integrity than the pervert priest and his bishop combined.

  2. Cheers for the deacon candidate? Heartbreak for him, but this is the fallout, the impact. So very tragic all the way around. The children however, the families – the damage to the Body of Christ.

  3. patrickomalley617 says:

    The deacon who refused to join the Catholic church that

    – raped children
    – hides pedophiles
    – lies about it
    – ignores the victims

    should start his own church. Everyone is going to leave the Catholic church in time, so if he created an alternative church with higher standards, people would still have a place to worship.

    I couldn’t find contact info on his web page. Do you have it?

    • Todd says:

      I do not have contact info, nor do I know the man personally. Heartbreak indeed for him, the parish, and the bishop that a scandal has frustrated a vocation.

    • John Doe says:


      Take a deep breath!

      Re-read the item.

      This candidate did not “refuse to join the Catholic Church”. He already IS Catholic. He decided to NOT go through ordination to the diaconate. That is certainly his choice, but I doubt the Church will be that much poorer with one less permanent deacon.

      And you can rest easy (or in your case perhaps not rest at all) in the knowledge that NOT everyone is going to leave the Catholic Church.

      These are trying times, no doubt, but many of us retain a strong faith, despite the transgressions of a SMALL MINORITY of priests and the poor response of SOME bishops.

      • patrickomalley617 says:

        The deacon at least took a stand against child rape. He is truly unique among Catholic priests and Catholics.

        You’re right – not everyone is gong to leave the Catholic church. Not everyone objects to child rape. Not everyone objects to organized lying about child rape. Not everyone would be cold and heartless enough to denigrate the victims of child rape.

        Some will remain. And the rest of us will know who they are and what they are.

  4. FrMichael says:

    Who is this patrickomalley617 nutcase? The integrity I am referring to is the deacon candidate discerning that he could not in good conscience make a promise of obedience to Bishop Finn. Some candidates in his position would “cross their fingers” and get ordained anyway. He followed through on his conviction. Leaving the Catholic Church was not mentioned anywhere; surely the idea of a feverish mind and soul.

    BTW I’m not judging those other men in KC who are/were going to be ordained by the bishop. I’m confident that others could be ordained by him in good conscience.

    • patrickomalley617 says:


      Catholics follow a church that

      – raped children
      – hides pedophiles
      – lies about it
      – ignores the victims

      and breaks the rules of its own God.

      Who is a nutcase?

      • Todd says:

        Let’s be clear about who and what Catholics follow.

        Let’s also be clear that institutions do not rape children. People do. Churches do not mismanage offending priests. Bishops do. Social institutions of all sorts can and do reinforce, hide, share in the immoral behavior of their members. The Church is no different. Though the Church’s preaching of morals does make its transgressions more difficult to swallow.

        Patrick, my suggestion would be to frame this differently. By casting your net of outrage widely, you risk a needed lack of specificity about who has raped, who has hidden, who has lied, etc..

        You have a bucket of outrage. Good luck splashing 1.2 billion people with it, let alone 5,000 bishops and a pope. Aim accurately. Hit the target. Nobody will think “nutcase” unless they see a guy trying to lasso an entire cattle herd with one rope. But one wayward cow will fit that noose nicely enough.

    • John Doe says:

      patrickomalley617 holds himself out as some kind of social media guru. See his website

      He thinks his phone number – 617-PATRICK – is cool!

      Too bad he is not. Cool, I mean.

      • Very gutsy. Use the name John Doe. Speak your mind.

        Frankly, if I was a supporter of child rape, lying, and ignoring victims, I wouldn’t use my real name.

        Instead, I’m proud to say I despise child rape and those who commit it, those who lie about it, and those who ignore the victims. I despise those who enable them to do it again. I despise them more if they say they do it in the name of God, thereby taking down the credibility of God with them, and tarnishing God’s name for future generations.

        If you are one of them, I understand why you use the name John Doe.

  5. Todd says:

    I think we do well to steer clear of criticizing a viewpoint by being unduly critical of the person making it. “Nutcase” and “not cool” and blanket condemnations of the “Church” do not forward the discussion.

  6. FrMichael says:

    Don’t feed the troll– got it.

    Lots of interesting comment posts elsewhere on this topic. Even as the arch-conservative reactionary as I am, I’m a little taken aback by folks thinking that this deacon candidate should have presented himself for ordination regardless of his qualms. It is clear that such an action would have violated his conscience. Better to wait out the situation.

  7. cashelguy says:

    Bishop Finn is unfit to be bishop of K.C-St. Joe or any other diocese. He has to go and go now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s