No Breaking Point

The diocesan-commissioned report is out from Kansas City. Another wave of anger in the commentariat here, but we would have expected that. The Graves report states:

Although he was considering assigning Fr. Ratigan to the Archives Department of the Chancery, where he would not have contact with children, Bishop Finn had not determined a ‘breaking point’ at which he would remove Fr. Ratigan from ministry or take other more serious remedial action

Interesting that a Catholic bishop even putting the words “women” and “ordination” in the same sentence triggers a breaking point anywhere in the world. My theology background understands why the hierarchy is more sensitive about church governance than morality. But the average lay person–indeed any non-believer–will look to these policies and perceive prelates in underwear. Not new clothing.

The report doesn’t name the bishop specifically in the need for improved training in child protection. An interesting evasion.

The chancellor, Msgr Brad Offutt catches some hell for his law-first, kids-second priority:

I am not sure what the options are for addressing this, but plainly something needs to be done to limit Diocesan liability and protect children.

One option would be to stop capitalizing an adjective. Not even the Germans do that.

And as expected, Msgr Murphy is made the biggest scapegoat.

But Bishop Finn is responsible. Curious that he has yet to make the countdown of bad bishops. Maybe the Facebook people will correct that.

I wonder if the Catholic hierarchy is trapped and frozen on this. They’re certainly sensitive to the public perception, and not only because of their legal and financial liability. If Bishop Finn’s resignation is accepted, it will appear as a victory for SNAP and for those enraged by his mismanagement. And it’s a bitter pill indeed for bishops, especially the clergy to be found “obeying” the laity. It’s why Mr Graves was careful to suggest more training for “chancery staff” and “clergy” but not the bishop.

The report on this whole sorry episode makes Bishop Finn’s 2009 “We are at war” pronouncement seem spectacularly stupid. Any spiritual neophyte knows the greatest danger exists from the very self that prays to and lives for God. In that sense, Bishop Finn and I share an honorable battleground. And I know that my personal struggles with virtue, choosing life, and caring for the church–the domestic church–entrusted to me sometimes goes well and sometimes goes stupidly in a spectacular way.

The difference here is not that Bishop Finn and his confreres are less moral or godly than I. Far from it. I’m graced to live in a situation in which a partner urges me to honesty and morality, and when I make a mistake, I’m urged–from without and within–to admit it to myself, to fess up to others, to correct my mistakes as best as I’m able, and to move forward with a new resolve.

On one hand, Bishop Finn is far more isolated than I. Especially if he’s surrounded by sycophants who wipe his nose at every sneeze. On the other hand, he has far more advisors in his office building than I’ve ever worked with in my life. Experts who can and should guide his ministry to an amazing effectiveness. Some of those experts he put on the street in 2005, one of whom was responsible for overseeing diocesan child protection initiatives.

I have to say that what we observe from the outside doesn’t look good for this general. Maybe it’s time to rip that four-star emblem from his shoulder and take up the role of pastor. Or perhaps the environment is too toxic to hope to accomplish anything. Bishop Gumbleton served in his archdiocese for years as a parish pastor. Maybe that model, difficult to stomach as it might be, is what is needed here.

If Bishop Finn stays put in the cathedra, northwestern Missouri is in for a very, very long 199 months until his retirement. I just don’t see how the man can function as a bishop. In many ways, a permanent retreat to the Vincentian home would be a mercy. Better than prison sans martyrdom. So the institution is in a lose-lose situation. Which probably guarantees they will stay frozen and do nothing.

And if nothing is done, the Kansas City laity will go into a long simmer. A few things will allow the resentment to erupt: when Shawn Ratigan goes to court, when Bishop Finn gets to asking for money, when the chancery clergy are reassigned to parishes.

Isn’t there somewhere in Rome for these guys? Anywhere? This is an ugly, darned embarrassment.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to No Breaking Point

  1. Seriously? Hide him in Rome because he is an embarrassment? Like they did with Cardinal Law in Boston after the scandal in 2002 that found that he and his co-conspirators hid at least 820 child rapes?

    Your cavalier attitude toward sex with children is very … Catholic.

    Finn should go to jail, as should any Catholic who commits or hides pedophile priests. Besides, there isn’t enough room in the city of Rome for all of the guilty ones.

  2. Liam says:


    Todd was being sarcastic.

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