Bitter But Necessary?

pillA balanced and realistic editorial at NCRep on the resignation of a former bishop of mine. I think there’s much bitterness all over on this one. I don’t believe Bishop Finn was any sort of monster. He certainly is no hardened criminal. The clamor for him to join his abusing priest in prison is out of order, I’d say.

As for his resignation, there’s this:

It may seem unfair that Finn had to take this role. Bishops and cardinals who should have faced criminal prosecution for covering up crimes more extensive and horrible by many degrees than those ignored by Finn have avoided, via legal technicalities, such scrutiny and gone quietly to either retirement or the grave.

This is right. We know it from the more seedy eras of church leadership. We know we’ve had whole centuries of popes who did horrific things. It’s almost a comedy routine, with our long hindsight, when we talk about popes, such as the one who was exhumed, put on trial, and then fed to the dogs or something. It’s cocktail talk.

I think if other bishops had been held accountable for “crimes more extensive and horrible” that maybe Bishop Finn could have been shown more mercy. A first time offender with no previous record … but a lot of parents would retain a lot of suspicion over the man. Bishops who’ve done a lot more have been made to suffer coadjutor bishops with significant authority over some diocesan ministries. That was the John Paul II solution, right? If Bishop Finn hadn’t lost the trust of his people and was just a minor offender on administration, then all Rome had to do is appoint someone to oversee the clergy. Isn’t that right?

“Unfair” is a complaint I’ve heard because some seem to think Bishop Finn was singled out because he was a faithful culturewarrior and people were just out to get him. Not sure about that. A lot of bishops have campaigned on that platform, so it seems some of them might make a huge mistake on something. If there are few or no liberal bishops left, it would seem there are few or none of them to get into trouble.

I think it’s right this case should make a lot of people uncomfortable. I remember that Bishop Finn had some qualities that were an improvement on his predecessor. I recall one of his classmates writing favorably of a young seminarian in Rome who had a promising future as a pastor. And what happened with that?

Maybe some churchfolk are stirring because they’ve done worse. What’s the distinction … perfect and imperfect contrition, right? Fear of the consequences of one’s acts because someone might find out? Or concern because the acts are wrong, and even if nobody mortal ever knows, God still sees and laments?

And another complaint that SNAP and other advocates are waving the pitchforks a little too excitedly? Advocates still have a role to play in the Church. Until more people adopt protection of the innocent over and above protection of the institution, I’m fine with people being insistent and tenacious, even strident and annoying. That’s their job and their calling. For now. Some day in the future it will be less necessary when we have a clearer mission to Church, too, it must be remembered.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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