It was somewhat surreal today, as the family and I were driving on Broadway through downtown Kansas City on the way to the young miss’s cardiology check-up. I pointed out the shiny dome of the cathedral. A few seconds later I said, “Wave to Bishop Finn.” A few hours later, a friend texted me, “Finn is OUT.”
A perfect example of coincidence, not causality.
Bishop Robert Finn has resigned, and that action was accepted by the Vatican. While waiting for lunch to be served later this afternoon at a restaurant on the way home, I perused a few comment threads on the net. I’m going to thread my own comments through my assessment of other persons.
I think it was on NCRep that one of Bishop Finn’s seminary classmates related some touching details of a personal relationship. As a student in Rome, Robert Finn seemed to have many of the qualities that would get a promising young guy sent overseas or experience and seasoning. Where did it go wrong? I’ve said on this site I found him to be more personable than his predecessor–and I took a bit of heat from one or two others who knew them both, and probably better than I did. My sense of the man is that he is earnest, caring, and somewhat stiff. Maybe a bit aloof. Blame his Rome training with the Dominicans? Opus Dei? His mentors? His lack of experience as a pastor? Clearly, his mentors did him no favors shielding him from parish work where he could gain experience in the deep trenches of pastoral ministry.
Perhaps the deeper sickness is the side of the institution that simply uses people. Uses them up in the case of Cardinal George. Rome knew he was in the throes of a third battle with cancer, but they let him continue in a demanding post for three years after he tendered his resignation.
If I were a friend of either of these men, I might be a bit angry for their ill-treatment. A heroic-minded Cardinal George likely would not have appealed for mercy in his dying years. Didn’t he have a friend who was willing to go to Rome, to Cong-Bishops, or to one of two popes and say, “Let this guy off the hook. Give him a few years to pray, write, mentor, and serve more quietly in some capacity.”
Likewise with Bishop Finn. Was there anyone to commiserate about an imploding diocese with tens of thousands of Catholics off the parish rolls? What were his mentors possibly telling him? Bill Donohue feeding his ego? Bishops telling him to blame the press, the liberals, the clergy, the uppity laity? How was that helpful?
As the women were dozing in the car on the last leg of the trip home, I wondered about the priests who might appear on the terna for Kansas City-St Joseph. How do you rebuild a diocese in a situation like that? Six years or so of young clergy who were mentored by the man now in an early retirement, the ground now yanked out from under their feet. Older clergy split and probably disillusioned if their parishes were the ones with a 20 percent or more drop in parishioners. Parents who, understandably, put their children first. I would have no idea where to start. How many priests will turn down Pope Francis before someone accepts the cathedra at Immaculate Conception?
For this reason, I cannot bring myself to see this day as one of rejoicing or victory, or even relief. There is an immense amount of work ahead. It is always harder to tear down than to build up.
What do you readers think of all this?