Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bishop Finn's Story in Broader Context: John Paul II and the Demise of Pastoral Bishops (with Links to Previous Bilgrimage Postings)

As readers who have followed Bilgrimage for some time now will no doubt know, I've been tracking commentary about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph for a number of years.  Readers just tuning in to his story after his criminal conviction on charges of having failed to report a priest under his authority in possession of child pornography may be unaware of the larger context of the Finn story--and, in particular, of how that story is set within the context of a certain style of episcopal leadership that has come to dominate the Catholic church under the last two papacies, and which has led to bishops taking an overt and, some might argue, rather shrill role in the culture wars in the U.S. in recent years.

Several years before Finn came on the national media radar screen, he was already on the radar screen of many Catholic-watchers, due to his outspoken stands on culture-war issues--due to his outspoken partisan activism on behalf of the Republican party and against the Democratic party.  Finn has also been on the radar screen of many Catholics concerned about the hard-right turn our church leadership has taken under the last two popes due to his advocacy for the "reform of the reform" within the Catholic church--for a return to the autocratic style of church rule that dominated in the period from the Reformation through the Enlightenment up to Vatican II.

For anyone trying to make sense of why Rome has not already spoken out about the criminal conviction of a sitting bishop in the U.S.--has not removed Finn from office, when Rome moves quickly to remove bishops like William Morris in Australia, who make statements calling for dialogue about women's ordination--it's extremely important to understand where Bishop Finn is "situated" within the current regime running the Catholic church.  Finn is not a maverick or an aberration of the current regime: he's an embodiment of it.

Pope Benedict hasn't yet moved to take Finn from his position of pastoral leadership in Kansas City-St. Joseph because Finn is the quintessential John Paul II-Benedict bishop.  He is and always has been a staunch company man, a yes man who does the pope's bidding implicitly.  He has willingly followed the current regime in Rome in staging political battles around culture-war issues.  As Thomas Fox reminds us in a recent National Catholic Reporter article about Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, pastoral bishops--bishops whose primary concern is not to rise in the ecclesiastical ladder and please Rome, but to serve their flock--have virtually disappeared from the Catholic church because this is precisely what John Paul II wanted, and what he set in motion as supreme pastor of the church.  With the current pope, who was John Paul's pre-eminent yes man, following right in his footsteps . . . .

For readers who want the fuller story of Bishop Finn, who he is, what he has done throughout his episcopal career, and why Rome will not move quickly (if at all) to act against this bishop who is the quintessential John Paul II-Benedict bishop despite his criminal conviction for placing children in harm's way, I've gathered links to all the pieces I've posted here for some four years now about Finn.  The links follow.*  I hope they'll be of use to any readers seeking more background information to understand the current story about Finn and his criminal conviction.

*Since internet links have a way of vanishing over time, it's very possible many of the links embedded in these postings are no longer working--and my apologies, if that's the case.

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