Saturday, May 28, 2011

Turns Out He Didn't Know: Bishop Finn Says He Didn't Read Principal's Letter

Yesterday, I posted an update to the story of Father Shawn Ratigan of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who was arrested on May 19 for possession of child pornography.  Yesterday's posting notes that a local Catholic school principal, Julie Hess, wrote diocesan officials a year ago to share with them widespread concerns that Father Ratigan posed a threat to children.  

Turns out Bishop Finn didn't take action right away because, as he now states, he didn't read Julie Hess's letter!  The letter went to the diocesan vicar general, Msgr. Robert Murphy, who, according to Finn, informed Finn of the letter's contents in "a brief verbal summary."  But Finn did not read Hess's letter in its entirety--so he says--until May 26, after it was made public.  And a week after Father Ratigan's arrest.

Remember the story that got circulated when news broke that the current pope, in his former position as archbishop of Munich, permitted a priest with a known record of molesting minors, Father Hullermann, to remain in ministry after Hullermann's therapist wrote a letter stating that the priest posed a serious danger to minors?  Papal apologists claimed that Munich is such a busy diocese, don't you know, that Ratzinger probably didn't see or pay attention to the letter from Hullermann's therapist (and other documents indicating that this priest posed a threat to minors) when the letter crossed his desk.

They claimed that Ratzinger is such an abstracted intellectual, engrossed in his thoughts and studies, that he didn't pay much attention to the administrative details of the Munich diocese when he ran it.  Though, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith following his stint as archbishop of Munich, Ratzinger was known as a fierce micromanager who was thoroughly familiar with each and every detail in his files about the theologians he censured as head of CDF.

Here's the fascinating thing about how the Catholic church's administrative structure is set up and how it functions right now: when it comes to claiming power, those at the top are adamantly insistent on their right to rule, on their responsibility to rule.  They yield power to no one.

But when they're asked to take responsibility for the horrendous decisions they make in that unchecked power game, suddenly they're not responsible at all.  Someone else did it.  Someone else made the bad decision. 

Someone else pulled the strings, it turns out.  Not the man with all the power, at the top of the structure.

If you think something's cockeyed and downright immoral about this game of shifting the blame, you're absolutely right.  It's designed to protect the man on top--always--while shifting blame--always--to the man beneath him.

And it depends on lies that faithful Catholics would be well advised to stop accepting, if they want their church to have any kind of viable future at all.  Plausible deniability is the kind of morally shady shell game one expects leaders of a secular corporation to play.

Not leaders of a Christian institution.  Particularly not over and over again.

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