Friday, June 10, 2011

Bishop Finn Announces Sweeping Plan to Clean Up Kansas City-St. Joseph Situation

In commenting on the situation with Father Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn in the Catholic diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph several days back, I noted that Mike Hunter and David Clohessy predict the following course of spin damage control, as Finn deals with the fallout from his abominable decision to do nothing about Ratigan for at least a year after he had strong reason to know that Ratigan posed a serious threat to children.  I wrote that Hunter and Clossey predict that

Finn will issue yet another insincere, misleading apology, will call in a carefully selected (and almost certainly Catholic) outside reviewer who will produce a report with a few hand-slaps and a few image-management recommendations that won't be implemented, will scapegoat an underling if media attention continues to focus on him (Julie Hess, the whistle-blowing principal who wrote the diocese about Ratigan a year ago is a possible scapegoat because she's a woman, or the diocesan vicar Father Murphy, since he's a subordinate), etc.

And so it begins to come to pass.  If the big boys that control things in the world they've made comfortable for themselves are anything at all, they're drearily predictable.  In the past several days, it has been announced that

1.  There will be a high-profile big-name reviewer of the mess in the diocese, who will make recommendations for nifty changes to clean up the situation that, we're given to understand, has happened without any knowledge or doing of the bishop himself .  The reviewer is Bush-appointed former U.S. attorney Todd P. Graves.

2. And the sacrificial lamb is being prepared: it turns out to be, as I suggested it might be several days ago, the diocesan vicar general and underling Rev. Robert Murphy, who is being set up to be the fall guy for Bishop Finn--as if Finn has maintained Murphy in power without having any clue at all of Murphy's own murky past, or of his failure to deal proactively with warnings about Ratigan.

3. And Finn is, of course, very very sorry.  Very very sorry all of this has happened.  Very very sorry vulnerable children were exposed to danger for at least a year, when he had information that should have led him immediately to shield children from harm.  And intent on cleaning up a situation that has, somehow and bafflingly, gotten outside his control and happened on his watch without his knowledge, though all power in the diocese resides ultimately in his person and office.

And so it goes in the world of patriarchal power and control, A.D. 2011, as we face the fire next time that the old boys' network of (irresponsible and unaccountable) power and control keeps bringing down on all our heads.  As David Clohessy says (see the first link above), all this fanfare, all these window-dressing image-management techniques, are like giving cold medication to a cancer patient.  They don't come anywhere near the real problem in the Catholic church, in diocese after diocese.

Since that problem is the bishops themselves, who are pulling all the strings, but whom we're asked by the recent John Jay report to believe are simply not there, invisible. Not responsible or accountable in any way for the mess that the church these men rule has made of itself.

Update, later the same day: Tom Roberts at National Catholic Reporter characterizes Finn's action plan as a "tired, well-used script." As he notes, right on the mark, "The script's aim is to deflect the gaze from the central problem, using words and gestures that give the impression of going about important work to get to the bottom of things, all with a heavy heart."

And that central problem would be Bishop Finn himself.

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