Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Turmoil in Kansas City, after Bishop Finn Hides Pedophile Priest: Finn's Response? Latin Mass

And so guess what song and dance Bishop Robert Finn and his supporters are cooking up now to juju the restless laity of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic diocese and divert attention from Bishop Finn's choice to shield a pedophile priest?  Last weekend, it was a public procession with jangling rosaries, Latin chants, girls in long skirts and lacy mantillas, and Our Lady of Fatima sweeping majestically by on a platform.  

And now, a week from today, it's to be a Latin Mass (and see Colleen Baker's incisive comments about this event at Enlightened Catholicism).  Because, as the announcement of said Mass in an email from the diocesan worship office cited in Joshua McElwee's NCR article to which I've just linked says, there's "discord and disunity" during the "present darkness" amidst which influential voices in the diocese are calling for Finn's resignation, and something--something "borne [sic] of a common history or tradition"-- is needed to drown out the voices calling for accountability to promote unity.

And nothing says unity like Latin!  And priests in yards of gaudy silk and scads and scads of lace.  With their backs turned resolutely against the people whom they serve, and on whose behalf they lead liturgical worship.  Priests mumbling a language unknown to those with whom they're praying.  And long veils to deter the prying eyes of female members of the congregation from seeing or talking about anything other than what they're told to see and discuss.    

As the first respondent to McElwee's report of this impending bread-and-circus show says, " really couldn't even make up this stuff if you tried!"

Dig a little deeper to discover who the protagonists of this bread-and-circus show unifying liturgy will be, and whom do you immediately glimpse peeping from behind the occluding curtains of lace and silk?: none other than His Eminence Archbishop Raymond Burke, "the de facto pope of the Republican Catholic church," as Colleen Baker has adeptly identified him.  

The Kansas City show is being emceed  liturgy is being celebrated by Canon William Avis of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.  Whom His Eminence Cardinal Burke ordained at this resplendent show in St. Louis in 2007.  The photo at the head of this posting, which has made the rounds on Catholic blogs since 2007, was, in fact, taken at this 2007 ordination.  As the caption for the photo on the Institute website (to which I've just pointed readers) states, Burke is sitting in the rectory throne room prior to the ordination, surrounded by superiors of the Institute and two gentlemen in resplendent lace, one of whom is none other than the gentleman now in the hot seat in Kansas City, on whose behalf the liturgy of Latin unity is to be celebrated next week, Bishop Finn.

And here's what else (in addition to the crude smoke-and-mirrors act of the impending liturgy) is grossly scandalous about how Finn is choosing to respond to the discovery that he kept in ministry a priest known to have child pornography on his computer: as Jim Fitzpatrick notes at his JimmyCsays blog yesterday, Finn is mounting this diversionary show precisely as "evidence of wrongdoing at the highest levels of local Catholic hierarchy has grown stronger."  The upcoming Latin liturgy is quite clearly a clumsy diversionary attempt of Bishop Finn to mask his own responsibility for the crisis he has created in his diocese by failing to remove a priest from ministry after he knew that priest had child pornography on his computer.

As I noted in a posting this past weekend, recent outstanding reporting in the Kansas City paper (I linked to the Kansas City Star article) shows that Shawn Ratigan, the priest possessing child pornography, accompanied Finn and local high school students on a bus trip from Kansas City to D.C. for the 2007 March for Life rally.   As Jim Fitzpatrick notes, Mark Morris and Glenn Rice show that Finn and Ratigan, the priest Finn protected, have "more than a passing relationship."  In addition to the trip they shared to D.C. in 2007, the Star report indicates that, like Finn himself, who has been one of the most outspoken (and most politically pointed) "pro-life" voices in the American hierarchy, Ratigan is "a crusading, pro-life cleric" whose Harley-Davidson motorcycle is emblazoned with pro-life symbols including a cross festooned with a ribbon reading, "Pro-Bikers for Life."

Fitzpatrick states that, after Morris and Rice's recent report, it's difficult to avoid concluding that Finn sheltered Ratigan because he "was loath to turn in a priest whom he knew quite well and who shared his pro-life stance."  As Fitzpatrick also notes, Finn's responsibility for shielding a priest he knew to possess child pornography is not escaping the critical notice of many local Catholics, despite last weekend's pro-Finn march, the upcoming liturgy, and Finn's recent announcement that he's bringing in an outside investigator to figure out what has gone wrong in his diocese.

One of the most influential local Catholic voices that has recently spoken out about Finn's responsibility for the mess in the diocese he shepherds is Pat O'Neill's.  O'Neill is a local marketing consultant who was once the diocese's communications consultant.  In an op-ed piece in the Star last Sunday, O'Neill calls on Bishop Finn to admit his responsibility for hiding a pedophile priest, while posturing as one of the new wave of conservative American bishops intent on cleaning up the abuse mess.  O'Neill calls on Finn to resign:  

The time has come for us to harness our collective anger and embarrassment and use that energy to change the way our church and our dioceses operate, once and for all.

After all these years, it is starkly obvious to me that there will be no change for the better in the Kansas City diocese until men like Bishop Robert Finn and his Vicar General Robert Murphy are forced to resign, and criminals in collars are subject to secular trial and incarceration.

And Finn's response to this appeal is, I want to emphasize one more time, to stage a Latin Mass!  For which the priest presiding is, as Finn himself is, a crony of Cardinal Raymond Burke, who enjoys vast power and privilege in the current Vatican post to which Pope Benedict elevated him.  Whose name keeps cycling around now whenever there's a new revelation about a scandalous abuse of episcopal power to hide pedophile priests in U.S. Catholic dioceses.

And whose power depends not only on his cachet at the highest levels of the Vatican, but also on his wealthy right-wing friends in the U.S., who foot his trips back and forth from Rome to the U.S., and who are the very backbone of the Latin Mass movement in the U.S., which is a cultic expression of the disaffection of some Catholics not only with the mainstream church, but also with the American political process insofar as it is not immediately controlled by theocratic Republicans.  

To make a long story short, to get to the bottom of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church and find a solution to it, we have not only to contend with the self-protective mechanisms of a powerful, wily, ancient clerical structure that has learned over many centuries how to protect its own.  We have, as well, to understand and contend with the way in which the money of powerful right-wing lay Catholics and their wealthy right-wing non-Catholic allies continues to be used to attack survivors of clerical sexual abuse, to protect bishops who shield pedophile priests, and to mount expensive gaudy p-r shows designed to draw our attention away from the real causes of the abuse crisis, and its real solution.

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