Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Catholic League Leaps to Bishop Finn's Defense: Controversy Ensues

In my previous posting about Daniel Maguire's commentary on the Mississippi personhood legislation, I wrote that if the real agenda of Catholic leaders is to inculcate in secular culture a sense of the sacredness of human life, the church needs to promote a consistent ethic of life, and to do so first of all by living that ethic in its own institutional life and in how it deals with people.  

I wonder what the recent activities of Bully Bill Donohue's Catholic League vis-a-vis Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph communicate to the general public about the Catholic church's respect for human life across the board.  Here's what's going on.  As Jim Romenesko reports at Poynter today, Bully Bill and the Catholic League have their noses out of joint because the Kansas City Star has just turned down an expensive $25,000 ad from them defending Bishop Finn as he faces indictment for his failure to deal with Father Sean Ratigan after child porn images were found on Ratigan's computer.

The Catholic League, is, of course, now doing its usual song and dance, claiming that the secular media are out to get faithful Catholics, and that in the case of Finn, their attack is "politically motivated" and is being egged on by SNAP, which, along with the media, attorneys, and anyone else you can name, is "decidedly anti-Catholic."

But for my money, no one does greater damage to the credibility of the Catholic church and the integrity of its ethical teachings in the public square than defensive, belligerent folks like Bully Bill Donohue, with his wild charges of anti-Catholic bias and his disgusting attacks on victims of clerical sexual abuse.  This is a point that a Kansas City blogger, PFLOW, makes particularly well yesterday at his Mo Rage blog site.  

PLFOW notes that--and this boggles the mind--the ad that the Catholic League wanted to run to defend Finn baldly admits that Ratigan, whom Finn shielded and moved about after he had reason to know what Ratigan was up to, had lurid images of young girls on his computer:

It [i.e., the ad] should have been turned down, I should think for at least this one reason--in some of the opening sentences, the Catholic League writes and admits this: "Last December, crotch-shot pictures of young girls, fully clothed, were found on Fr. Ratigan’s computer; there was one photo of a naked girl." The Catholic League has the nerve to write and admit the above, and then DEFEND BISHOP FINNand his total, utter denial of Ratigan's situation.

And then PFLOW adds that he might have been inclined to let Donohue run his ad, but to follow it with an editorial statement pointing out just why the Catholic League's defense of Finn's indefensible behavior is so offensive, so grievous, and so destructive for the credibility of the Catholic church:

But then, I'd have run an editorial, probably the next day, answering the ad. For the Catholic League--and any Catholics--to defend Finn when they can admit the above--that a child's sexual parts or private parts or whatever you want to call them, were both photographed and then kept on a priest's computer and FINN DID NOTHING for at least 5 months? That's beyond inexcusable. By our Missouri laws, fortunately, it's illegal. It's also illegal BECAUSE OF THE LAST CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL THAT TOOK PLACE, too, if anyone needs reminding. There are so many things wrong with what the Catholic League claim in their proposed ad, it's nearly mind-numbing. They're either lying to themselves or to the world so badly, so completely, it's shocking. And the League's playing both Finn and the church as victims is not just ridiculous, it's insulting. 

The secular media can't hold a candle to Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, when it comes to besmirching the image of the Catholic church.  And I have to wonder, as I always do when one of these huge, expensive ads the Catholic League persistently runs hits the news, where does the money for all these ugly shenanigans come from?  Who's footing Bully Bill's crusades?  And why?

If the Catholic bishops want us to listen respectfully to their teaching about the value and sanctity of life, they need to start paying attention to how they themselves communicate their message.  The lives of those children violated by clerics have value and sanctity, too.  Every bit as much as the lives of the priests molesting them and the bishops protecting those priests . . . .

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