Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Commonweal Thread Discussing Finn-Ratigan Story (and Mr. Dolan as Teflon USCCB President)

The Commonweal blog now has a thread going with an initial posting by David Gibson focusing on the recent Reuters exposé article about Bishop Finn and the case of Father Shawn Ratigan, about which I blogged this past weekend.  I pointed out that Reuters's summary of the Finn-Ratigan story is scathing, and the fact that a conservative-tinged mainstream media source like Reuters would not only cover this story in detail, but do so in unsparing and truthful fashion, indicates the considerable extent to which the Catholic hierarchy and its defenders have lost the moral center in discussions taking place in the public square nowadays.

David Gibson characterizes the Reuters piece as a "thorough--and chilling--tick-tock."  And he's absolutely right.  I recommend the thread as a snapshot of where the American Catholic center finds itself these days.  For my taste, there's still too much fixation among centrists on parochial intraecclesial matters like parsing the term "consubstantial," and still too much shocking blindness about the egregious pastoral lapses of the church's leaders and what those portend for the pastoral challenge now facing anyone concerned about authentic catholic mission.  And still far too much blindness about the willingness of the current leaders of the church to relinquish terms like "human rights" to secular groups, when the church itself ought to be at the forefront of movements to defend human rights.

And speaking of blindness about the pastoral lapses of the church's leaders: isn't it passing strange that the story of the plea bargaining of Brother Lawrence Gordon came and went a few weeks ago with almost no peep of media coverage?  When that case is amazingly similar to the case of Ratigan in Kansas City . . . .  

Gordon admits having viewed child pornography on a computer at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx.  As the Wall Street Journal reported in a brief notice, Gordon was formerly assistant principal of the Catholic all-boys' school, and accidentally left a disk in a drive on one of the school library's computers, which contained pornographic images of boys.  Gordon has admitted his guilt

As John Pilmaier points out at the website of SNAP Wisconsin, no one reported the discovery of the disk to the District Attorney's office until weeks after it had been found, though the possession of child pornography is a crime in New York.  And the principal of the school, Brother Stephen Schlitte, downplayed the seriousness of the images on the disk, calling them "inappropriate" rather than pornographic images that violate criminal law.

Pilmaier also notes that, ironically, the archbishop of the archdiocese in which all this happened, Timothy Dolan, was in Rome on an ad limina visit shortly after the news about Gordon's plea-bargaining broke.  Dolan was present when Pope Benedict addressed the bishops gathered in Rome for the ad limina visit and called them to observe "exacting" standards in dealing with cases of sexual abuse occurring under their pastoral authority.

The lack of media coverage of a case eerily similar to that in Kansas City certainly makes me wonder--specifically, about the power the USCCB president seems to have to function as a Teflon president of the politically powerful U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

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