Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bishops' Point Person for Abuse Says Credibility of Catholic Leaders "Shredded," and Finn Goes to Trial

According to Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference's Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, the credibility of the Catholic bishops vis-a-vis the abuse crisis has been "shredded."  And the Catholic church now finds itself at a moment akin to the Reformation moment, in which "the episcopacy, the regular clergy, even the papacy were discredited."

And how can things be otherwise, I wonder, when it has been revealed that the president of the USCCB, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, knew of and then lied about payoffs to pedophile priests in his former diocese of Milwaukee?  And when, instead of coming clean and facing questions from the public after his lie was exposed, he chose the equally shameful path of shifting blame to the media and abuse survivors?

And when he then walked away from the media's questions and hasn't addressed them since?  Though that hasn't stopped him from attending the conventions of both major political parties in the capacity of a kingmaker, one mediating between the two sectors of power as if he's a medieval prince of the church anointing monarchs.

Shtick ill-befitting a moral leader whose own moral credibility is in shreds--or so it seems to me as a very little person living in a faraway, powerless little place, and observing the doings of princes and kingmakers from afar.  Because I'm one of those little people in faraway, powerless places who was taught--over and over again--by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and ministers that telling a lie brings shame to myself and my family and is immoral in the extreme, I have to admit that I just don't get the posturing.  The chutzpah.  The failure to address one's loss of moral credibility even as one asserts the right to make or break kings!

And as Bishop Conlon's remarks are being circulated right now, news also breaks that Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City has worked out a deal with the judge handling his case so that he won't have to face a jury trial, but will be heard and sentenced today directly by Judge John Torrence of the Jackson Co., Missouri, Circuit Court.  Mike Mansur of the Jackson Co. prosecutor's office states,

"The parties in the case have been negotiating stipulated facts and testimony that will be presented tomorrow to the judge," Mansur said. Following that presentation, he said, "we would expect then that the judge might rule in the case."

And what's the haggling over "stipulated facts and testimony" all about?  In the assessment of SNAP, which is asking Judge Torrence to refrain from sentencing Bishop Finn today, it's about continuing the cover-up.  It's about secrecy.  It's about shielding from public knowledge precisely what Bishop Finn knew, did, and said when he found Father Shawn Ratigan to be in possession of child pornography.  

SNAP states,

Bishop Finn wants this over as soon as possible with the least amount of public scrutiny and public input. While sentencing the Bishop today serves his interests, it does not serve the public's interest. Nor does it help bring justice, healing and prevention. 

And so SNAP is calling for the court to avoid giving preferential treatment to a powerful religious authority figure solely because he is a religious authority figure, and to let the voices of the families of those hurt by Father Ratigan, of survivors of clerical sexual abuse in the Kansas City diocese, and of Catholics who feel betrayed by Finn's lack of pastoral leadership to have a hearing.

In his discourse to his followers in Luke about how to gain and retain credibility as witnesses to his gospel, Jesus observes that what we say in the dark will one day be heard in the daylight, and what we whisper in secret will one day be proclaimed from the rooftops (Luke 12:3).  It puzzles me that bishops who read those gospel words over and over throughout their lives, and who insist that their primary role in the church is to be official teachers of the gospel through their words and deeds, so often give every appearance of putting so little faith in Jesus's words in this passage.

Or so I conclude when they try every tactic possible--fair ones as well as foul--to keep their secret deeds and secret words hidden from the public, and to avoid transparency when they're caught red-handed in criminal actions.

P.S. Addendum, later in the day: Finn has just been found guilty.

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