Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Ain't All Right vs. Left

From Rod Dreher's report on the indictment of Bishop Finn in Kansas City ...


When news broke, local Catholics were outraged. The diocese organized “listening sessions” to manage the public reaction, and had participants engage in an asinine Stuart Smalley-ish exercise in which they were instructed to write down a “hurt” and then write down a “hope.” Among the “hurts” written down by angry parents:

“The images of my daughter’s private areas that the FBI showed me, they are
forever burned into my brain. … Shawn Ratigan was in my house, around my
children in February, and I thought my children were completely SAFE!!”


One of the earliest and most difficult lessons I learned in covering the abuse scandal is that you can never, ever tell the bad guys from the good guys based on whether or not they are faithful to the Magisterium — that is, whether or not they are orthodox Catholics. Would that you could! A very conservative priest told me early on not to make that mistake; there are scoundrels who hide behind their Catholic orthodoxy, he said, and use it to disarm the suspicions of the faithful. The late Father Richard John Neuhaus was one of the most intellectually sophisticated Catholics in the world, and a defender of Catholic orthodoxy. But he too was hoodwinked by this belief, most embarrassingly in his staunch defense of Father Marcial Maciel, of whom, Neuhaus wrote in First Things, he believed was “morally certain” was not guilty of the lurid sexual abuse accusations made against him. After Pope Benedict moved against Maciel, Neuhaus backed down. We later learned that things with Maciel were actually worse than most people knew.


Kevin O'Brien said...

From the combox at Dreher's article:


These guys never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Imagine if this bishop said:

“I failed the Church, my community, and most of all, the child victims of a priest under my charge. As partial penance, I am pleading guilty to the charges and I will accept whatever punishment the court imposes. Losing six months or a year* of my life in jail is a pittance compared to the suffering my mismanagement has imposed on the families I was charged to shephard.”

If he did that, the reputation of both his diocese and him personally would rebound. Maybe not all the way, but it would be a big start. A very big start. It would also set an example for other bishops when they discover similar misconduct among their priests.

Kevin O'Brien said...

And the unsinkable Erin Manning adds a gem:


Few, very few, whether “liberal” or “conservative” [priests] actually appear to see themselves as spiritual fathers or as sinners themselves in need of constant conversion. If any of them uses the phrase, “We’re all in this together!” you may be sure that there is an important fundraising effort underway.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, What planet are you from? From your other postings you seem to understand the imperfections of man (or alien, vampire, or don't cares). However, when it comes to defending the actual frontline people in the Church (who are putting more than their wallets on the line), your insights fall back into mediocrity. The enemy causes this type of dissension just when we are making headway.
Why is it we expect the average Joe to be an imperfect uncultured slob, but our priests to be spotless lambs?
As to Bishop Finn- MY bishop- none of the articles have mentioned his tireless efforts to fight pornography in this diocese. He has been fighting against one of the root causes/contributing factors to child molestation- setting up an organization for men under the patronage of St Joseph- since he was installed. Here is a link to one of his letters on purity ( Please read it. You will see that the author is not someone simply hiding behind the "traditional/conservative" Catholic label.
Another neglected question is who ordained this priest? Bishop Finn did not ordain this man. As to the numskull idea of our shepherd doing time as some sort of feel-good, I'm-with-you-people symbolism- why don't you try that the next time you are accused of a hideous crime you did not commit and that carries with it a lifetime sentence of shame? Reality check! Never admit to something you did not do. That would be lying and may even fall into the mortally sinful category of consequentialism.
We are failing our Church by attacking our own.
If we want to know the truth in a situation, why not follow Jesus' words: "By their fruits you will know them". Now before someone jumps upon the next headline and says "Aha!- Bad fruit!" The process of developing fruit takes time. As you mentioned with Fr Maciel, the cards were not all revealed yet. The majority of us do not know the truth and should simply support our fellowmen with prayer- not blog hits.
Kevin, put your faith where your blog is by encouraging your readers to pray a Rosary for Fr Pavone and Bishop Finn. I will be the first to take that advice. Peace my brother,
Yvonne & Family

Kevin O'Brien said...

Yvonne, I encourage every reader to pray a rosary for the accused priest, Bishop Finn, and the victims and their families.

I will say, however, that it's clear what has happened here: a pastor of a parish was behaving oddly around children, child pornography was found on his computer, many photos apparently of girls in his parish, he appears to have taken pictures of a naked girl parishioner while she slept, a girl who was only two years old and whose diapers he had to move to the side in order to photograph her genitals - all while her parents were gone. (This is all in Dreher's account, which comes from the official report, please follow the link in the post).

Did the bishop and the diocese first and foremost attempt to find out who the victims were, make sure they and their families got help, and report this priest's actions to the police? Or did they shuffle him off to a hide-a-way where he took more inappropriate photos of a 12-year-old girl, accepting the advice of a psychologist that the priest was "lonely" and "depressed" because his school's principal was "out to get him"? (She's the one who first complained about his odd behavior around children).

And contrary to what you claim, Yvonne, the facts are out about Maciel (a moral monster) and many of the facts are out about Bishop Finn and the KC diocese. They dropped the ball on this big time. They held "listening sessions" with parishioners and had them write down "one hope" and "one hurt" for crying out loud! This is not how you handle sin! This is not how you fix a problem one of your priests caused! This is not how you make reparations for a pastor who inflicted untold damage!

Here's my "hurt": this institutionalized murk, this cover up of sin, this disregard for the innocent, is devestating the Body of Christ.

Here's my "hope": that good men like Bishop Finn get a clue; that they protect the innocent, repent of their shortcomings, and stop the game of cover up and renounce the mentality of corporate insurance and circle-the-wagons that is far from Christian and far from pastoral.

Meanwhile, Yvonne, I will concede that our bishops and are priests are sinners like we are, and are very deserving of our prayers.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Wait a sec’ – who’s writing this? – is coming from an actor? – Actors makeup the biggest group of pervs, creeps and numbskulls on the planet.

Really, with all due respect sir, use your brain or shut your mouth.

Our Lord promised his disciples trials and tribulations, well, his Excellency is going through a rough one right now, being accused of a crime connected with what he’s been working against so vehemently for years,
He is NOT a-too-good-to-be-true creep as you seem to suggest. He is an extremely innocent and genuinely humble Bishop (Yvonne’s posted a regular guidebook of articles above; take my advice and start reading them – it’s never too late to learn a bit of humility).

That’s the problem with blogs (public diaries really) the blogger hears gossip, skims a couple biased news articles and publishes his own opinion of a situation that he knows next to nothing about.

Just for the record he’s MY Bishop and I’M PROUD OF IT!!!


Anonymous said...

Mr. O’Brien,

Bishop Finn is a good man, a loyal priest, and a holy Bishop, and I am demanding an apology of you, (if you have ANY honor at all) because you’re not only wrong, but dead wrong.

You had no right to compare MY good Bishop to Maciel, it was a disgusting and unnecessary insult. - You had no grounds for making it with as little information as you had.

If you do not feel like making an apology because you are too vain to concede that you were wrong, then, if you are man enough (which I strongly doubt) lets find a place where we can step out back and settle it there.

Very sincerely,

- And God bless Bishop Finn!

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but Finn already has a clue, - and as you seem to be the only one without one, let me give you a little step-by-step:

1. A teacher became uneasy (reasonably so) and sent the diocese got a vague report about Ratigan's odd habit of taking a lot of pictures (decent ones) of the parish school children. (It is unknown whether Murphy thought it worth bothering the Bishop about, so he may have never even seen it).

2. Some months later a computer tech (while fixing R's laptop) discovered a single picture of child porn, and turned it in to the diocese.

3. Finn had it turned in to the police, who basically told him that it was not serious enough for them to take up on so little evidence.

4. Finn removes R to different location, (pulled him from active ministry) and forbade him from seeing ANY children.

5. Some weeks later R disobeys the Bishop and attends a child's birthday party with some former parishioners (sounds like they were unwilling to respect Finn's orders concerning R - they all knew about it of course).

6. Finn moves him again (still out of active ministry), and shortly after a friend using R's computer finds a stash of child porn. He brings it to the diocese attention.

7. Finn turns the evidence and R over to the police.

Sounds straight forward enough to me; the whole thing was on the edge of a knife for Finn, he could not do anything and neither could the authorities (R was a clever dodger), he could only wait, keep a close watch on R and pray.

Speaking of which, let’s do that, - Pray, - give it a try Mr. smarty-pants. - And quit behaving like a yankee!


Kevin O'Brien said...

Jr., apparently you're "junior", not Jim Russell.

Let me be clear: I am NOT comparing Bishop Finn to Maciel. READ BEFORE COMMENTING, PEOPLE!

And as to Bishop Finn's theology, God bless him for being orthodox.

Now, there's orthodoxy and orthopraxis - right teaching and right acting. The latter is far more difficult for any Christian.

Kevin O'Brien said...

H.T., Your assertion #3 appears to be wrong. Bishop Finn did not "turn it in to the police". That is why he's being indicted. Read the report I link to in my article.

Mary, I heartily agree that actors are pervs and nitwits. If you read the blog regularly, you'll see that I concur with that statement.

Jr., why don't you offer to fight the folks in your diocese who hold "listening sessions" instead of protecting children? And don't try to claim that I'm slandering Bishop Finn. I'm certain he's a good man - but he dropped the ball here. If that's slander, and if that makes you want to hit me, sorry.

Now, dear readers, please be that. Be readers. Read the linked report by Rod Dreher. If you still want to jump to Bishop Finn's defense, please do so. But you may have less spunk about you once you get a fuller dose of information on this.

Anonymous said...

They're not exactly sure what Finn did, but by gum, they know he's right, and you, Mr. Pantywaist Actor Yankee Boy, are WRONG!

Lord have mercy. With "friends" like this, the Church doesn't need enemies.

Kevin O'Brien said...

"The bishop has acknowledged that he knew of the existence of the photos last December but did not turn them over to the police until May." - The indictment focuses on his failure to report for six months.

Kevin O'Brien said...

"A St. Joseph family claims that a report was made in 2006 about Ratigan's inappropriate behavior around a preschooler. The lawsuit claims that Finn and other diocese leaders concealed the 2006 report and ignored years of warning signs."

Now, then, let's say you are running a diocese somewhere. You are in possession of a laptop on which one of your priests was storing hundreds of child porn photos, which the priest himself took of children under his care.

Do you

a) inform police immediately, as required by law and by your own internal policies


b) let the Vincentians (themselves an order of "pervs and nitwits" to quote a commenter) take care of the priest?

Do you

a) recognize that this laptop is evidence of crimes against the most innocent under your care


b) give the laptop to the priest's family so that they can destroy it?

Do you

a) make every attempt to identify the child victims of this man and reach out to them and their families


b) stonewall everything, eventually holding "listening sessions" in which people are asked to express their "hopes and hurts"?

Now, Bishop Finn may be a good man and a devout Catholic, but he chose B in all of the above.

Kevin O'Brien said...

“According to Msgr. Murphy and Bishop Finn, no steps were taken to identify any of the children in the photographs. In addition, DFS was never notified. Further, the IRB was not notified and the Diocese made no effort to notify the parents and families at St.Patrick’s Parish or other parishes were Fr. Ratigan had been assigned." - this is from the diocese's own internal report.

So let's put our chairs in a circle and share our hurts and hopes while our children are being victimized.

Kevin O'Brien said...

If you read the diocese's own report on this matter you'll find that H.T.'s spin on things (in the comment above) is almost fictional.

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Brien,

I think it would be very difficult for my name to be Jim Russell (whoever he is) - in fact I doubt if "Jim" was ever a name my parents considered, as I happen to be a girl - Jr. being my status NOT my initials.

But that's all aside from the point, and I'm not offering to fight anyone except you, - In so many words you DID compare my Bishop to Maciel, (if not then you inadvertently gave that impression and need to apologize) and are dogging on him because of some things you read in a corrupt, Church-dogging media report.

I love Bishop Finn as much as I love my own Dad. I know him; he is a devoted shepherd, and the best thing that's ever happened to this diocese. In saying that he “dropped the ball” you are more mistaken than you’ll ever know.

That is why I reiterate my demand for a reasonable apology or an exchange blows.

(to clairify:)Ms. Jr.

Again, God Bless Bishop Finn!

Kevin O'Brien said...

Dear Ms. Jr.,

You seem like a zealous follower of Christ and I am impressed by your loyalty to your bishop.

Let's come to terms on this: I will publicly apologize and do penance if I've unfairly maligned him.

However, I am basing my criticism of Bp. Finn NOT on media reports, but on the diocese's own internal report. Please read it; I supplied the link in a comment above.

And please, dear sister in Christ, answer one question: how can we excuse the failure of the diocese to try to identify the victims in this case, to reach out to them or their families? Even an atheist, confronted with pornographic pictures of children taken by a sick man, would attempt to identify these children, if their families were under his care and if they were the families he was supposedly "sheperding". Should a bishop do any less?

Honestly, this is a horrific situation and your bishop (who I'm sure is a good and devout man) did absolutely nothing for the victims and their families. His priority was protecting his priest. How do you explain or excuse this?

Please open my eyes to the wrong I'm doing, and I'll gladly apologize for it. Meanwhile, this case if far more shameful than you or Bishop Finn's defenders are willing to admit, it seems to me.

Please read the diocese's official report on the matter.

Bob said...

Mr. O'Brien,

I'm neither in favor or opposed to Bishop Finn's removal. I'm willing to let events play out as they come along.

But it seems to me that the major information choke point was in Msgr. Murphy. Like Rod Dreher, I'm amazed that he is not indicted.

I've no idea whether Msgr. Murphy has been sacked as Vicar General. It seems that the everyone is focused on Bishop Finn. I don't know if the sacking of Msgr. Murphy would be considered an institutional move or the correct Catholic act (that is, would it be seen that Bishop Finn is seeking to limit damages by sacking Msgr. Murphy?).

But it does seem to me that if we're asking Bishop Finn to step down, then there should be some focus on the real culpability of Msgr. Murphy.


Unknown said...

This mess is never going to end until priests are allowed to marry.

Anonymous said...

Neither will the cases of teachers molesting children cease until they are allowed to get married.

Dr. Eric

Anthony Keiser said...

Right, because married men never have porn problems.

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Brien,

Mom made me promise to "Be nice" to you, and I intend to keep that promise (today in any case).

So for her sake (and that of this poor key-board)I will only say this:

Who the heck is Jim Russell?


Janet Doubek said...

Kevin, I seriously doubt that Cardinal Burke would agree with your assessment of Bishop Finn. I too have read the Graves report, all 141 pages of it. Yes, Bishop Finn made mistakes in his handling of the Ratigan case, mistakes which he has admitted and apologized for, but Bishop Finn is NOT guilty of the crime that he has been charged with, and a thorough reading of that report and its conclusions bears that out. Mistakes are not crimes. Bishop Finn could NOT have known what he had NOT been fully informed of. Rod is wrong.