Monday, October 24, 2011

It's time for it to stop

You may have already seen Kevin O'Brien's fantastic piece on the Bishop Finn situation; if not, I highly recommend reading the whole thing. After detailing the independent report commissioned by the diocese itself of what happened, Kevin says:
Now, Bishop Naumann makes a passioned defense of his brother bishop, and points out that many in the Kansas City media are viciously pro-abortion and will stop at nothing to destroy the Catholic Church. Bishop Naumann, I'm sure this is true.

And many lay folk have pointed out to me that Bishop Finn is orthodox in his teaching and has boldly attacked pornography, for example. I'm sure that this is true as well.

But have we come to a stage where we are so desperate for orthodox bishops that we turn a blind eye to their other shortcomings? Are we so defensive against our own sins that we refuse to acknowledge where we fall shy of virtue, simply because other sinners are pointing our failures out to us?

And how do we expect to turn the hearts of the pro-abortion zealots in the Kansas City media if we don't even have the gumption to protect a two-year-old girl who's being victimized while asleep by one of our priests? Why on earth would they listen to us about the evils of killing unborn babies when we won't even do anything to protect a sleeping two-year-old from a predator?

Because, my friends, it comes down to this.

Bishop Finn and his Vicar General knew that children under their care had been exploited and abused. Bishop Finn and his Vicar General did nothing to identify or protect those children. Instead, and incredibly, when the story finally broke, Bishop Finn and his Vicar General instructed that the parish of St. Patrick's hold listening sessions at which parents were asked to write down one "hurt" and one "hope". [...]

What would you say to these parents? Or better yet, if Fr. Ratigan had taken pictures of your sleeping two-year-old girl and removed her diapers to take a spy-pen snapshot of her vagina and her bare butt for use on his computer, and perhaps molested her and the diocese never bothered to tell you this, and never bothered to warn you not to let this man back in your house, or reach out to make sure you and your daughter got the help you needed (all the while the beg letters for the annual diocesan appeal kept coming in the mail) ... what would you put down on the "hurt" card? What would you "share" as your "hope" during the listening session while somewhere a man we call father masturbates to a picture of your sleeping two-year-old?

Powerful questions, those.

I saw a ringing defense of Bishop Finn and kudos to Bishop Naumann on another blog (which I won't link to) and, frankly, I was sickened by it. Like most lay Catholics, I have no more patience for the excuses made on behalf of bishops who were so derelict in their duty while children were being put at risk. I've heard people say such incredible things this time around as the following:
  • there were only pictures, so it's not as though actual children were being hurt.
  • Bishop Finn is only being targeted because he is orthodox.
  • The real villain, if there is one, is Msgr. Murphy who never told the bishop that more than one picture, and that one fairly innocent, existed (which is not true, but some believe it).
  • it's not the diocese's fault that their decision to give Fr. Ratigan's computer to Fr. Ratigan's brother led to the computer's being destroyed--how would the diocese ever have guessed that anyone would do that?
  • if there were any real evidence of wrongdoing on the bishop's part, he'd be charged with more than a misdemeanor.
  • (my personal favorite) the evil liberal media is gunning for the Church, and will stop at nothing in the pursuit of this diabolical agenda.
No. No, and no, and no.

It is 2011, not 1998. Every single bishop in every single diocese in America knows how terrible the Scandal has been, how hurt by it lay Catholics, good priests and religious, and entire dioceses have been--to say nothing of the actual victims of abuse. Yet when Bishop Finn was informed of the situation involving Fr. Ratigan it is clear by his actions that his overwhelming concern was to protect Fr. Ratigan. If you read the independent report (.pdf) you will see that, as Kevin O'Brien highlights, the diocese failed to turn over the evidence of child pornography to the police (describing only one picture to one off-duty police officer), failed to inform or protect children or families, failed to correct the impression that the whole situation involving Fr. Ratigan's removal was due to the dislike and hostility of the school principal, failed to inform the retreat house where he was sent why he was being sent there or warning them to keep him away from children--this, despite the fact that school retreats were held there!--and failed in dozens of other ways to do what was their clear duty in light of the existence of the photos. And I firmly believe that Bishop Finn is morally responsible for that failure, even if he refused to look at the photos or to hear more accurate descriptions of them, as some people have suggested.

That is why I don't share the opinion held by, apparently, so many Catholics that this is nothing more than an attack on the Church. Whether Bishop Finn is found guilty of the charge against him or not, there is nothing at all unjust about the indictment. Our clergy are not above the law, and we can't, on the one hand, insist on bishops' primacy over their dioceses and then, on the other, insist that it's not their fault if they fail to take obvious and minimal actions to protect children from predatory priests. The laity, especially children, deserve that protection--but too often, and yet again in Kansas City, we have seen that the whole machinery of a bishop and his chancery springs into defense of the predatory priest, leaving the children and their parents to fend for themselves.

It is wrong. It is unjust. It is the antithesis of true Christian behavior. And it's time for it to stop.


Anonymous said...

Past time, my dear. Thirty years past time. Much past the time it took for my non-Catholic husband to totally disavow any form of Catholicism to indoctrinate our children.

Anonymous said...

Red this is where your voice and your passion truly have merit. You are absolutely correct. It's an abmomination and thank God someone-you- are saying so. It's unbelievable really that anyone would try to say anything in defense of any of these people in this instance and it's time for the 'protect our own' mentality to just stop it's done way the heck more harm than good!!!!! Right on Red!!!


Topherdone said...

I can only say thank you, and I agree. As a soon to be new parent (any day now!), the continued presence of these situations is very disheartening. And more than just disheartening. The last decade - beginning with the flood of Boston, and continuing with the drip drip drip from more and more dioceses - has made me suspicious enough that I see many bishops (and priests) as untrustworthy sacrament dispensers. That is a horrible attitude to hold. I hate thinking that. I hate feeling like I may be jumping at shadows. But it is what it is.

It is a strange and depressing situation. To believe that the Church and its sacraments hold the keys to eternal life, but, at the same time, to believe that many of the Church's most exalted members are nothing more than untrustworthy bureaucrats is like a case of unending cognitive dissonance.

Anyway, enough rambling from the peanut gallery...

Rebecca in ID said...

I agree, this is unbelievable. I do not get that not only does it go unreported, but that any sane Bishop would even think twice about defrocking such a priest immediately. I can't even begin to imagine the thought process.

priest's wife said...

I stay away from these stories because it is too depressing- if we were serious about 'protecting God's little children, " there would have been programs for ADULTS fifty years ago (let's not drag the kids into this- that's a blame the victim mentality)

Anonymous said...

I think I saw that blog you are talking about, in defense. Goodness gracious.

Ann Marie

Elizabeth said...

This has the same impact as all the people who wanted to ignore or justify torture in Iraq simply because we were "the good guys."

It's a form of tribalism, which is a damned shame. The universality claimed by the RC does not allow for tribalism.


Anonymous said...

Yes. One thing was pointed out that I didn't realize is that there had to be "criminal intent" on the part of the Bishop. I don't think that is what they will prove, but it will not make the people feel any better, or at least right now, that these occurred under his watch. Prayers for all.

Anonymous said...

This has the same impact as all the people who wanted to ignore or justify torture in Iraq simply because we were "the good guys."

It's a form of tribalism, which is a damned shame.

Agreed Elizabeth. Tom K. had a nice flow chart illustrating the problem: In case of a fall.

I found the comment about not letting children be indoctrinated by Catholicism. Granted, if one has seen nothing but a parade of scandalous Catholics especially among the Church's leadership, who can blame them? But since everyone is taught (indoctrinated) by something, what is the alternative? Sadly for most I-used-to-be-Catholics it is an amorphous and slouchy form of societal consequentialism--the very thing that is in the process of green-lighting every sexual pervsion out there which up to this point has only stayed away from children under the phony doctrine of consent. Which, ironically is slowly being whittled away. Catholics in general and bishops and priests in particular should be held to a higher standard and quite frankly I wouldn't be opposed if a bishop removed a priest for having even legal pornography.

Tony said...

I can understand the attitude of a Bishop who might do this sort of thing (even though Bishop Finn is innocent until proven guilty).

If I want to get rid of a priest, and I have access to his computer, all I have to do is put damaging photos on it (or browse unsavory websites so they're in his cache) and report to the Bishop that I "found" pornography (child or otherwise) on his computer.

Once that happens, it seems people believe that the Bishop is immediately honor bound to:

1. Inform the police (who will inform the press).

2. Remove him from active ministry.

3. Disallow his access to any children.

So while this witch-hunt^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hinvestigation is going on, the press splashes this priest's name all over the front page. His good name is dragged through the mud, and a majority of his parishioners believe he is guilty.

Even if he is found innocent, and even if the paper prints a retraction, it'll be in a little box at the bottom of page 13 below the underwear ad.

So yeah. With a hostile press, hostile groups like SNAP and Voice of the (UN)Faithful, who want to use this "abuse crisis" to springboard "reforms" which will give the laity a bigger say in the running of the Church, I definitely understand the motivation to evaluate the situation in-house before you bring in the Spanish Inquisitors.

Tony said...

Oh, and to those who want to turn from Catholicism because of this, remember Jesus, Himself, ordained two bishops, one who denied him three times (who became our first pope) and one who betrayed him (who became the "soul most forsaken")

Red Cardigan said...

Tony, you do understand, don't you, that there was never any question that the pictures were Fr. Ratigan's? That there were other red flags, including Fr. Ratigan's close physical contact with young schoolchildren (the Graves report describes Fr. giving a little girl a backrub until her father pulled her angrily away)? That the bishop did not question Father's guilt in the least, but considered telling him to stay away from kids and sending him to a retreat house which was NOT informed why he was there to be sufficient to address the matter?

Why is this so hard for people to grasp? This isn't an ambiguous case.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Tony, you have left out that it would be better to be cast into the sea with a millstone around one's neck than to be guilty of harming one of these little ones... and violating that prescription is not known to have been one of Peter's crimes.

Excellent analysis Red. Nobody could ask anyone in the Catholic Church for a more straightforward and upright statement. Are you sure you can't be considered as a possible bishop?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

These comments from "Conradg" on Rod Dreher's blog succinctly describe how the clerical sex-abuse crisis reflects Catholic ecclesiology:

The Church as an institution is about authority, not spiritual truth, and it protects its authority above all else, because it actually equates its own authority with spiritual truth. So it creates a circular logic that makes it impossible to deal with matters like these in a clear and humane manner. It’s how authoritarian cults always work, and how they distort and pervert the normal human cognitive process, as well as the normal human compassionate empathetic process. This sort of thing happens wherever authority is made the supreme value. Ought to make you wonder about the value of “spiritual authority” in the overall religious process.

These people did not consecrate their lives to God, they consecrated it to the Church, thinking it was the same thing. It wasn’t. They devoted themselves to protecting and promoting and nurturing the Church, and so their primary response to clerical abuse of children was to protect the Church, not the children. This is what they had been taught to do, and what they were consecrated to. They did not see those children as the God to whom they were consecrated, so they did not protect them. They protected the Church. And their reaction to the scandals has been to feel that the Church is being abused, not the children.

I've been saying that the Church inculcates instutional arrogance and a pervasive sense of entitlement in its leaders. Conradg's comments are far more eloquent.