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.Powerful questions, those.
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?
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.
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.