A breaking news item, at the minute of this posting, is the resignation of Bishop Finn from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. According to a news report:
“Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph has resigned, nearly two and a half years after being the first U.S. bishop convicted of a misdemeanor in failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest in his diocese.
The Vatican confirmed Pope Francis’ acceptance of Bishop Finn’s resignation according to Canon 104 Article 2 in the Code of Canon Law in an April 21 statement, released at noon local time.
Article 2 of Canon 104, according to the Vatican’s website, refers to a situation when “a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill-health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.” [source]
So essentially, the loss of prestige and the apparent damage of the conviction have led Finn to resign. Nevertheless, this raises several questions, particularly with the interesting history of the division in the Kansas City diocese, and the hate that was vented against him for years by the heterodox. Let us start in a few places.
1) Nature of the Crime
We should notice that the Finn is not accused of hiding an actual abuser, or stonewalling victims, like some Bishops who still sit in their dioceses. It all centers on a priest, Fr. Ratigan, who had not only possessed child pornography, but even photographed some girls near the church, though there is no evidence he did more than that. There are no details that I can find about the photos, for instance were the girls clothed or not, or whether he asked them to get in strange positions, etc. Apparently that did not happen with these particular girls, but the details are difficult to find on internet searches without finding unrelated things I don’t want to see. What was disclosed in a news report which remains uncontested is that Ratigan did in fact have naked images of children. The diocese conducted an investigation and indeed removed Fr. Ratigan right away, though they only reported it to civil authorities months later. This, then, is the matter of the charge against Finn, that he didn’t call the cops right away. It is also alleged, though, again, it is difficult to get a hold of the facts, is that in the time that the diocese removed Ratigan and put him away in a monastery while it looked into the case, Ratigan supposedly did have more contact with children, and attempted to make child pornography. What is not said is whether he took lewd photos of children in that time, or he merely photographed children in innocent positions that he turned his disgusting mind to evil acts later.
Notice the interesting nature of it, the news says: “Child pornography,” but then obscures certain details, so that it could be that certain pictures were not actually porn, but were in that context. Now it may be there were lewd photos taken in this time, but the facts of the case seem to suggest otherwise. For instance, the Prosecutor wanted to settle the case. Prosecutor’s don’t typically settle unless a) the guy is obviously guilty and it will lead to testimony to get a bigger fish b) there is little case but they need to justify the expense of the investigation and get their conviction numbers up. The latter is exactly what one article suggests:
“The prosecutor of Clay County, Missouri is “reluctant” to follow the lead of the prosecutor in Jackson County because “he wasn’t going to have a successful prosecution,” St. Louis attorney Michael Quinlan suggested.
“The prosecution is avoiding a risky trial, and the bishop is avoiding what would be a less risky trial, but certainly a tremendous expense and bad publicity and all the terrible things that go along with that,” said Quinlan, who is not involved in the case.
“I would have thought that this would suggest to the prosecuting authorities in Jackson County that they might step back from the brink, but I don’t know whether it will have that effect or not.”
In Quinlan’s view, the possibility of a conviction is “slim” and the relevant statute “simply does not apply to the circumstance.”
“I think a fair-minded jury should and would conclude that, there being no abuse victim, there could be no requirement to report,” he told CNA on Nov. 16.” [Source]
Had this despicable pedophile actually produced lewd photos in the interval of his removal by the diocese and being turned over to police, that statement could not be made. Moreover, the diocese did not cover anything up (for a change), they are the ones who notified police and turned the guy over. Not to be burned at the stake as probably should happen, but for what our society considers some measure of justice.
So the facts are, Bishop Finn and his advisers waited several months before reporting a potential pedophile and one who did have child pornography to the police, whom they had already removed after an internet technician found the images. He did not victimize children in that time, because if he did, certainly the prosecutor could have taken that to an easy conviction against Bishop Finn.
2) Considerations on Church and State
Here comes an interesting and thorny issue. The reason that the prosecution had a case at all, is that Finn settled the cases resulting from his predecessors for millions of dollars, and pledged to report crimes to police immediately. This, in my opinion, is cutting his own legs off. On the surface it sounds good, especially in light of the heinous, monstrous crimes of Bishops in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s, of actively hiding abusers and supporting them or being guilty of abuse themselves (e.g. Cardinal Bernadine). Because what they did was so evil, it seems on the surface to make sense that the civil authority automatically has jurisdiction whenever it is suspected that a priest might be engaging in any of this. I would submit to you, particularly from the Traditional Catholic perspective, that this is not the case.
Firstly, the Church is above the state. The Church, as an entity whose object is the cultivation of true religion, is a hierarchical body with laws (the foundation of Western Law to be exact), with authority that rules in a certain sphere. Then there is the state (for lack of a better term), whose object is the cultivation of good order so that men can engage in religion, which is the worship of the supreme God, and therefore the Church is of a higher order whenever those spheres overlap each other. If we follow what Pope Leo XIII calls the “poisonous error” of separation of Church and state, the result is that you have declared the state to be above the Church. Separating them doesn’t create a vacuum where they live together harmoniously, just as uniting them does not mean the Church rules every facet of the state. Or to put it another way, the state is not some neutral player in the whole business. The state, since the American and French Revolutions, has been and acted as a counter-religion, with its creeds, oaths, feast days, processions and punishments, all acting on the aboslutist monarchical model. If the Church steps back and says we are not above you, then the state steps in and says we are above you. There is no middle ground.
Secondly, we will postulate our conclusion based on its opposite. The Church has authority over the state, but it does not have absolute authority over the state. As St. Robert Bellarmine shows in book V of De Romano Pontifice, (a work which I am finally getting ready to print, btw), the Pope is not the absolute monarch of all states. Christ said very clearly “My kingdom is not of this world,” and the Fathers and doctors, including St. Thomas, all agree that the Church is not to the state like a king to his vassal. Rather, the Church exhorts authority over monarchs (in the tradition) for the defense of religion and good order, and only then is its jurisdiction over the state just. That is, in those areas where they both overlap, the Church has the right to command the state, i.e. for good order and to allow Christians to worship the true God.
Now let’s turn the other way. The state has no right to judge the Church, or subject it to its laws, because the state is of a lower order. It has no right to interfere in the cultivation of religion. That being said, just as the Pope can intervene where the state allows some injustice that is detrimental to religion, likewise, if the Church is doing something, or failing to do something, that causes detrimental effects to public order and common life, the state does have the right to step in for the sake of justice, but this right extends only to the given case where churchmen are failing. It does not have the right to in perpetuity, take over-lordship of the Church, as in some Febronian or French Revolution model. So, in the case of the monstrous crimes against humanity of the Bishops, in protecting and even allowing for the evil, satanic molestation, rape and torture of children, the state did have a right to step in and correct the Church. What is lost in these discussions, is that the state often did not step in. In Chicago, for example, the cops bowed to whatever Cardinal Bernadine said or did, and did not prosecute clear and manifest cases of child rape. For more on Bernadine, see here. Sadly, the pedophile crisis is not merely an ecclesial matter, it is endemic on the wider society, especially among the political and elite classes. Thus sadly, expecting the state to correct the problem is like letting the foxes guard the hen-house, and it evokes the Latin rendering of the phrase from Plato: “Qui custodit custodes,” – who guards the guards? The fact is the political class is even more mired in pedophilia and guilty of it than the Church. One is almost tempted to say, “Who are you to judge?”
Thus we return to Bishop Finn. Really, in a Traditional Catholic sense, there is no case against Finn for no other reason than the state has no right over him, unless he has perpetrated crimes against public order (which logically lead to cultivation of true religion in a healthy society), and here there is no indication of that. Much stronger cases could be made against say a Mahony, or a Weakland, and many others. There is, however, a reason for why the hammer has fallen on Bishop Finn.
3) Background on Bishop Finn
Since his arrival in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 2005, Finn has been a “polarizing” figure. That is, polarizing to the heterodox, and a aid and support to orthodox Catholics, as well as those who love the Church’s tradition. Finn was always a supporter of the Traditional Latin Mass, he turned the diocesan paper from a 1970’s theological toilet rag into a worthwhile Catholic publication, and as the ubiquitous Fr. Z put it, the heterodox were on a “Catholic Jihad” against Finn. This is not to say that everything about Finn was always saintly and good, who knows, and there is more research to be done. Yet it would appear, that Finn had the ire of the modernists because he attempted to foster more authentic Catholic religious life in his diocese, something the modernists, not only from the laity but also from clergy and the episcopate would be more than happy to see him go.
I find it strange that Finn decides to resign 2 1/2 years after being convicted of a misdemeanor. He was not asked to resign under Benedict, but he was almost certainly asked to resign with the current Pontiff. Why do I say that? It was only a year and a half ago, that Finn was under investigation conducted by a Canadian Archbishop. Following this, Finn was singled out in an interview by Pope Francis’ new, crisp-with-lemony-fresh-scent child abuse reformer, Cardinal O’Malley:
Particularly of note are O’Malley’s glowing appraisals of Francis. We have real change now! As if Benedict did nothing on it. The glowing appraisal of Francis is in the light of something really great is happening now. More on this below.
“There’s a recognition of that [That the case of Bishop Finn must be dealt with]. . . . One of the first things that we came up was the importance of accountability and we’re looking at how the church can have protocols and how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for protection of children in his diocese”[Source]
Nevertheless, O’Malley is often cited as a reformer, with a reputation for cleaning up the Church, particularly in Fall River, MA and Boston following up the disaster of Cardinal Law. So the left gets the Pope it hails as “their guy”, who as we noted before, thinks the reform of the reform is a mistake, and has deposed or removed bishops for no other crime than having a vision of Vatican II that Francis’ vision would appear to have no room for. After O’Malley’s declaration that the case “must be dealt with”, suddenly Finn resigns. This suggests a call from upstairs to make it nice and easy and not let it get messier. One can see Finn looking at the dignity of resigning versus Francis forcing him out. On the other hand that is just my speculation, I have no proof of that, so take it for what it’s worth.
Yet O’Malley calling out the case of Bishop Finn begs the question, so eloquently laid out by the Pope and quoted again and again, “Who are you to judge?” For O’Malley has a number of skeleton’s in his own closet.
For example we have the case of Fr. Joseph Gillespie, who was removed over allegations he propositioned a woman and her 12-year-old daughter for sex. Though the case was dismissed, Gillespie agreed to substantial facts amounting to “accosting a member of the opposite sex.” Gillespie was returned to ministry by O’Malley in 2008. The archdiocese noted that not only were the charges dismissed, but that the priest submitted to court-ordered evaluations for alcohol, psychiatric, and sexual problems. Gillespie allegedly offered to pay the girl and her mother for oral sex; he was not accused of physical contact with either person.
“At this time, Father Gillespie has satisfied all obligations to the court and has been determined fit to return to ministry,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “Father Gillespie is currently assisting parishes on an interim basis. It is expected that he soon will receive a formal assignment within the Archdiocese of Boston.”
In other words nothing to see here. He is undergoing evaluations for alcohol, sexual and psychiatric problems – meaning he could not teach an adult ed class at a community college – but he is fit for priestly ministry. Notwithstanding he actually admitted to some element of the charges, but not in a way to admit guilt. Translation – not enough evidence, but he admitted to enough to make it all go away with counseling. O’Malley’s handling of this is at least as bad as what Finn is accused of in regard to this case. But it continues.
Then there is the case of Fr. James Power, who was accused of having raped a 13-year-old boy in 1980. The diocese settled with the victim, though claiming the charge was unsubstantiated, and put him back in a parish. Then there was another allegation in 2002, from which he was removed again. An unsigned note in his personnel file read: “Positive other kids”, which was a warning that though it could not necessarily be proven, those investigating were positive there were other victims. In spite of this, O’Malley cleared him, saying it was unsubstantiated, and gave him senior priest status. [Statement of the Archdiocese of Boston, 2 January 2009] Moreover O’Malley, faithful to his promise to produce a list, did so but leaving out a large number of names, on the grounds they were dead or visiting priests, though a number were alive and well (too well). Furthermore, when he was the Bishop of Fall River MA, according to the District Attorney he allegedly, so as to shield some cases until the statute of limitations would run out, hid the full truth. [Source pg. 4.] Of course, to be fair to O’Malley, there could be considerations such as legal advice he was given, or that many of our sources come from the media which has an axe to grind against the Church.
And again, O’Malley has cleared four times the national average of priests accused of abuse. [Source, pg. 13] Has any one of those priests been accused again? Suppose, however, that we might admit any matter of every possible argument to exculpate O’Malley in this regard, the reality is then, that O’Malley harnessed the same negative media attention once directed at him where the raping of children was at issue, and used it to go after another bishop when it was not at issue. Or, again, “Who are you to judge?”
From the 60 minutes interview, linked above, we still have this rosy view of O’Malley as this humble Franciscan, unhappily a Bishop and Cardinal, who is a great reformer and cleans up abuse, and the media seems to praise him, working in close conjunction with Pope Francis who is far more loved by the media than he is by Catholics. Then we have a bishop whom the world and the media hated who the same celebrate resigning. This should cause us to raise a lot of questions and be fundamentally suspicious about the reformers, who turn a blind eye to clearly heterodox men being made bishops who have accusations far in excess of anything Finn was grossly exaggerated of doing. Namely this fellow, Bishop Barros.
Juan Carlos Cruz recalls that he and another teen boy would lie down on the priest’s bed, one resting his head at the man’s shoulder, another sitting near his feet. The priest would kiss the boys and grope them, he said, all while the Rev. Juan Barros watched.
“Barros was there, and he saw it all,” Cruz, now a 51-year-old journalist, told The Associated Press.
Barros has been tapped by Pope Francis to become bishop of a southern Chilean diocese this month, provoking an unprecedented outcry by abuse victims and Catholic faithful who contend he covered up sexual abuse committed by his mentor and superior, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, in the 1980s and ’90s. A Vatican investigation found Karadima guilty in 2011 and sentenced the now 84-year-old priest to a cloistered life of “penitence and prayer” for what is Chile’s highest-profile case of abuse by a priest.
Barros has declined to comment publicly on allegations against him. Now bishop for Chile’s armed forces, he has said he learned of Karadima’s abuse through a 2010 news report he saw on television, according to court records.
While not directly accused of abuse, Barros is said by at least three victims to have witnessed the sexual molestation at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church, part of the El Bosque parish that serves an affluent neighborhood of Santiago.
That history has parishioners, clergy and lawmakers in this predominantly Catholic country protesting the pope’s decision to appoint Barros, 58, to become spiritual leader over the diocese in Osorno, about 580 miles (930 kilometers) south of Santiago. [Source]
Dial “O” for O’Malley? Not this time. Where’s the Pope? While deposing conservative Bishops, he seems largely unconcerned about the whole affair, even though the matter is far graver than anything Bishop Finn is accused of and extremely credible. As much as things change, they really remain the same. It is the same as when we beg government to “regulate”, and then it regulates all right, in favor its friends and cronies, the big businesses whom we want regulated. Likewise, the powerful click of homosexuals and pedophiles that have infiltrated the clergy, when we ask them to regulate, they will indeed, by attacking faithful clergy on any grounds using the new policies that people demanded against them.
It is thus that the Francis effect enters new dimensions. Next effect: Cordileone.