Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why I Would Not Follow Bishop Finn Into Spiritual Battle.

Joan of Arc, by Jules Bastien-Lepage.  Joan was a real 'spiritual warrior', who got the connection between temporal and spiritual authority.
The following message from Robert Finn is pretty much standard fare for our bishops.  Finn is different though, in that he claims to be a true spiritual warrior.  Based on this letter, Bishop Finn is all talk and no walk on that issue.

Message from Bishop Finn to All in Our Diocese

The following message from Bishop Robert Finn will be read at Masses in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph this weekend:

These past few weeks all of us have endured the consequences of our human failure. The destructive sins of a few and the serious lapses in communication have caused us shame, anger, and confusion. (This is typical bishop language--all the 'we' statements as if Finn is a victim along with everyone else. He is a main part of the problem, not one of the victims.)

There are victims that are hurting, and others who have been left vulnerable by our processes. As you know, in the past two weeks one priest was arrested and we removed another from ministry. They are the first sitting pastors to be removed in our Diocese in more than 20 years. (Which is a slick way to gloss over the 10 million dollar settlement and it's other specific stipulations from 2008.)

These are sobering realities, particularly for those who knew and trusted them. We are assessing what went wrong and applying our analysis as we move forward. This past week, I met with our Independent Review Board chairman and discussed the objectivity of our decision processes. I have also met with parishioners, our priests and Chancery staff, as well as the media. These meetings and discussions will continue.

As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them. Clearly, we have to do more. Please know that we have --- and will continue to cooperate with all local authorities regarding these matters.

While we must deal with these difficult and trying issues we also must give thanks for the daily accomplishments of our lay faithful, priests and others for the many good works that continue on behalf of neighbors, sick or poor, young or old. (Thus begins the last section of his letter which jumps totally off topic.)

You generously responded to the need of people devastated by recent storms. Our food pantries and advocacy for the disadvantaged are second to none in our community.

These difficult days have also been marked with celebrations of our faith: First Communions and Confirmations, school graduations, weddings, anniversaries and Ordinations and other ceremonies. These blessings are noticed and counted, not lost.

On Pentecost Sunday, June 12, I will offer the 9:00 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Please join me.  At the same time I ask our pastors to offer the Pentecost Mass in your parishes – for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon this local Church, that God may give us whatever gifts and graces we need to carry forward His commission. 
Bishop Finn has given Catholics another typical response of a bishop who was caught not playing the game by the bishop's own rules.  He too is a victim, and although 'we' didn't quite get things right, 'we' are straightening things out and so back to business as usual because by the grace of God everything in our little diocese is really quite fine.  
But then, in this article, from KSHB the local NCB affiliate,  we have the thoughts to two different groups of laity.  One group is protesting outside the cathedral and one group is across the street praying:
Bishop Finn has apologized several times for 'not doing enough' to stop the alleged behaviors. However, those words of remorse have fallen on deaf years for some long-time Catholics.
Edith Beverly Hurlbert, a member of Holy Family Parish, explained, “We cannot endanger our children, they are our future generation. They are our future."

However, those who believe in the bishop's abilities argue the battle can only be won through prayer.
Roper said, “The true enemy here, Beth, is not someone in a Roman collar. The true enemy is the one we all fight. It is the evil one."
Oh my, it's not Finn and his administration, it's the 'evil one', and the only people really empowered to fight the 'evil one' are Finn and his administration. That's pretty slick if you think about it.  It's also the product of Finn's preaching and teaching.  I've written about Finn and his 'teaching' before.  There is no ideology better at keeping laity powerless and clericalism prominent than that of Satan and his war for our individual souls.  It's militarism on supernatural steroids.  
The best part about this ideology, at least for Finn, is that 'we' are under attack and 'we' need to stick together. In Finn's thinking it was those individual priests who succumbed to Satan's power which caused all this, not 'we' who stand right with the Lord and certainly not Finn because Finn is a leader in God's spiritual army on Earth.  Finn is an ordained  bishop in the Church Militant.  Unfortunately for Finn, Jesus taught something entirely different.
In Jesus's teaching, spiritual authority and power came from the proper and demonstrated exercise of temporal authority. Which only makes sense.  Why would one be given power and authority in the spiritual realm if one was brainless about it's exercise in the temporal realm?  It's the whole point about servant leadership and the denial of constantly caving in to ego wants and needs.  One must die to the 'self', and this means giving up ego driven notions of temporal authority and power.  Mathew 16-18 comes right after Peter has been given the power to bind and loose and then demonstrates he totally doesn't get what Jesus is about:

He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."19 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, 20 take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 21
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

So, based on Finn's actions under temporal duress, would I personally follow Bishop Finn into a spiritual battle with Satan and his minions?  Not in a million years.


  1. Thanks for pointing out how cleverly he shifts the blame from himself to the laity. Any ethical leader would write the first sentence life this: These past few weeks all of us have endured the consequences of MY human failure. The destructive sins of two priests and MY sin of covering up the actions have caused ME shame.

  2. Finn is Opus Dei, the mere laity aren't supposed to question him or his decisions, and like most members of the hierarchy, he isn't prepared to admit responsibility. Instead, he falls back on the old Flip Wilson approach that "the devil made him do it." Contrast Finn's approach with the approach Diarmuid Martin of Ireland takes. Martin truly gets it, but Finn does not. I recommend Maureen Dowd's column on Martin in today's New York Times.

  3. In addition, we also heard the "devil made me do it" approach from John Corapi and Thomas Euteneuer. We don't know how Corapi's case will end, but Euteneuer has already passed the buck onto Satan rather than admitting personal responsibility for his misconduct.

  4. Kathy, in Eutenuer's case it might actually be true. :) I had thought about contrasting Finn with Martin, but took off on another track all together. I appreciate your link to Dowd's column. The contrast couldn't be starker.

  5. Finn's projection of the evil one is really that evil part of him that he refuses to recognize. It is that part of him that made him an unworthy leader-- a leader that did not protect children. We can not follow this clerical template. This is one of the reasons so many RCC Churches are loosing membership. They fail to recognize inside each individual, clergy and laity, is a creative process to love fellow man and a destructive process to hurt man (even children). In many cases that destructive process is in the Bishops, but as was recently pointed out by Colleen (and others) it is also in a laity that hears but does nothing. dennis

  6. Bishop Finn should go to JAIL for reckless child endangerment.

    Imagine if this happened at a Chucky Cheese Restaurant. An employee had child porn pictures that he took of children inside Chucky Cheese. Management knew about it, but hid the pictures and allowed the employee further access to small children.

    Customers would boycott Chucky Cheese and have every manager thrown in jail, all the way up to the CEO.

    We can't expect the Catholic church to rise to the standards of Chucky Cheese, but they should at least have to follow the basic laws of humanity and the laws of the land.

  7. Dennis, the capacity of our bishops to project their dysfunctions onto others seems to have a sort of infallible quality--as in it's infallibly predictable.

  8. Finn reminds me of my local electric utility.
    It's abysmal. It refuses to do routine maintenance of the grid, then wonders why there are so many prolonged outages. Meanwhile, we ratepayers spend day after day without power. Our health, safety and security are compromised. The utility wonders why we are mad at them.
    It's the same old "poor communication" BS. Actually, both Finn and the utility are communicating total indifference to an intolerable situation. And doing it quite well.

  9. That's a great analogy trans. In both cases the money keeps rolling in from a captive audience irrespective of the service the audience receives. Maybe that's why so many Catholics are taking the 'off the grid' solution for their spiritual 'empowerment'.