Saturday, September 8, 2012

Two Stories, Two Men, Same Problem

No word from Cardinal Dolan about Bishop Finn's guilty finding, and no word from Cardinal Dolan on Fr Groeschel's spewing too much honesty.  Funny, since Dolan has collaborated with both of them.  "Et tu Tim?"

I've been following the Fr Groeschel and Bishop Finn stories and have to say I have been truly saddened by the underlying implications. Too many of our clerical leadership still do not get clerical sexual abuse, but even sadder, seem incapable of processing clerical sexual abuse because they themselves are clerics.  And the other implication from these two stories is the more orthodox the clerical leader, the less their ability to rationally deal with clerical sexual abusers.

I don't honestly know if this apparent lack of rationality is intentional, in order to protect the priesthood, or if it's truly from being blinded by their own priesthood.  Here's a quote from Bishop Finn to a gathering of his diocesan priests that illustrates the 'blinded by their own priesthood' kind of thinking.  It's taken from Laurie Woodstein's article in the NY Times;
"After Father Ratigan was arrested, Bishop Finn met with his priests. Asked why Father Ratigan was not removed earlier, the bishop replied, according to the testimony, that he had wanted “to save Father Ratigan’s priesthood” and that he had understood that Father Ratigan’s problem was “only pornography."

There are two things in the above quote which I find particularly striking.  The first is Finn's admitted desire to 'save Father Ratigan's  priesthood" and the second is Finn describing Ratigan's problem as "only pornography". 

The first is the sentiment of someone who put the man's priesthood ahead of the man's needs. After all, Ratigan did immediately attempt suicide once Finn's vicar, Robert Murphy confronted him.  Rather than send Ratigan to a local  psychiatrist,  Finn sent him to an out of state psychiatrist affiliated with Opus Bono Sarcedotti.  OPB is yet another Tom Monaghan/Legatus funded right wing organization.  One of the reasons for it's existence, other than functioning as sort of a job placement agency for accused priests, is to defend priests from false allegations. The psychiatrist, Richard Fitzgibbons, returned Ratigan back to Finn after a 48 hour stay with a report that Ratigan suffered from depression and was most likely a victim of unfounded harassment from school principle Julie Hess. Poor Fr Ratigan was not any sort of pedophile or clerical abuser.  Since Ratigan has subsequently pleaded guilty to federal counts of pornographic production and was placed on a suicide watch, it seems Dr Fitzgibbons let his agenda blind him to the real needs of his suicidal patient.  Exactly like Bishop Finn couldn't see past Ratigan's dog collar to deal with the real severely hurting human behind the collar.  For both men it was about 'saving Ratigan's priesthood', and not his life.  I didn't write that last sentence to make a victim out of Ratigan, but to illustrate the point that if Bishops like Finn can't even see the human need in their own priests, why in the world would we ever expect them to identify with the victims of those priests?

The second thing which I find striking is the 'only pornography' statement.  This is coming from the same man who wrote a 2007 pastoral letter on the insidious and soul destroying effects of pornography.  I don't get the implications of his observation it's 'only pornography' in regards to Ratigan.  Does he not write his own pastoral letters? If he does write those letters, does he not really believe what he writes? Or is it that he believes pornography doesn't have the same soul destroying effects on the more ontologically gifted cleric?

On to Fr Groeschel.  This story has generated enough print that one more story from me is hardly necessary, but I do have one point to stress.  The observations Fr Groeschel made to the National Catholic Register are the exact observations he has consistently made since the abuse crisis exploded in 2002.  In stories which report on his therapeutic work with offending priests he gave some of them the exact same excuses that Richard Fitzgibbons gave Shawn Ratigan:  depression and alcoholism.  These priests were victims of other issues rather than being pedophiles or abusers.  Groeschel most certainly blamed at least one victim for colluding in their abuse.  Groeschel also advocated the same line as Bill Donohue that the press was 98% wrong and pushing the abuse story out of anti Catholic animus.  

The connection between Bishop Finn and Fr Groeschel is the same connection they have with many other self described orthodox priests, bishops, and cardinals.  The reputation of the Church and the preservation of their own offices comes first, and these two self identifying marks are so closely intertwined, these men can't separate one from the other.  In other words, a media expose on the Church becomes a personal attack on Fr Groeschel, and a media expose of Bishop Finn is twisted into an attack on the Church.  In addition both of these men share the same lay enablers-- Tom Monaghan and Bill Donohue--who have taken on the crusade to see that this same confusion also exists in the minds of orthodox laity. 

Unfortunately all this accomplishes is to keep the Church from moving forward, victims from healing, and pretty much assures the same abuses and cover ups will continue.  After 10+ years of relentless exposure there is one big difference.  Neither the Bishop Finn's of the Catholic world, nor the Fr Groeschel's of the Catholic world get a free pass from laity or secular authorities.  They are finally accountable to forces outside their own egos. 


  1. Yes,

    The laity are the ones that are now taking over true ethical determination because the clerks have abrogated any personal responsibility. This is the way it must be if we are to follow The Way of Christ. There is nothing special about Orders, Baptism is what makes a person apostolic or better yet gives him or her a chance to follow The Way of Christ. Seems so many men of orders have lost their integrity and their faith in Christ and deny the Holy Spirit to attempt to enforce Episcopal rules designed to control but not to shepherd any one toward a more genuine spirituality. Rome is burning and the Vatican fire department set the fire. Too bad we remain catholic but forget the Roman part. dennis

    1. I was thinking when I was writing this Dennis about the recent remarks of Archbishop Rowan Williams. He stated his job leading the Anglican Communion was too big and too diverse for one man to do well. He thinks his title should be broken into two parts. One would be sort of a presidential position to deal with administrative and international legal aspects, and the other a spiritual leadership position.

      This is not really a bad idea for Roman Catholicism and could open up real lay input into the Vatican and various dioceses. Then guys like Finn wouldn't trip over themselves by administratively defecating on their spiritual side.

  2. Colleen, your observation here couldn't be more apt, "The reputation of the Church and the preservation of their own offices comes first, and these two self identifying marks are so closely intertwined, these men can't separate one from the other." They think Jesus and the institutional Church are one and the same, and they are not. They think the institutional Church is sacrosanct and that the institution and the leadership are above criticism, and in making these claims, they leave a lot of people damaged spiritually. If that is what passes for orthodoxy, I might well call myself heterodox.

    1. "They think Jesus and the institutional Church are one and the same, and they are not." Great insight.

      There are two Catholcisms, there is the orthodox hierarchy kind and there is the lay kind.

      The fight of the Church for two hundred years against modernism is a fight against secular authority, democracy etc.

      We in a democracy grew up with a Catholocism that existed side by side with the secular and sometimes separated and equal or unequal depending on your POV.

      For the Church there only is sin and forgiveness. If a priest falls and abuses a child, he can be forgiven. He goes on his merry way - Scot Free. In the secular half of that equation is a trial by peers and a possible jail sentence.

      The root of American culture may be Christian as the Tea Baggers now say but it is definitely an English, Free Lay Man Rights, Protestant mindset cultural Christianity. It is a northern European mindset and not a Southern Roman one.

      The secular wants to segregate a criminal element from society and the Church in many ways is blind to some crime and or criminals and does not recognize a "modern" sense of man, separate and secular from the Church.

      Which is why John XXIII and his opening of the windows with V2 caused more of a stir in a free secular country like America. Those open windows of V2 could be turned into doorways and sky bridges to the secular institutional building across the way.

      "Board up the Windows - they are evil!!!" -JPII and B16?

    2. You've made an excellent point Mike. The root of our "Christian' nation is Northern European Protestant and not Southern Roman Catholic. This difference is clearly seen in comparing the attitudes towards bribery and corruption in South America/Mexico with the US and Canada. I'm not saying we don't have corruption, but it's a different kind of corruption, almost all at the top and not through out the entire governmental system.

      You are also right about the Church seemingly unwilling to recognize a 'modern' sense of man as separate and secular from the Church---nor educated for that matter.

  3. For a better understanding of the psychology of the authoritarian see:


    the above blogs refer to the work of Bob Altemeyer.

    Altemeyer is a retired University of Manitoba professor of psychology whose book "The Authoritarians" can be downloaded from:

    "Fundamentalists…are highly likely to be authoritarian followers. They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority, and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason, and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs.

    They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times, and are often hypocrites. But they are also Teflon-coated when it comes to guilt. They are blind to themselves, ethnocentric and prejudiced, and as closed-minded as they are narrow minded.

    They can be woefully uninformed about things they oppose, but they prefer ignorance and want to make others become as ignorant as they… "


    1. I've got to down load this book. The second quoted paragraph sure seems to describe Bishop Finn, or for that matter, too many of the JPII bishops:

      "They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times, and are often hypocrites. But they are also Teflon-coated when it comes to guilt. They are blind to themselves, ethnocentric and prejudiced, and as closed-minded as they are narrow minded."

    2. This book is highly recommended. Certainly among the ten most important works of the past decade.

  4. You mention Finn's 2007 pastoral letter on pornography. At the time, he spoke to his diocesan paper in glowing terms about his efforts against the problem. The letter had been written at the request of the Anti-Pornography Task Force that he established in 2005. A 12-step program had been established by the Task Force. (Why didn't he send Ratigan there?) It is not beyond imagining that, when the Ratigan case came up, he considered himself the expert on the subject, needing no advice or direction from others.

    About 5/30/11, we mentioned here the potential gap in maturing a boy may suffer in going to a minor seminary instead of enduring the multifaceted major transition process from boyhood to young manhood that most males experience in one form or another in the teen years. Finn graduated from the St. Louis Preparatory Seminary North at age 18 and moved on to the diocesan seminary. He may have missed some enculturation and development. Another educational step he seems to have missed is serving as pastor of a parish. His record appears to show several assistant assignments but never the full burden of standing before his own parish, responsible to and for the people he faces. If that is accurate, his performance as bishop becomes easier to understand.

    1. His performance does become easier to understand, as does the performance of guys like Olmstead whose background is similar. The problem is even though I can understand where they are coming from, that understanding also includes the knowledge they are not fit for pastoral leadership in the 21st century, but then neither is the Church they represent.

  5. At your throat or at your feet, so says my father-in-law.

    Today's second reading James 2:1-6

    Sin of Partiality
    1My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
    2For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
    3and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,”
    4have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?*
    5Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor* in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?
    6But you dishonored the poor person. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court?


    1. Paul, I think a lot of the readings for the last three or four weeks have had some serious messages for contemporary society.

      The line I think is really worth contemplating may not be the most obvious: "Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?"

      It's much easier to contemplate God and find the Kingdom free of competition and the pursuit of and/or fears for one's material goods. You really can not serve two masters. The most gifted spiritual leaders I have ever been around don't have checking accounts or homes in suburbia. They also give away anything they have over their basic needs, and interestingly enough, their basic needs are always met in some form or another.

  6. Bishop Finn is my bishop. So now, I am disappointed not by just the bishop but the judge, a graduate of a Jesuit University. Finn is guilty but gets a pat on the wrist. As a retired teacher in the Kansas City diocese, I cannot tell you the physical chill I felt the first time this bishop spoke to the teachers. The whole tone of the schools changed. Within hours of his consecration, he laid off half the chancery staff. The New Wine program, developed in this diocese to train lay ministers, was abruptly stopped. He continues to ruin the lives of diocesan employees by abrupt firings. In my own parish, St Francis Xavier, a 900 seat, historically designated building, Finn is attempting to force approval of a 5 story Opus Dei dormitory on the site of the old parish school. It will reduce the parish parking to 70. The dormitory will have a 125 + seat chapel. The neighbors were not consulted nor does the Jesuit university or state university, situated between the proposed dorm, see a need. Yesterday,a chancery employee told me the bishop thanked them all for their support during this difficult time. I see that the bishop thinks he has more support than ever. We accept men to the seminary here who have been turned down by other dioceses. And, if they flunk out from this less than superior academic haven, there is a special seminary in Nebraska to assist them on to ordination. We are a demoralized church. This morning, at my Jesuit parish, we celebrated 4 priests' jubilees. The head of the province told us in his homily how he was overflowing with joy at being a Jesuit. How wonderful for him. But for over half of those in the pews, being a Jesuit or any kind of priest in not going to happen. Many of us are about to drag their other foot out the door.

    1. Finn must resign. He has no choice.

      Anyone with a computer and internet link can clearly see what has happened in Ireland and the policy announced by the pope.

      "The Pope requires any bishops who have in good or bad faith concealed information about paedophile priests, hindering investigations, to resign. Seven bishops have already resigned and some Irish dioceses are being merged in order to reduce prelate numbers and improve the quality of their service. "

      Surely Finn and Dolan, both of Irish descent, know of the situation in Ireland and the issue of "unfaithful clergy".


    2. Mary, I can certainly sympathize, because when Robert Morlino was shipped into Helena, it was the same sort of my way or the highway wrecking ball kind of thing. He used to spend all this time courting young seminarians, the more worldly saw through him instantly and referred to him as the sugar plum fairy.

      It's the same thing with all these guys. It's like they are working on merit badges or something. First they assert their authority and bully their programs into existence. They preach an absurd form of retro conservatism and use pre Vatican II ritual and costuming. They collect seminarians no matter the qualifications and ordain same. I bet the Nebraska seminary you mention has a lot of suspect seminarians from more dioceses than yours.

      I have no doubt Finn will not resign nor will he be booted out. He's exactly what Ratzinger wants in a Bishop. And yes, I suspected a slap on the wrist when the Judge allowed a bench trial. What really would irritate me if I was in your diocese is the 1.3 million you had to pay so Finn could defend himself on a misdemeanor. The sad thing is he probably would have gotten the same sentence if he had defended himself at no cost to the diocese. I imagine his ego was too big to do anything like that. He had to have a legal bill to match his cappa magna. Guys like Finn and Morlino and Burke make me literally sick.

      This is not Christianity. This is a cultic Roman circus. I'd rather watch football.

    3. Paul, I really seriously do not think Finn will resign. Not for one single nanosecond.

      American Catholicism is run as much by Carl Anderson and his Legatus buddies as it is Pope Benedict. Finn has no worries what so ever at all. He was a victim of 'anti catholic US media' and didn't do anything really wrong because Ratigan was not charged with actual sexual abuse 'it was just pornography'.

      Even the bishop up in your area of the woods who was caught with his lap top full of porn and Thai passport stamps, asked to be laicized before he was forced to resign.

  7. How much evidence do people like Tom Monaghan and Bill Donohue need before they realize they are defending a profound sham? They must feel as if they are under siege. It's almost/actually is becoming surreal! These kinds of stories have been coming out for years now. Every few months another cleric implodes, another country implicated in these cover-ups and institutionally protective machinations. With each new revelation, their claim to sole teaching authority grows ever louder and more crass while their fingers point ever more harshly toward their problems with others, the media, gay people, secularism, Nuns! Meanwhile, they loom smaller and anachronistic in the eyes of lay people utterly appalled and the baseness of it all.

    If I stay involved at all, it is to become a thorn on the vine pricking the egotistical complacency and triumphalism that has consumed the clerical order of the Church and blinded them to the folly of their systemic necrosis...

    1. I don't think there is enough evidence. I think they are willingly part of the sham.

    2. As in they don't really care if it's all true or not, only that it is threatening their partisan position/the institution. Are they not fathers of children? You'd think that at some point they would become so appalled and disgusted by these henious acts that they at least would give up defending them. What if it had happened to their own children? It boggles the mind...

  8. I just found this blog and am glad I did.

    I see the church selling out to the most conservative, reactionary, laity, priests and bishops, not caring that the rest are leaving, only glad that the 'true' faithful stay.And when I think about Christ's teachings, I see a church more interesting in surviving then in the people it is supposed to serve.

    1. The hierarchy is selling out, but the Church, otherwise known as the People of God, are finding their voice. Right now it's a whisper and a babble in the wilderness, but it's growing and maturing--and it's getting louder and more articulate.

      In time, given enough motivation--and that is the job of the hierarchy one way or another--it will be a force to reckon with and an energy capable of changing everything.

      Just like we're supposed to be.