Monday, September 19, 2005

Finn de Siècle

Robert Finn, the rookie bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, was profiled last weekend in the Kansas City Star.

Apparently, the Old Guard out in Northwest Missouri won't get over Finn's axing of McBrien's column from the Catholic Key, his preferred style of governance and the downsizing of a questionable (not to mention wildly expensive) lay-formation program.

The former curialists sound uber-bitter:

[The former chancellor] who served the diocese 21 years, sees Finn as part of a nationwide pattern of new bishops who “will interpret more the letter of the law,” he said. “In this diocese, we were used to people interpreting more the spirit of the law.”

This change in theological philosophy reflects broader changes.

“Now Rome seems to be more concerned with appointing people who pass the (theological) litmus test,” said the Rev. Pat Rush, who has left the post of vicar general to return to a parish. “When Boland came along, Rome was appointing more pastoral bishops.”

Good God, people! A bishop is a bishop is a bishop -- what don't you get?! These guys sound just as vile as the Mahony-haters. Left and right, all losing their minds together.... How Catholic.

As for the bishop, he's basically on the defensive for the whole interview, but he holds his ground. The really weird thing is that Helen Gray of the Star interviewed Ray Boland, the bishop-emeritus. Um... not the best understanding of the church's institutional culture. But I digress....

Finn on McBrien:

Finn said McBrien, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, questions and in some cases opposes Catholic authority and such teachings as lifelong priestly celibacy. He said he frequently attacks people and groups faithful to the church.

As the local bishop, Finn is publisher of the diocesan newspaper and has the authority to determine what goes in and stays out.

“His articles and rather skeptical and cynical approach are in almost every case in opposition to my own goals for the diocese,” the bishop said. “It seems foolish to offer him a pulpit to undermine church teaching.”

Finn on the job:
“My work is primarily with the people,” he said. “I love going to the parishes. I love going to confirmations. I love meeting the people.”

Ideally, every parish should have a pastor, he said. About a dozen don’t have resident pastors, with several headed by pastoral administrators instead of priests.

“Only a priest can hold the title of pastor and administrator,” he said. “You can have lay pastoral administrators in an emergency. The bishop can assign certain administrative duties to laity. As far as worship, teaching and governance, lay people can have a role, but parishes need a pastor.”

The shortage of priests is a pressing problem, and encouraging more men to enter the priesthood is one of Finn’s priorities. But both Finn and Boland are heartened that recent recruitment efforts have resulted in 10 new seminarians who began study this fall.

In the midst of this period of transition as Finn adapts to the diocese and parishioners adapt to him, Finn is looking forward to moving toward “wherever our Lord wants us to be.”

Such a good man. Tip and thanks to Fred for sending.



Blogger Jeff said...

Always enjoy your generosity toward those "cons" that you find attractive, Rocco. And I appreciate, too, your attempts to cultivate a DEVOTIONAL attitude toward bishops in general; it's something too many of us lack! What wonders what would happen if we spent as much love and prayer time on our bishops as we do on the Holy Father!

19/9/05 21:04  
Blogger Curmudgeon said...

Certainly didn't expect to see Rocco taking Finn's side of this, but I'm pleasantly surprised now and then.

We in Kansas City are blessed to have Finn. He seems to have not only the correct understanding of the bishop's office, but also the patience and personality to set things aright.

Rocco doesn't know the Kansas City Star's religion reporting, which is awful. Nothing but syncretic fluff. Actually, the article was better than one would expect from the Star.

Bishop Boland's comments were a bit of a shock. Not his content--but that he actually admitted that he didn't really run the diocese; he left that to men like Chancellor Noonan, who (in the same article), said he was guided by the "spirit" of whatever, and didn't worry so much about the letter of the law as it was bosh. I addressed this in my own blog post on the article yesterday.

However, there's no comparison the KC Old Guard to the anti-Mahoney contingent. The anti-Mahoneyites are criticizing Cardinal Rog for leading people away from the doctrine and discipline of the Universal Church. The Finn-haters are whining because he's leading people back to them.

19/9/05 22:04  
Blogger Jeff said...


I think there's something to be said for going soft on Mahoney. After all, the Holy Father does!

I suspect that this has something to do with piety toward the Episcopate. My guess is that Rome sees that in the end, if we criticize too much even when we are justified, we end up diminishing the Episcopate itself. Not that Bishops can't do that without our help! But love of Bishops should be part of Catholic piety, difficult though that may be.

Patience, patience, as the Holy Father has told us.

19/9/05 22:27  
Blogger Curmudgeon said...

Well, one can't blame people for loving the Church more than a particular bishop or even a particular Pope; to love the mitre and crosier more that the fellow who happens to possess them. The episcopal or pontifical office, like the Church, are the permanent things, and we must recognize that the men exercising them, whatever graces they have, are not.

That being said, I acknowledge that obedience is important. Indeed, as Chesterton observed (and I quoted at length a couple of days ago), to obey a weak man is discipline; to obey a strong one is merely servility. However, to call out another man's disobedience (and not merely his weakness) is not disobedience, whatever the shape or color of his hat.

19/9/05 23:02  
Blogger Curmudgeon said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

19/9/05 23:02  
Blogger Jeff said...


Well, you may be right. Still, the very act of setting one's self up to judge has something corrosive about it. And it ends up leading to resolving all doubtful cases in favor of one's own judgment and against that of disfavored bishops: E.g. the recent contretemps over McCarrick's use of the name of Allah in his benediction for the King of Jordan.

I think that, for myself at any rate, the cultivation of a filial attitude is a good antidote to the temptation to let ecclesiastical matters adapt themselves to the pattern of secular politics. Not that I don't see plenty of excuses for falling into that temptation!

I've just found your blog, by the way, and I'm enjoying it!

(I post my email every once in a while because Rocco at times has required it, though his enforcement is lax!)

19/9/05 23:16  
Blogger Curmudgeon said...

Perhaps my distinction between disobedience and weakness is a way to approach things with a filial attitude. One honors dad by tolerating his mistakes from human weakness; one dishonors him and paternal authority generally by feeding his hubris or standing silent as he does harm to the family in ways that he should surely see.

(trying not to post this comment twice like I did the last one)

19/9/05 23:23  
Blogger Todd said...

Rock, just a few bits:

I would hardly characterize the former VG as "uber-bitter." He has long desired to get back to pastoring a parish and had already prepared his exit to coincide with Boland's retirement.

And regarding the former chancellor, what the story doesn't tell you is that the reassigning of duties left some holes, so he was invited back to do odd jobs on an interim basis (3 to 12 months) just weeks after being pink-slipped. It might be due to Finn's inexperience, but it remains a ham-handed way of doing business. Good leaders would avoid such things.

20/9/05 11:16  
Blogger GregY said...

"A bishop is a bishop is a bishop."
Amen. And, Rock, you know I agree with you in your impatience with the bishop-bashers on the right. Jeff seems to have the right idea that we should follow the Pope in "going soft" on Mahony & co.
On the other hand, the faithful are not required to accept their bishop's teaching when it departs from Rome. And that, I think, is what's going on here. While the bishop himself was orthodox, the reality on the ground in the parish level is that very unorthodox people were teaching, leading ministries, etc., that were, in fact, unorthodox (and it's not just the usual pelvic issues I'm talking about, but theological issues (ecclesiology, sacraments, sin, etc.). The new bishop is emphasizing orthodoxy so he's no longer "pastoral."

20/9/05 12:15  
Blogger Deep Furrows said...

I suppose that the end of New Whine must be another disappointment for Fr. Richard P. McBrien, since his Servant Leadership was a key componant of that program . . .

20/9/05 18:47  
Blogger Richard said...

"Rocco doesn't know the Kansas City Star's religion reporting, which is awful. Nothing but syncretic fluff. Actually, the article was better than one would expect from the Star."

I used to work for the Star until last year.

I'd agree with that perception.

The sports staff, on the other hand...but I digress.

Mahoney...I understand that the vitriol directed his way can be unseemly. Some people end up being defined by who they hate.

OTOH, Mahoney has things to answer for which I think we all - con, prog, trad, or whathaveyou - can agree are disturbing, and I'm speaking here to his handling of sexual abuse matters, to say nothing of his finances. The tip of the iceberg has only been seen yet of what has happened in LA, and not all of it predated Mahoney (not by a long shot). In the end it could end up dwarfing the Boston mess.

In that regard, if Mahoney is not meriting of the "hate" Rocco speaks of, one is tempted, as with many other bishops - alas! - to bring to mind Chrysostom's adage that the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bad bishops. I don't wish any such fate on Mahnoey or even those who culpability is more proven, but one can certainly understand the anger out there at what has (and still is) taking place in our dioceses.

As for his liturgy and theology, we'll leave that for another day.

Anyway, good on Rocco for his nice comments on a fine bishop. Sorry to say I'm not living there any longer.

21/9/05 13:48  

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