The editors of the ultra-lefty National Catholic Reporter once again show their spittle-flecked contempt for the diocesan bishop where their paper’s offices are located: Most Rev. Robert Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
NCR published a letter from a priest of the Kansas City, MO diocese, Fr. Michael Gillgannon to Bishop Finn.
The letter reveals the thought processes and categories of the deeply entrenched left-leaning Catholic liberal democrat now evolving into a mean-spirited whiner in the face of a shifting American episcopate.
Fr. Gillgannon’s letter is far too long, and not always very interesting since it is pretty much a recitation of the left’s talking points. I won’t do a full fisk here. But there are a few passages to highlight. First, however, let’s see NCR’s intro about who the writer is, before the text of Fr. Gillgannon’s letter which they (but not I) print in full.
My emphases and comments.
Kansas City-St. Joesph diocese priest criticizes his bishop’s leadership
By Thomas C. Fox
Created Sep 15, 2009
Michael GillgannonMichael GillgannonFather Michael J. Gillgannon, a widely respected missionary priest of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has written an open letter to his bishop, Robert W. Finn, taking strong exception to his leadership.
Ordained in 1958, Gillgannon began his career in campus ministry in 1962 at Western Missouri State University. In 1966, he served on the advisory committee of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference for the post-Vatican II reorganization of Catholic Campus Ministry in the United States. [And wow! Has that been great!] Since 1974, he has worked as a missionary in La Paz, serving as pastor of San Antonio Parish, as episcopal vicar of the Eastern Deanery of La Paz, and as national chaplain for Bolivian Campus Ministry. He is the founder and director of campus ministry for the La Paz, Bolivia Archdiocese and and occasional writer for NCR.
September 11, 2009
Dear Bishop Finn,
Greetings from Bolivia. …
… You have made many changes in the diocese since you came with a particular agenda. You appear to me and many priests of my generation who lived the Spirit filled days of Vatican II as one whose task is to reverse the changes of that great event. You have given the impression that your changes were for the sake of a narrow “orthodoxy” which seems to imply that the bishops and priests and laity before you were not orthodox. [If the shoe fits, Father, if the shoe fits… It is clear, however, that the writer is wholly convinced and entrenched in his position and that he belongs to the "rupture" crowd, not the "continuity" contingent.]
… You give the impression you are not working from a pastoral model of unity with respect for diversity, a more traditional Catholic practice, but from an ideological desire for a narrow uniformity and an even narrower spirituality.
More recently, however, I have been deeply concerned by your pastoral document, co-authored with Archbishop Naumann, on health care in the United States. Many priests and laypeople have wondered about your applications of the principles of Subsidiarity and Personal Responsibility. [And here is a talking point straight from Pres. Obama’s stump speeches… which POTUS himself is now backing away from…] 47,000,000 citizens in the world’s richest country are without health care. The national arguments for change have been going on for years. We cannot leave those poor without care. Your document seems to say the poor must fend for themselves and take better care of themselves. [Nice way to talk to the bishop, right?] …
Another problem of concern is the pastoral document on the 2008 elections you authored. You, Bishop, and many bishops of your generation, [Remember McBrien’s whine about the change in the episcopate? This is a serious nightmare for the editors of the NCR, it seems. They are obsessed with this.] seem to be proposing [wait for the cliche…] a one-issue public dialogue on political candidates and platforms which deny the Catholic Tradition of social teaching on a wide range of issues expressed in the Seamless Garment social teachings of Cardinal Bernardin and his generation of prelates. [What a revealing phrase that was!] And which I was taught in the seminary of the ’50s and later in the documents of Vatican II. [Note how the writer puts all these on pretty much the same level.]
Later when some 60 or so Catholic Bishops of your generation condemned [gasp] the new president on pro-life issues you failed as teachers. [Nice, huh? Remember, this is a priest writing to his own diocesan bishop in a "Catholic" newspaper published in that same diocese and then distributed in print and on the internet. This is public.] Your style and your strategy finds resonance with [cliche alert] only a small segment of the Church [I have written about this tactic several times. Liberals of the McBrien and NCR stamp will always try to minimize the numbers of those who are conservative of traditional. It is an attempt to trivialize the opposition and give more weight to their own positions.] and the wider American public you would like to influence. You may think of yourself and the others as defending human life by speaking the “truth” to power but you seem to most of us as pushing your own political agenda [You knew it had to happen. The writer’s letter sounds as if it were written with talking points from ACORN and the DNC, but it is the bishop who is being political!] and not the wisdom of Catholic teaching. [Which he knows and the bishop obviously doesn’t.] And worse, you give the impression that those who disagree with you are opposed to the defense of life. [Remember: this guy is a Bernardin/McBrien/Reese/Kmiec Catholic.]
[Now, watch this….] How pro-life have you been on Iraq and Afghanistan? Have you questioned the new American practice of hiring the poor and the marginalized without other job opportunities as mercenaries to fight and die in our wars? … Have you formed Catholic consciences on war and armaments and national defense budgets? [blah blah]
We have many wonderful values in our Church and in our country. But our civil and ecclesial divisions and the acerbic and accusatory tenor of our dialogues could end our acceptance of others and respect for difference. [Look who’s talking!] Particularly when ideologies replace reasoned pragmatic, but ethical, solutions. [Put down your coffee amd read this next part with amazement…] You do not have a coherent or compelling vision of Church teaching or of pastoral strategies that can convert people and change their attitudes and actions. That is why your leadership, and that of many other American Bishops, is questioned so deeply. Our church is more divided among leadership and faithful than at any time in my life of 76 years, and 51 years as a priest. We have to ask ourselves why so many Catholics are leaving the Church. Are they sinners? Or searchers? A search to which our in-house quarrels have not responded. [Sounds like the same message NCR pushed through McBrien, right?]
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. Michael J. Gillgannon
First, were I this priest’s bishop, I would be very tempted to suspend him if he did not issue a public apology in the same newspaper. I would suspend him because of his public show of disrespect, amounting to an attack on the character of the bishop. It is a clear attempt to undermine the bishop’s authority in his diocese, and harm his reputation in a contumacious way. Had this letter been private, I would not go that far. It is also possible that the priest in question wasn’t fully cognizant of what he was doing. That would have to be assessed as well.
Second, I understand that Bishop Finn is a kind soul, but I wonder how much longer he will put up with the National Catholic Reporter before he does something about it using the word "Catholic" in its name.
Third, NCR is filled with boot-shaking, pants-wetting, blood-chilling terror at what is happening in the episcopate of the Church in the United States.
Lastly, shame on the editors of the NCR for using this old priest, for their own hateful purposes. Shame on them. Even the the priest was a willing victim, shame on them.
This isn’t an isolated event. A few years ago 60% of the priests in our diocese signed a letter calling for the resignation of our bishop only because they didn’t like him, not because of any public sin.
We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have too few priests as it is and if those who are heterodox were to be suspended or defrocked or something similar, I’m afraid we’d only have very few orthodox priests left. Our parish priest is so-so but every one else in the diocese, it seems, teeters on the edge of heresy. Furthermore, we had 5 ordinations to the Diaconate this year one was a married man and the rest were African men on loan from Uganda. Our diocese is in trouble.
Father Z:You are absolutely correct.
I met and spoke with Bishop Finn. He is a fine man, an exemplary priest and bishop.
This absolute insubordination from one of his own priests, in a public forum, is a scandal.
Like I said in another post, I feel something is going to happen…soon…I don’t know what.
But may the Lord Jesus, His Mother Mary, and Saint Joseph grant fortitude, grace and benediction to all those who want to be Catholic in union with our Holy Father Benedict, the Bishops and priests in union with him.
Ordained in 1958, this priest must be about 83 or more. He is still living in Bolivia.
His writing coaches must have searched long to find someone to write this letter.
The NCRegister seems to be printing letters like this from priests and nuns almost daily.
It is like the opening salvo of an attack like the Battle of the Bulge of the Germans after the allied breakout from the beaches after D-Day in 1944.
We’ll need more than fisking to beat back this attack.
As I say, the liberal left learned their lesson well after WWII. AND IT WORKED!
All good points, Father Z and the commenters. But something has really changed in the momentum of this battle for the soul of the Church over the past few years–for such a long time, the ideas supporting this priest (and Fr McBrien as well) were accepted as representing the mind of the Church in the US. Now, Bishop Finn and some other prelates are taking away the monopoly of heterodoxy in the forum and its supporters’ momentum in the battle of ideas. If the priests in this camp and their supporters are having to wage battle in a public, non-official publication like NCR, then perhaps things are going better for the side of contiunity than I had hoped.
The NCReporter sure seems scared…
If this were not the Diocese of Kansan City-St. Joseph, it would be worrisome indeed. Looks like the left is out to topple Finn the way they got Martino. The good people of KC-SJ like and admire Bishop Finn greatly and won’t let it happen. By-the-by, wouldn’t it be good if we all were to drop Bishop Martino a short, hand-written note expression solidarity and support? (Be sure to mark “personal and private” on the envelope!)
Interesting signature on this petition in favour of wimminpriests.
1) Many years ago, I was chatting about the state of the Liturgy with a Dominican sister who played the organ quite well. I expressed a strong desire to see the tide turn in liturgical circles, and I think she was with me at least part of the way. But she admonished me that, after so many years of the Liturgy being what it is, my wanting to change it made me, by definition, the “liberal”, and anyone who wanted it to stay the same to be automatically “conservative”. I believe this is the core of “spin”.
2) When I go to my private Dr. and pay $40 for 10 minutes of his and his staff’s time – that’s “health care”. When he sends me down to the local pharmacy (I won’t mention which) that has seasonal antibiotics for free – that’s also “health care”. If they don’t have it, and I go across the street to the mega-discount chain pharmacy and spend $4 – again, that’s “health care”. Most of the US bishops are encouraging Catholics to speak out for needed health care reform – even using that phrase consistently. They MUST realize that both people in D.C. and many Democrat Catholic followers equate (i.e. absolutely synonymous) health care with “health insurance”. And that opens up the whole negative can of worms on rough-shod capitalism, which then brings in the much touted, single-payer, “public option” – which is pure Socialism.
Many of our bishops, and their newsprint mouthpieces, are (I think) on the very edge of being in inappropriate in their secular politics. And they are leading their flocks down that same political road. It is shameful.
The whole letter is bizarre and contradictory, accusing the bishop of the very things he and “his generation: have been doing for years:
– repeats the need for conciliation and dialogue while attacking his own bishop full-force;
– laments the bishop’s narrowness and rigidity while harping on the same old liberal issues;
– says that the church has never been so deeply divided as it is with “so many Catholics leaving the Church” under bishop’s leadership while forgetting that many more were leaving while his generation was in charge;
– accuses the present bishop of pushing his own agenda, while pushing his own;
– states that the bishop is putting politics over Church teaching while parroting Democratic talking points on health care, etc.,
Yes, the old leftys are getting desperate.
Dr. Eric beat me to it. I recall we reside in the same diocese. The resignation of Bp. Martino has me worried b/c of this type of open disobedience and criticism of the bishop, making him look bad and spiraling things out of control, becoming unmanageable. This type of mutiny could lead to a successful deposing of a good bishop by a liberal priest population with some liberal laity helping along.
Why should this particular priest have anything meaningful to say about Bp. Finn’s management of the diocese when Fr. hasn’t resided there in thirty years or more?
Yes, I agree. This priest needs to be suspended and/or retired and, like Father Thomas Quinlan of the Diocese of Richmond, be silenced and prohibited from preaching in public ever again.
Secondly, I also agree that it’s time Bishop Finn direct to remove the word “Catholic” from the NCR’s title, for it does not represent (and, at times, is hostile to) the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church.
[EVERYONE: read this. Tim Ferguson hits another home run!]
The letter I would like to see…
Dear Father Gillgannon,
Until now, you have served as a missionary in the Archdiocese of La Paz, as a fidei donum priest (cf. cc. 271 and 782, 2). I understand that your work has been commendable. Yet, you remain incardinated in this diocese.
At the current time, I have need of your services, and, reminding you of your promise of obedience, which you renew annually at the Chrism Mass, I would invite you to make plans to complete your ministry in La Paz and return to this diocese as soon as possible. I will give you five days to have your bags packed, and a plane ticket is enclosed with this letter.
The particular ministry I have in mind for you, Dear and Reverend Father, is to assist me in understanding and implementing certain canons. In particular, canons 1369, calling for a just penalty to be applied to one who “in published writing…gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hated or contempt against religion or the Church;” 1373, calling for a just penalty for one who “publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against an ordinary.” These canons need further study, and I hope you can assist me in determining what just penalties would apply to those who would be found guilty of such delicts.
I realize that your long residence away from this diocese has left you with considerable gaps in your understanding of the realities on the ground here, and so I am not intending to provide you with any public ministry, and will accordingly revoke your faculty to preach or hear confessions until I have the confidence in your ability to carry out these vital ministries in a manner suited to the needs of the faithful here in Kansas City.
Having read some of your recent writings, offering criticism of my pastoral ability here in the diocese, I intend to employ you as a close collaborator to assist me in honing my governance of the diocese. So close, in fact, Reverend and Dear Father, that you should dismiss any thought of being outside my line of vision at any time in the immediate future. I look forward anxiously to your return.
I also would wish to see the “Catholic” taken from the title. And the sad thing is that this sort of tripe is subscribed to by many parishes, including the last two I belonged to as well as the America magazine. So much for ‘peace and justice’ as these rags give those terms a bad name.
But there is always opposition from within and without, is there not?
And at least, thanks be to God, after all these years the tide does seem to be turning. Let us continue to pray for HOLY appointments to the episcopate!
Well, I think His Excellency will act on this one. He’s seen what happened to Bp. Martino, and may well know a bunch more about it than has been released for even semi-private consumption.
I’m looking forward to an episcopal hammering. After all, the further over his head somebody tries to go, the more surely that His Excellency’s opponents will be smacked down that much harder.
The laity in the Church needs to see that a letter like this is still punishable, and the Church could well use the, say, banning of the NCDistorter from all parish and related property in his diocese and an episcopal order for the Distorter to remove “Catholic” from tis name. It would be good for vocations, among other things. I bet, too, that Bishop Finn would receive much support from his young and/or “Benedictine” brother bishops.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens. The promoters of doctrinal and liturgical stupidism already brought down one good bishop; let us pray that this time it is the Church which wins the battle.
NCR is filled with boot-shaking, pants-wetting, blood-chilling terror at what is happening in the episcopate of the Church in the United States.
The curses, screams, and violence are always worst at the tail end of an exorcism. But in the end, the victim is either freed or dead. KC-SJ can afford to lose a “Catholic” journal, if need be.
I’m sure that +Finn is in full possession of the facts in this matter and will deal with Fr. Gillgannon as he thinks best. I do not envy
him the task.
For those of us “in the pews”, there is not much we can do besides offer the good Bishop our support. William, in his comment @ 3:57
pm had an excellent suggestion — we should write to +Finn and express our appreciation, promise our prayers, and let him know that
we stand behind him. If we had done such for the excellent Bishop Martino, perhaps the diocese of Scranton would still have a bishop.
A quick google will get one the e-mail or snail mail address for either bishop.
There are two important points:
1. “seminary of the ‘50s” and frequent references to “generations” indicate that the Reverend Father is mired in the past and unwilling to progress forward with the times.
2. Yes, a small segment of Catholics are actively interested in the ‘reform of the reform’. But that doesn’t mean a large segment is interested in the outdated theology of yesterday (see point 1). Most will follow where their pastors lead. Luckily, one of these small segments is bigger/younger (see point 1 again) than the other.
Oh, and a third point…if this continues this blog may become What does the Prayer & Tim Ferguson Really Say. Awesome few days of comments!
Considering the past few weeks, perhaps Fr Z will open a book on how much longer the NCR has left? Opening odds of 20-1 for two years seem realistic, but they may shorten soon.
Since 1974, he has worked as a missionary in La Paz, serving as pastor of San Antonio Parish, as episcopal vicar of the Eastern Deanery of La Paz, and as national chaplain for Bolivian Campus Ministry.
If anybody wants to know what Latin American Catholicism is so weak, so outmodedly leftist and emotional and ultimately meaningless in most people’s lives…look to the United States. We flooded Latin America with people like this.
El Opus has had a big effect there and also some of their newer bishops are beginning to stand up for orthodoxy. But it’s not going to be easy. The worst groups, in the sense of being most hostile to orthodox Catholicism, were Americans and Spaniards. Paradoxically, Opus Dei (a Spanish movement) has been very influential in correcting things, although unfortunately, I believe unorthodox American clergy are still holding their own and corrupting a very innocent group of faithful. But we all know what happens to those who offend against these little ones…
Just so you all know H.E. Bishop Helmsing of Kansas City-St. Joseph, did in fact order them to remove the word Catholic from their name in 1968.
“IN AS MUCH as the National Catholic Reporter does not reflect the teaching of the Church, but on the contrary, has openly and deliberately opposed this teaching. I ask the editors in all honesty to drop the term “Catholic” from their masthead. By retaining it they deceive their Catholic readers and do a great disservice to ecumenism by being responsible for the false irenicism of watering down Catholic teachings.”
http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00Cofv (not that good with the html stuff yet)
Craig – I think you left out the absolute best sentence in that letter: “I further ask the editors and the board of directors, for the love of God and their fellow men, to change their misguided and evil policy; for it is evident to me that they have already caused untold harm to the faith and morals not only of our laity, but of too many of our priests and religious.”
As to the letter, I cannot possibly fathom a priest speaking to his superior in such a manner. It is positively unconscionable.
Good Seminarians get bounced out of the Seminary for being too traditional or devotional and what graduates is the likes of this Priest? Something is so very wrong. Stay with us Bishop Finn.
I find it incredibly ironic that the NCR just a few days ago had a piece on how “incivility is hurting the pro-life cause.” It makes reference to Fr Rosica’s comments on the Kennedy funeral that “Civility, charity, mercy and politeness seem to have dropped out of the pro-life lexicon.” I guess that warm fuzzy feeling of civility has just been flung out NCR’s window.
Cardinal Mahoney went after Mother Angelica for her “critique” of his Letter on the Eucharist.
This ended in a Vatican Visitation of her contemplative community.
And now this; public insubordination of an incardinated priest of the Diocese against his own Bishop?
Pray God, there will be canonical consequences. Not because of vengeance. But for true justice. The good Bishop’s name and reputation requires this. Thank you, Tim F., for your most excellent post.
What a piece of work this “priest” is. A public apology, and a long suspension without faculties, would be a first step.
If he went back at it, I would vote for him being defrocked. We do not need the likes of him undermining the Church.
Look, this priest is an old doubleknit dinosaur. The biological solution will work just fine in this instance. If I were Bishop Finn I would ignore him. He is as inconsequential to modern Catholics as is the National Catholic Reporter. Tom
I disagree, Thomas. People have to be shown that this kind of thing will not be tolerated. The man represents the church and is being paid by the Church and he is taking her for granted and undermining her. Remove his faculties and insist that he shut up & back down if he wants to be paid his wage and wants his insurance to continue. Period.
“How pro-life have you been on Iraq and Afghanistan? Have you questioned the new American practice of hiring the poor and the marginalized without other job opportunities as mercenaries to fight and die in our wars? … Have you formed Catholic consciences on war and armaments and national defense budgets? [blah blah]”
I’m not trying to be obtuse here, but, why does this paragraph get a “blah blah” fisk? I agree abortion is a paramount issue, does that mean a Catholic who thinks with the Church on abortion, but not on, say, exploitation of the poor, gets a free pass? Some of the things mentioned in the paragraph sound to me like liberal talking-points, but is there really no substance to it at all?
Jeffrey, very little. This letter is just a recounting of the talking points of the progressives, most of whom wouldn’t know real injustice if it bit them on the rear end. In most cases, this kind of ranting is just a lot of nonsense cover for what really ails them, which is that they can’t party on without guilt. It’s disgusting, because it’s inane (and incoherent) in the first place, and spineless in the second place.
It’s spineless because progressives who are jonesing to go on a bender (sex, disobedience, politics, whatever) so badly that they’d destroy the church to do it, ought to just drop the guilt crap, grow up, and make the decision about what they’re going to do, for pete’s sake, and leave the rest of us the heck alone about it.
This case boils down to a clear scenario: The priest doesn’t like to be told what to do and thinks he still ought to get paid and respected. He thinks he can undermine everything and bad-mouth his bishop in whose name he works. WRONG. Set the old codger straight. Now.
NCR is filled with boot-shaking, pants-wetting, blood-chilling terror at what is happening in the episcopate of the Church in the United States.
OK, that was enough to send me over to N”C”R and peruse a little. Wow, I feel much better now about the chances of the reform of the reform succeeding.
“Spirit filled days of Vatican II”
Sounds like “in the Spirit of Vatican II”, that void formula that we heard so often up to boring and even nausea.
So much that I couldn’t read one line more of this letter.
Bishop Finn is a very good man. KC-SJ is very lucky to have him. I hope he is with us a long time. Shortly after he took over the diocese, he removed McBrien’s articles from the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Key. I knew then that the diocese had a winner.
The more I learn, the more I wonder: just what the heck happened to the seminaries in the 40s and 50s? People often portray the Church as ultra-conservative in the 50s and then trying to keep up with social changes in the 60s; but the seminaries were already forming the priests in the 50s who were so eager to tear out the Communion rails and everything that went with them in the 60s. It seems the seminaries were on the leading edge of the rupture, not just carried along with societal changes.
Yes, that’s exactly what Obamacare opponents want: let the poor fend for themselves. We’re all just heartless capitalist pigs, sitting around in our exclusive country clubs, smoking cigars and wearing monocles and thinking up new ways to steal from poor people. There’s no middle ground on health care at all: either you want a comprehensive government plan or you wish poor people would die.
There was a rant from a priest like this before. He nailed his points to the Church door, and was excommunicated. His name was Luther.
This ‘priest’ needs a serious smackdown NOW!
‘Way to go, Tim Ferguson! Too bad you couldn’t have been a Bishop! As Fr. Z said, ‘Another home run’!
Great response Tim, now his Excellency need only cut, past, print, fold, seal, stamp and mail. :)
In all fairness, I can empathize with Fr. Gillgannon. Keeping in mind that “empathy” does not mean “agreement”, this paragraph struck a particular chord:
“You have made many changes in the diocese since you came with a particular agenda. You appear to me and many priests of my generation who lived the Spirit filled days of Vatican II as one whose task is to reverse the changes of that great event. You have given the impression that your changes were for the sake of a narrow “orthodoxy” which seems to imply that the bishops and priests and laity before you were not orthodox.”
I only hope that Fr. Gillgannon is honest enough to not only recognize that this is *exactly* what happend to the Church following Vatican II, but also that the changes being made by Bishop Finn are much gentler, more pastoral and much more sensitive to the needs of the faithful.
Aaron: I concur.
This is one of the most baffling things to me: what, in heaven’s name, happened to these priests trained in a supposedly ‘orthodox’ era? I know, from personal experience, how overnight, some of these priests, who were once so solid, went a little nutty.
Our present Holy Father, Hans Urs von Balthsar, and Henri de Lubac (to name just three) rejected the “Neo-Scholastic” method (and not Saint Thomas Aquinas, I might add) to a return to the sources, the Patristics and mediaeval theologians (St. Bonaventure), to deepen and enliven their understanding of Catholic Tradition. Maybe this is the key; I do not know. The false interpretation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in the ’60s, due to the media leaks and false ‘reading’ of the Council have contributed to a massive loss of faith in priests, religious and laity that were living in this time. Thank God, Pope Benedict XVI is trying to return, with the “hermeneutic of continuity”, to the authentic teachings of the Council in the Light of Sacred Tradition.
Well, it is very sad, but the man is very old, and I agree that this may be just a disappointed squawk at seeing how the Spirit is moving these days. The poor man is seeing the Signs of the Times, and he doesn’t like them. He needs to open a Window, obviously.
I often take comfort in the memory of the short periods of iconoclausm in the history of the church. I think one day the fifty year twentieth century smash-up will fade from anything but a poignant story in the history books.
This priest wants attention just like crybaby McBrien. Ignore him. That’s the worst punishment he’ll get in this life. Tom
A superb, courageous, articulate letter, Fr Z. Thanks for posting it here.
Fomenting hatred against the pastors of the Church is a canonical offense, isn’t it?