Archbp. Naumann (Archd. KC) on Bp. Finn (D. KC-St. Joseph) and the Kansas City Star

His Excellency Most Rev. Joseph Naumanm, Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas – on the other side of the river from the homoynmous city in Missouri, has waded into the issue of the indictment level at Bp. Robert Finn of Kansas City – St. Joseph.

This is Archbishop Naumann’s column from their diocesan paper’s site, The Leaven. My emphases and comments.

Coverage of recent indictment far from objective

With everyone else who cares about the Catholic community in the Kansas City metropolitan area, [Which includes both sides of the river and border.] I was saddened by the news announced by Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker that Bishop Robert Finn had been indicted by the grand jury on a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse.

I found the Kansas City Star headline on Sunday more than ironic: “How Will KC Diocese Heal?” After months of The Star repeatedly finding reasons to rehash this story with always the same undertone calling for Bishop Finn’s resignation, [Does the words “philippic… jihad… jeremiad” come to mind?] The Star’s question seemed merely rhetorical.

The manufacturing and dissemination of child pornography is always a horrible crime. The horror is multiplied when the person responsible is a Catholic priest. Let me be clear again: There is no place in the priesthood for perpetrators of child sexual abuse or those who view, much less create, child pornography. I have told our priests on numerous occasions that our people have every right to expect that we live our lives in a manner consistent with our promise of celibate chastity. They certainly have a right to expect their children and adolescents will not be harmed by the clergy of their church.
I witness in our parishes a great love and admiration for our priests. This respect and affection for our priests is the fruit of lives of integrity and sacrificial service that Catholics have experienced for generations by the vast majority of priests.

I ask again for your prayers for Bishop Finn and for the priests and people of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. I have known Bishop Finn for many years, dating back to when both of us served as priests in St. Louis. I know him to be a man of integrity and with a passion for serving God and his people. I have spoken to him several times during the past months assuring him of my prayers and fraternal support.

I have not spoken with Bishop Finn in any detail about the indictment or the particulars of his legal defense. However, I have asked some in the legal profession to help me understand the nature of the charges made against Bishop Finn.

There are several aspects to this case that appear very unusual. First of all, I am told that it is quite unusual for a grand jury to be involved with an indictment of a misdemeanor. Secondly, as was apparent in The Star’s own reporting of the precedents for the indictment of Bishop Finn, none of these previous cases have resulted in convictions, except one case where the person was “convicted on a host of related charges.”

Bishop Finn has acknowledged mistakes made by him and others in diocesan leadership in this matter. He commissioned the former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to review the policies, procedures, as well as their application. The Graves report identified some areas where the diocese had failed to follow their own procedures.

Some might ask: If the bishop has acknowledged mistakes, then why does he claim innocence to the charge made in the indictment? Again, from my layman’s understanding of the law, the difference is to plead guilty means to acknowledge “criminal intent.” In other words, the charge is more than an acknowledgement of a mistake of failing to report or even that there was negligence — the person should have known of the requirement to report. It is an admission that there was actually a conscious effort to deceive, to violate the law. From my knowledge of Bishop Finn, I find it impossible to believe this was the case.

[QUAERUNTUR:] Why, then would the prosecutor pursue such a charge? Why did the grand jury hand down an indictment? With regard to the second question, obviously the “level of proof” to bring an indictment is much less than to gain a conviction. If a prosecutor is sufficiently determined, usually they can convince the grand jury to indict.  [What’s the old phrase about “ham sandwiches” again?]

In her press conference, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker stated: “This has nothing . . . to do with the Catholic faith.” [What’s the old phrase again? “When they say it’s not about the X, it’s about the X.” No?] I accept on face value the prosecutor’s claim that she is not motivated in bringing these charges by any animosity toward the Catholic Church. [Why should he accept her word on this?  Why should anyone?] However, this does not preclude that the prosecutor, who must stand for election, was influenced by the steady drumbeat of negative press coverage and the advocacy of self-appointed victims’ rights groups who have called for Bishop Finn’s resignation. No prosecutor wants to be labeled by the local media or victims’ rights groups as soft on child abuse[If that is true, then perhaps Bp. Finn is also a victim of abuse.]

Another irony in this whole matter is the day after its two-day front page news coverage of Bishop Finn’s indictment, The Star published an editorial calling for the permanent disbarment of former Kansas attorney general and Johnson County Prosecutor Phill Kline. I do not have the knowledge, expertise or space to sort though the charges made about the investigatory methods employed by Kline or the countercharges that those who are now judging the former attorney general are politically motivated because they were appointed by politicians who received significant financial support from those Kline was investigating.

However, the charges made by Kline that the late George Tiller and Planned Parenthood failed to report statutory rape of minors who received abortions at their clinics have never been refuted. These serious charges have never been investigated with any vigor by the same newspaper whose most cherished mission appears not to be the protection of innocent children, born or unborn, but to lead the advocacy for the resignation of the local Catholic bishop[The inconsistency raises questions.]

I do not claim to be neutral or dispassionate in my view of the events that have unfolded in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. My love for the Catholic Church and my friendship with Bishop Finn obviously influence how I perceive these events.

At the same time, the manner in which The Star has treated these events not only on its editorial page, but also in its news section, has not been dispassionate. The way in which “news stories” have been framed, those whom they have chosen to quote, the positioning of stories, the rehashing of old stories, and the overall editing have been influenced by an ideological point of view that, in my opinion, does have an animosity — if not to the Catholic Church, then at least to much of its moral teaching[Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

Ask yourself this question: Can you recall The Kansas City Star ever calling for the resignation of any other religious figure from their post within their church, synagogue or mosque? Think about it.

WDTPRS kudos to Archbp. Naumann.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. KAS says:

    BRAVO Archbishop Naumanm!! I am encouraged by this sort of standing up and speaking out on the part of a Bishop or Archbishop, and this was wonderfully written.

    Inside the Church and outside the Church, those who love the deposit of faith and seek to pass it all on with orthodoxy are under attack. I pray for our Bishops to become orthodox if they are not yet there and stand firm in the fullness of truth. I pray for our priests too because they may get it from all sides including from their own bishops when they defend the faith faithfully!

    My prayers too for Bishop Finn, that justice be done.

    It is getting nasty.

  2. Elizabeth R says:

    I served on a grand jury for a year. The only evidence presented is by the prosecution, so most cases result in an indictment; there’s no way for the jury to know what could be said on behalf of the defense. However, one time I spoke privately with the prosecuting attorney and told him that there was no way we would indict in that particular case. He explained that he did not actually want an indictment, he really wanted to frighten a witness into testifying in another case. In our court system, grand juries are used for many things besides advancing justice.

  3. Fabrizio says:

    In her press conference, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker stated: “This has nothing . . . to do with the Catholic faith.”

    Excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta. Period.

    Or, with St. Jerome (Epist. IV): “dum excusare credis, accusas”.

  4. The grand jury indictment was a feature that also struck me. Although the law does provide for such a thing, a grand jury indictment in a misdemeanor case is something that has never once come up in my experience. Of course, grand jury proceedings are secret and the record of such proceedings is sealed.

  5. Mrs. O says:

    That is good to know about criminal intent which it seems to not be the case.
    From this angle tho, I am sure the parents are pushing for justice which sometimes can mean prosecution.
    It is hard to be level headed when something of this magnitutde has happened to your child and family.

  6. Elizabeth D says:

    In reading about the local Kansas City paper calling for Bishop Finn’s resignation from his position within the Church, and thinking also of the WI State Journal immediately putting Bishop Morlino’s decision for usually having Communion under one species on the front page–both apparently matters of internal Catholic interest (though I think faithful Catholics would want to support both these Bishops)–it makes me think. We could see this interest as anti-Catholic, as simply aimed at attacking and undermining the Church perhaps because of anger over moral teaching. But might it not also be a strange sort of acknowledgement of the relevance of the Catholic Church to every member of society, the Church as a public institution somehow analogous to the State, in a way that is true of no other religious body. The Catholic Church is universal, “de iure” the Catholic Church has authority over every person, the secular press is showing me this.

  7. RichR says:

    I’m glad to see that justice is being pursued……by Archbishop Naumann pointing out the witch hunt against Bishop Finn.

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    Look, there is the possibility of corruption in every kind of governance, so the type of governance we have really isn’t the issue, except for people who see everything as politics.

    The problem IS that we have not avoided corruption well enough which became glaringly obvious in 2002. We didn’t do enough after it either. And if we don’t stop carrying on with “business as usual” when it comes to these abuse issues, we are going to get an even worse reputation than we have now, and that’s going to be disastrous.

  9. ContraMundum says:

    I’m going to buck the trend and say let this play out. Bishop Finn is not being prosecuted for anything related to the Catholic Faith. Period. He is not being prosecuted for failing to break the seal of the confessional. He will have his day in court to prove his innocence, or at least cast doubt on his guilt.

    The ad hominem attack on the newspaper by Archbishop Naumann is disappointing.

  10. Dennis Martin says:

    Contra Mundum: it was not ad hominem. It was a carefully reasoned analysis of the events, pointing out a huge double-standard, which underscores the sense that many of us havce that this is a case of selective prosecution of bishops who offend pro-abortion and otherwise liberal “Catholics” as well as non-Catholics alike because they defend the Church’s entire magisterium.

    We shall be seeing more of this. The law can readily be abused to target those who offend the powers that be. They think that they have, by now, “flipped” enough of the general population, including many nominal Catholics and especially the “chattering class” elites, against the Church that they can get away with a scarcely fig-leaved abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

    Yes, bishops malfeasant in the past on sex abuse cases have helped make this possible. But that malfeasance, by itself, has not brought us to this pass. The weakening of Catholic identity and the progressive disculturation brought about by the “sexual revolution” have made this possible.

    CatholicMidwest: Yes, corruption is almost everywhere. But Bishop Naumann’s point is that Bishop Finn may have erred but did not act corruptly. Some bishops have. But did Bishop Finn? A broadbrush attack on corruption does not help us understand what’s going on.

    I repeat: the main targets of the “big guns” of criminal indictments in the next decades will NOT be genuiunely malfeasant bishops (I could name some names from the past) but precisely those bishops who have done everything they can to end corruption, restore Catholic identity, preach and teach the full Gospel of the Catholic Faith. That Good News is hated by many. We have reached a critical mass of animosity toward the Faith that our enemies who formerly eschewed patent prosecutorial abuse now feel safe enough in public opinion to get away with it. They will go after precisely the bishops who are not corrupt because in those bishops’ integrity lies the true Opposition to the Culture of Death, the Culture of Disordered Sexuality.

    And they will be egged on by the desperation of the “Catholic” dissidents who see the Church finally turning things around after decades of post-Vatican II confusion, finally implementing the genuine content of Vatican II and peeling off the layers of distortion and confusion. They are the bishops who cannot be left unharrassed.

  11. Dennis Martin says:

    One more comment. I have repeatedly tried to convince tradtionalist Catholics who rightly are angered at episcopal malfeasance in the past, especially in sex abuse cases, to start making careful distinctions There is an anti-clericalism, a suspicion of all bishops, that has arisen out of genuine hurt. In some cases, traditional Catholics years ago pointed out cases of sexual abuse and were ignored or worse. Traditional Catholics have spent decades trying to get bishops to pay attention to liturgical abuses, catechetical abuses, theological malfeasance by Catholic intellectuals. They have been treated badly in many cases.

    But, sadly, all too often the lesson they draw from this is that all bishops, even newer ones, who I and others have defended as faithful shepherds, nonetheless are viewed with suspicion or worse because they do not, overnight, muck out Augean stables in diocesan administrative offices or in parishes. How can bishop so-and-so be a “reformer of the Reform,” how can he be a good bishop, faithful to the Church, if he hasn’t made a lot of progress in one year, three years, ten years?

    If it is true that selective prosecution and abuse of prosecutorial discretion are going to become more common, then it is incumbent on faithful Catholic lay people not to judge the target of any prosecution or other pressure or harrassment as guilty until proven innocent,. Someone up thread said, “let Bishop Finn defend himself in court,” while someone else seems to be simply assimilating him to all those corrupt bishops everywhere.

    It’s time to let go of the memories of the past 40 years of episcopal actions and evaluate, analyze on the merits as best we can learn about specific cases. Where the merits of the case point to abuse of the law and selective prosecution and harrassment, the episcopal targets of such evil need lay people surrounding them with support, prayer, and solidarity in the court of public opinion. Because it’s the shift in public opinion that has made possible the coming persecution.

    And it will not stop with bishops. It will encompass a Bed and Breakfast owner or two, a printing company owner or two, a wedding florist or a fertility physician–who refuse to go along with the gay or abortion or contraceptive agendas.

    We need to make distinctions, folks. Bishops, pastors, priests, fellow lay people who come under accusation but who we already know from their records to be stalwart defenders of the Church and her Faith need our solidarity, not our suspicion. The Enemy wants nothing more than to divide us among ourselves, to make us suspicious of each other.

    There was a time when lovers of the old Mass found themselves alone and given the back of the hand by people in the hierarchy who should not have done so. Cardinal Ratzinger spoke out already in 1985, John Paul began setting the old Mass free in 1984 and 1988. It’s been a long time coming and there’s a long, long way to go, but we have made immense progress since then. A critical mass, a tippping point is being reached–all sorts of signs point toward that. And that’s why, in the eyes of the Church’s enemies, the Bishop Finns of the Church must be stopped.

    Let’s be careful that we don’t help them out of hurt feelings and genuine battle scars from the past. If you catch yourself about to dump on a bishop (or anyone else, for that matter) around the after-Mass breakfast table with your traditional Catholic friends, count to ten or pray a decade or two before opening your mouth.

  12. mike cliffson says:

    95% of the time it’s become:
    Catholic? guilty as charged
    Priest? Guiltier, by definition
    What more need have we of witnesses?

  13. Phillip says:

    You aren’t by any chance a regular reader of the Kansas City Star, are you? There is most certainly an anti-Catholic bias there.

    I liked the article and agree with the points the Archbishop made. That being said, Father, your comment regarding the prosecutor’s motives, “Why should he accept her word on this? Why should anyone?” – I can say that I am accepting her word because I think it would be rash judgement to assume otherwise. That politics played a part in obtaining the indictment, I can easily believe, as I’ve said before. That it was out of hatred for the Church and the Faith? I just don’t see any reason to believe it at this point. If the prosecutor sincerely believes that there’s evidence a crime was committed, it is her duty to pursue charges. Perhaps I’m naive, but I’m willing to assume good faith on her part, at least for now.

  14. Jack007 says:

    Dennis Martin:
    Perhaps the most eloquently stated I have ever read.

    For those “disappointed” in Archbishop Naumann’s piece, all I can say is you can’t possibly know all the facts. I live here and I can assure you that our local rag, the Star, has had an agenda against the orthodox Church for decades. If you are a dissenter, especially a homosexual priest, you are a celebrity worthy of public praise. If you are a faithful Catholic you are anathema.

    Our Archbishop is not exactly a huge friend to traditionalists, but I know him personally, and I can assure you he has the Faith. His defense of the unborn is heroic in nature, and he always stands with the Magisterium.

    He has found even more respect with me today, and I stand WITH our faithful shepherds in this most difficult time.
    Do you?

    Peter, do you love Me?

    Jack in KC

  15. Dr. K says:

    Very well said, courageous defense of a brother bishop. Taking on the media involves great courage.

  16. ContraMundum says:

    Astonishingly, the Kansas City Star is not prosecuting this case. And the fact that the local newspaper is on the wrong side of the abortion debate does not mean that Bishop Finn is innocent. The two things have nothing to do with each other.

  17. catholicmidwest says:

    Dennis, you said, “CatholicMidwest: Yes, corruption is almost everywhere. But Bishop Naumann’s point is that Bishop Finn may have erred but did not act corruptly. Some bishops have. But did Bishop Finn? A broadbrush attack on corruption does not help us understand what’s going on.”

    That is exactly my point. Did he or didn’t he? If I had seen pictures like the bishop & the principal saw in the midst of a man’s possessions, the kinds of things that might drive a man to suicide when they were seen, what would I have done? I sure wouldn’t have shuffled him off to another catholic building and tried to forget the whole thing. I would have had the responsibility to turn him in, if not for the kids and if not for the church and her liability, then certainly for the mental health of the man himself. We absolutely cannot in any way, shape or form, harbor people who refuse to be sexually decent. How many times do I have to say this?????????????????

    And moreover, due to our lousy corrupt past when it comes to this issue, we have to be cleaner than clean, squeaky clean. People outside the church don’t see individual priests; rather, they see a pattern of malfeasance which is what this looked like when in broke ALL AT ONCE in 2001. Yes, I know there were only a few percent; yes, I know it looked worse than it was; but still it looked the way it looked and it left a lasting impression with the general population. Priests are supposed to be men of God and people are not supposed to have to think about them this way, but they did have to, because we allowed our church to become lax and corrupt. And now they do look at it this way, whether we like it or not. Why is this so hard for people in the church to understand?

  18. Traductora says:

    Abp Naumann has pointed out a very important thing: the paper’s complete lack of support for a state authority who was attempting to investigate the much more egregious crime of failure to report committed by Planned Parenthood “clinics,” contrasted with its support for a state authority making a very flimsy charge against a Catholic bishop. I think it’s not hard to see what this is all about.

    It was an ambiguous situation…but perhaps not so to someone who knows more about it. Taking clothed photos of children, even with their parents’ consent, is not always a sign of a child molester; however, it frequently is, and the police officer consulted by Finn’s monsignor should probably have mentioned this. But is it the job of a bishop to be up on the latest trends in child molesting? I think not; like many bishops, he took the advice of the experts, and that was about all he could do.

    At the same time, nobody except the prosecutor who is about to be fired has ever challenged Planned Parenthood’s failure to report. A huge majority of abortions are because of impregnation of a teenager by a man an average of 10 years older than she, and a lot of times it is a family member. But that doesn’t bother PP.

  19. Phillip says:

    If the Archbishop’s piece was solely about the prosecution of Bishop Finn, your point would be valid, but from my reading of it, it was also about the Star’s repeatedly-demonstrated bias against the Catholic Church. One is entitled to address both things in a single column, is one not? I did not read an “ad hominem” attack at all. An ad hominem attack is attacking the arguer, not the argument. “Ad hominem” would be pointing out that the editor of the Star is, say, an atheist and therefore biased (whether he or she is, I do not know, but that is an example) and discrediting the journalistic quality of the paper on those grounds. Saying that the paper’s coverage is biased is not “ad hominem,” it is simply an observation – and in this case, it is not an unreasonable one, but one based on how the paper has presented this and other issues pertaining to the Church.

  20. Dennis Martin says:

    Contra Mundum:

    Nor does it mean he is guilty.

    Just how many criminal indictments against bishops have been handed up by grand juries since 2000? Not a whole lot. Not in the case of Bishop Weakland, not in a number of other egregious cases. Now, exactly why Bishop Finn? Why now? Why does Planned Parenthood skate free when their guilt is pretty well proven? Curious minds want to know.

    That’s what I mean by abuse of prosecutorial discretion. It’s time we start making distinctions instead of painting with broad brushes and assuming guilt until proven innocent. That’s a principle of Catholic moral theology as well as being (supposedly) a principle of American law.

    They are succeeding at their real goal–dividing us among ourselves, dividing us from our bishops, sowing mistrust and doubt. They are playing us and we are playing along,.

  21. worm says:

    Excellent! The inconsitency is between the handling of this case and the case involving Planned Parenthood is unbelievable.

    @ContraMundum: You are entirely correct, but I think the point being made is the selective prosecution of a much less grevious offense and a much less dangerous one than the alleged cover-up of multiple cases of statutory rape. However, I fear that you are in the majority in terms of how the American public will react. It would indeed be a different matter if Bishop Finn were entirely blameless. (Note: I am making a distinction between blameless and innocent. Purely from the report posted on the diocesan website it seems clear to me Bishop Finn is indeed innocent of the charges.)

    @Traductora: I must disagree. The story in the diocesan report sounds like all the other stories I’ve read about how abusive priests have continued to get away with abuse. I certainly forgive bishops in the past for listening to experts. Today, however, is a different story. Anyone who has read any cases of abuse by priests should know better. In the report, the bishop himself is distrubed by the expert’s assessment. That at least is a first step. But more needed to be done. The bishop is not in a position to ensure the safety of children. The priest needed to be reported to civic authorities.

  22. Ezra says:

    “By all means we call down God’s power on the media, particularly the Globe.”

  23. Traductora says:

    The priest actually was reported to the civil authorities, and they said there wasn’t enough to take action on. Perhaps the bishop should have dug a little deeper, but I think he was probably relying on more knowledgeable people to tell him what to do. At the same time, the problem is that bishops think only in terms of legality rather than common sense; he should have asked exactly what this priest was doing with hundreds of pictures of little girls, even fully clothed and non-sexual, on his PC and if this was the type of man he wanted among his priests.

    Sometimes bishops do give priests excessive benefit of the doubt. We had a similar situation in my diocese with our former bishop, who not only protected a very liberal late-middle aged priest who had a formal complaint (to the police) against him for stalking a teenage girl (and this wasn’t the first time there had been complaints against him for inappropriate behavior with teenage girls) but made him a pastor of a parish where he would be all alone with no one to keep an eye on him. We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that one. We now have a new bishop, and I just hope he reviews the file and removes this guy.

  24. Ezra says:

    The priest actually was reported to the civil authorities, and they said there wasn’t enough to take action on.

    No, he wasn’t. One picture was described, seemingly inaccurately, to a police officer acquaintance by one of the bishop’s staff. Read the independent report hosted on the diocese’s website.

  25. If every Catholic in Kansas City would immediately cease purchasing the Kansas City Star and not visit its web site, this sort of nonsense would end rather quickly. For that matter, it’s time Catholics stopped supporting all newspapers and other publications that are hostile to us.

  26. Phillip says:

    I think that is unlikely to happen, unfortunately. Just the other day there was a letter to the editor in which a Catholic made a point of comparing the response of the Vatican to sex abuse to that of their response to Bishop Morris in Australia (outside of Australia, how many people who aren’t either dissenters or traditionalists who *applaud* the removal of Bishop Morris are actually aware of that case?) I don’t think the faction of the Church which feeds this kind of reporting is particularly interested in protecting their bishops from malicious journalism.

    Full disclosure: I read the Kansas City Star for the Sports page and glance at the news and editorial page every now and then. I still live at home. My dad (a non-Catholic) is the subscriber here, not I.

  27. david andrew says:

    If anyone here has a Facebook account, you should just have a look at the skreed being posted over there in response to this. I don’t think anyone posting comments (myself excepted) has actually read the article that Fr. Z posted. Rather, they’re all saying that it’s only good and proper that this is coming to light and that His Excellency is getting what is deserved.

  28. TWINC says:

    David Andrew, I am the author of that “skreed” over at Facebook. I have at my own blog summarized the Graves Report, the report of the independent firm that conducted the internal review of this situation – it is the report of the Kansas City Diocese, itself. Read either the Graves Report or my summary of it and then tell me what you think His Excellency deserves:

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