The ultra-liberal Kansas City Star in KC, MO has been gunnin’ for Bishop Robert Finn since he arrived. Now that some chum is in the water, they and their chums have been biting.
Therefore, I was surprised and pleased to see an op-ed in the Star by one Frank Kessler.
The charges against Bishop Finn should be dropped
By FRANK KESSLER
Special to The Star
As I read the article on Bishop Robert Finn in the Saturday Kansas City Star, it occurred to me that the NFL throws a flag for piling on when someone is already down.
Bishop Finn already apologized a number of times for his poor administrative judgment involving the supervision of one of his priests, Father Shawn Ratigan. The decision to indict Finn and the entire diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on misdemeanor charges was highly questionable.
Some in the Kansas City Catholic community were critical of Finn from the day Pope Benedict appointed him. He proclaimed church teaching as championed by the Holy Father. This made him suspect to some. Father Thomas Reese of Georgetown was quoted in The Star article saying the case against the bishop was “historic.” Father Reese was encouraged to resign from America magazine because of his public dissent from church teachings on marriage and abortion, among other issues. The New York Times characterized Finn as “staunchly conservative.”
There are those who want to paint Finn as a poster boy for the clerical abuse scandals. That just does not pass the smell test. He did not move priests around but in the Ratigan case removed him from parish life. Diocesan supervision after the fact was deficient and the bishop acknowledged that.
It is hard to accept the assertion that this was not about the Catholic faith. Since the diocese hired an independent lawyer to put together a 141-page report on needed changes and was cooperating with law enforcement, what had the prosecutor to gain?
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker may well have let her years working with CASA color her judgment. Who could fault her for that? Still, she surely knew that some could see it as an attack on the church, which had already gone to great pains to rectify the situation.
I have not seen the indictment so I don’t know exactly what standards were used to determine that an indictable crime had been committed. In one place the “reasonable suspicion” test seemed to be applied, and in another, “reasonable cause” (to suspect). “Reasonable cause to suspect” is a very low standard. As the saying goes, a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Likewise, if a prosecutor wants a conviction, it is best not to overcharge.
Finn is being prosecuted for lapses in judgment and missing what went on below him. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is being investigated for lapses leading to deaths involving Operation Fast and Furious. Should he be prosecuted? I would say no unless there is evidence that he lied or willfully disobeyed the law. He deserves the benefit of the doubt as does Finn.
When prosecution can be perceived as rooted in politics, it can ruin the good name of the target, cheapen the moral authority of government and tarnish respect for the rule of law.
These charges should be dropped forthwith.
Frank Kessler is an emeritus professor of government at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph and teaches at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He lives in Overland Park.
A reader sent me an email with the comment that Finn “was the bishop who publicly criticized radical pro-abort Kathleen Sibelius when she was governor of KS”.