The Remnant defends Bp. Robert Finn

The Remnant has an article in defense of Bp. Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

You learn a lot about a person by what his enemies have to say. The National Catholic Reporter wrote a piece one year after Bishop Finn took over the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. If you can endure the article’s whininess, you discover quite a bit. This is a shepherd who wanted orthodoxy in his diocese. Here’s a portion of the Distorter’s own rant, which goes by the honest title, “Extreme Makeover: the Diocese”:

“Finn, 53, a priest of the St. Louis archdiocese and a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, was named coadjutor of the Kansas City-St.Joseph diocese in March 2004. The diocese comprises 130,000 Catholics in 27 countries of northwest Missouri. He succeeded Bishop Raymond Boland as ordinary on May 24, 2005. Within a week of his appointment [emphasis mine] he:

  • Dismissed the chancellor, a layman with 21 years of experience in the diocese, and the vice chancellor, a religious woman stationed in the diocese for nearly 40 years and the chief of pastoral planning for the diocese since 1990, and replaced them with a priest chancellor.
  • Cancelled the diocese’s nationally renowned lay formation programs and a master’s degree program in pastoral ministry.
  • Cut in half the budget of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry, effectively forcing the almost immediate resignation of half the seven-member team. Within 10 months all seven would be gone and the center shuttered.
  • Ordered a “zero-based study” of adult catechesis in the diocese and appointed as vice chancellor to oversee adult catechesis, lay formation and the catechesis study a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.
  • Ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publishing columns by Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien.
  • Announced that he would review all front page stories, opinion pieces, columns and editorials before publication.”


Read the rest over there.

Any idea why the National catholic Fishwrap and the local secular rag would want to hamstring Bp. Finn?


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  1. Just for those things alone, I ought to move to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Sigh, I lived and worked in his diocese. Let us pray for him, his people, and his clergy-all of them.

  3. TNCath says:

    I firmly believe the devil is at work in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, trying to undo everything Bishop Finn initiated. Prayers for Bishop Finn and all involved.

  4. RichR says:

    My my. Bishop Finn was not very politically correct. What are all of these professional Catholics going to do now that their lay ministerial roles are being replaced by clergy? Will they have to go into the world and live the lay vocation?

    Also, I notice the Reporter is very vigilant about protecting its readers from scandal by labeling bishop such as Bp. Finn as “conservative”. We wouldn’t want readers to start thinking that the Bishop’s actions represent Catholic dogma, now, would we? I wonder if I’d get a single hit if I searched their archives for the word “liberal”?

    Finally, I notice the Reporter points out that Fr. McBrien’s articles are no longer to be published in the diocesan newspaper. Readers should know that Fr. McBrien is a columnist in the National Catholic Reporter. Seems they are protecting their own…….something I believe they insinuate Bp. Finn is doing in his diocese.

    I cry ‘foul’.

  5. Okay; read the bullet points.

    Is there a problem?

  6. shane says:

    A week?! Very impressive!

  7. shane: Keep in mind that Bp. Finn had been there for over a year as Coadjutor. He knew what was going on and what needed to be done. A week had a year of preparation behind it.

  8. Joanne says:

    Why didn’t the bishop see the photos? Why was Robert Finn content to close his eyes, put his fingers in his ears, and say, “lalalalala, I can’t hear you,” when he should have been looking into the matter? Why did he content to rely on reports from underlings and an evaluation from some Catholic “treatment facility” (another joke)?

    I spent a kind of sickening morning reading through the independent report. It was simply failure after failure on everyone’s part, and if anyone was arrested, perhaps it should have been the monsignor. But it was Bishop Finn who ultimately presided over the mess. He needs to be held accountable. What do the rest of you believe? That there should be no penalty for Robert Finn? Finn’s utterly day late and dollar short approach here was to (among other failures) place a child molester where he would STILL have access to children. And if the parents quoted in the report are to be believed, more children were victimized. Those parents are a bit more difficult to dismiss as liberal malcontents, don’t you think?

  9. Panterina says:

    Joanne, some answers to your questions/concerns can be read in this earlier post:

  10. Maltese says:

    God it must be such a hard job to be a conservative Bishop these days (it’s a breeze to be a liberal one, as the red-carpet is continually rolled-out for you, think Mahoney)!

  11. Joanne says:

    Hi, Panterina: I’ve seen very little on this blog vis-a-vis this issue to answer my questions, reassure me, or help me to maintain confidence in (people whom I believed to be anyways) my fellow faithful Catholics. People seem fixated on the fact that some dislike the bishop because of his orthodoxy. I have no doubt that’s true. What no one has demonstrated, though, is how any of that absolves Bishop Finn of his abysmal, and possibly criminal, failures here. And if Bishop Finn knew lots of people disliked him, it is even more astounding that through his negligence, he has given them, and all who don’t like the Catholic Church, so much ammunition.

  12. Cincinnati Priest says:

    @Joanne, and others:

    What I find a little troubling is the notion that people are so quick to criticize Bishop Finn (and many other bishops in similar cases) simply on the basis of a report, which may or may not be accurate. The fact that it is “independent” doesn’t necessarily mean the facts are true.

    In any case of alleged malfeasance of priests or bishops, unless we know unequivocally from testimony personally verified to be true, we should give priests and bishops the benefit of the doubt, in much the same way you would hope that people would give you the benefit of the doubt if you were charged with some wrongdoing. The fact that some priests and bishops have been negligent in some cases doesn’t excuse us from this basic Christian obligation of charity in this case, until all the facts are completely known.

    I know the knee-jerk reaction of “this is how we got into this mess, trusting priests and bishops too much” (heard it all before), but the reality is, very little of what is reported in these cases can be assumed to be true; we probably can’t and won’t know exactly when and how much the bishop knew; whether there were mitigating factors that might have explained a particular response at a particular time (such as the mental instability of the priest), etc.

    I always cringe to think what kind of Church — and culture — we would have if the tables were turned: if priests in parishes mistrusted their parishioners and assumed the worst about them the same way that so many laypeople seem willing to so quickly assume the worst about their priests and bishops.

  13. lasorda says:


    We, the readers of Father Z’s excellent blog, are “us.” The readers of the NCR are “them.” If overlooking a little criminal negligence that enabled a degenerate pedophile aids “us” in our fight against “them,” then so be it. Look, Bishop Finn is a great friend to traditional liturgy. If a few little girls have to be photographed with their pants down to keep guitars out of Mass, that’s just their problem. Get it? Now take your bleeding heart out of this comments thread!

    [What I am now going to do is take YOU out of these comments.]

  14. Jackie L says:

    I wish Bp. Finn’s would put the distorter out of her misery and forbid the paper from using the word Catholic in it’s title.

  15. frjim4321 says:

    The conventional wisdom is to wait a year before making changes, but as stated above the bishop was a coadjutor before becoming ordinary.

    Also, there are some changes which simply need to be done, and arbitrarily waiting a year really does not help. When I arrived here the sanctuary was cluttered with all kinds of unused and unnecessary furniture, including an end table right next to the presidential chair. It was gone the day I moved in.

    I can see waiting a year before making program changes or personnel changes, because it can take a while to scope such things out.

    A problem with this string (and not only this string) is the way the word “orthodoxy” is thrown around. I hear both trads and progs using the word “orthodox” to mainly refer to what they LIKE. Orthodoxy isn’t about preserving trappings that a person is comfortable with or familiar with, rather it has a relationship to the actual teachings and traditions of the church.

    Case in point, how “orthodox” is it for a bishop to micromanage H/R decisions about diocesan programs yet wait (at least) half a year before looking into the details of this troubled priest’s life? I don’t know if that squares with the New Testament’s vision of what a bishop is.

  16. mike cliffson says:

    “appointed ……./….a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.”
    40 years ago this would have scandalized me. Now, I’m encouraged. God send, not many years years from now, my children- or grandchildren – would be scandalized by similar news.

  17. I saw a comment in another blog by someone who claims to be a Chicago lawyer who is familiar with the Missouri statutes. He says that Bishop Finn plainly has not violated them, reminds that a politically motivated DA can get a grand jury to indict a “ham sandwich”, but that actually prosecuting such an indictment is another matter. He predicts that Bp. Finn will never see a day in court.

  18. Scott W. says:

    Ordered a “zero-based study” of adult catechesis in the diocese and appointed as vice chancellor to oversee adult catechesis, lay formation and the catechesis study a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.

    Actually, not a bad idea. I am reminded of The Untouchables where Ness was looking for some uncorrupt cops and it was suggested not to get apples out of the barrel, but off of the tree.

  19. Nicole says:


    By interpretation of the law of the state of Missouri, the Diocese’s legal counsel, who saw the disturbing series of three images with exposure of private and intimate parts, said that this was not child pornography.

    What is described in the report is not pornography, either, by how it is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. How then is the Vicar General to proceed?

    What has Bishop Finn done wrong? Not sought out the children in the images to find someone complaining of sexual abuse? Not turn Fr. Ratigan over to the police immediately upon discovery of what was going on? Not second guess all the judgments of the Vicar General?

    How does one, upon finding the subject of a disturbing photograph, broach the concern as to whether sexual abuse was perpetrated? How do you talk to a child about such things without scandalizing him and biasing a parent? Is there good reason (i.e., fact) to believe merely from the images, the reported boundary violations (which apparently were amended to some degree), and lack of parental reports of sexual abuse suspicions in regard to their minor children, that any sexual abuse actually occurred?

    Was the Bishop supposed to assume that the Vicar General had not done as the Bishop heard him report in contacting both the police and legal counsel this case? Isn’t that like saying the Vicar General is not capable of discharging his duties? If he believed that the police were already contacted, then why would the Bishop then interfere if the police were reported, again through the Vicar General, to say that the nudes which were found were not child pornography, and even if you had merely one photo of actual child pornography, the case would likely never be prosecuted?

    So…what has Bishop Finn done wrong?

    It’s easy to look in at an event from the outside and point fingers and blame and say that someone did something grievously wrong and should have to pay…that we demand a pound of flesh on top of justice to satisfy the perceived wrong-doing. It’s funny how people are so quick to say that we cannot say a brother is sinning, UNLESS HE BE A BISHOP…without a shred of objective grave wrong committed…or a shred of manifestation of criminal intent…

    When any sort of abuse occurs, a debt of justice is owed. However, what abuse has Bishop Finn committed?

    I am an advocate of both the restoration of justice plus added satisfation be performed in the case of priestly sexual abuse, just like any gravely immoral action. Priests should do what is necessary to restore justice in the case that they violate justice by any sort of abuse PLUS some to satisfy for the emotional hurt and moral disturbance the sexual abuse can cause…and their bishops should enforce this. But, what abuse has Bishop Finn actually committed? None that I can see.

  20. lasorda says:

    “What has Bishop Finn done wrong? Not sought out the children in the images to find someone complaining of sexual abuse? Not turn Fr. Ratigan over to the police immediately upon discovery of what was going on? Not second guess all the judgments of the Vicar General?”

    Yes, yes, and yes.

  21. LisaP. says:

    I’ve got to wonder if one of the reasons the Church is in such a bind these days is a kind of “managerialism” that can turn its head up no matter the theology. Bishops run a diocese as if they are managing a company. They manage their resources. They manage their personnel. Managing people is not the same thing as shepherding them. I know it’s asking a lot, for a bishop (or even a priest) to address individual human beings in the diocese with love and attention, and I mean that without sarcasm. It’s asking a lot. But counting beans and shuffling departments and commissioning studies and creating departments and committees — is that really the best way to run a religion? I’m not even convinced it’s the best way to run a company. . . .

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    Henry Edwards,
    That’s my take on the situation as well.
    Think a minute. If what is described by the report were defined as “pornography”, and that were somehow equated to actual “child abuse” . . . what would become of all the larger-than-life size photo posters in Abercrombie & Fitch, the Victoria’s Secret show windows, or for that matter just about any children’s department in a mall store? Why are store managers, corporate executives, and mall management not being led away in handcuffs (or at least indicted with much fanfare — something that is not ordinarily done for a misdemeanor, which is usually preferred on an accusation).
    My money’s on a politically motivated prosecution.

  23. frjim4321 says:

    …Bishops run a diocese as if they are managing a company. … Managing people is not the same thing as shepherding them. I know it’s asking a lot, for a bishop (or even a priest) to address individual human beings in the diocese with love and attention, and I mean that without sarcasm. … counting beans and shuffling departments and commissioning studies and creating departments and committees — is that really the best way to run a religion? …

    Wow, great comment.

    In all fairness, I think the comment can be extended to all pastors. I could spend the whole day shuffling papers from one end of the desk to the other . . . but is that really ministry?

  24. Hidden One says:

    Why not have a rosary crusade for the conversion of the National Catholic Reporter and other dissident publications (His Hermeneuticalness’s “Tabula esse delendam” notwithstanding)?

  25. Giambattista says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “Any idea why the National catholic Fishwrap and the local secular rag would want to hamstring Bp. Finn?”

    Yes, I think I have an idea. I’ll take a stab at the question…

    Bishop Finn acts as a good Catholic would expect a bishop to act – specifically, he is not afraid to act on his properly formed faith and be a leader. Most people at the Fishwrap and secular rag are threatened by this because they know his flock respects him and will follow his lead. This is not a good thing, because they know Bishop Finn does not approve of them and the trash they propagate and as a result, neither will his flock. This is threatening to the Fishwrap and secular rag because it entails a significant group of people – a force to be reckoned with – a drop in sales. Bishop Finn also has an association with Opus Dei, an organization which the secular world was warned about in Dan Brown’s idiotic book, The Da Vinci Code and its subsequent movie (I saw the movie – yes, it was idiotic – Opus Dei does not have monks who beat themselves to bloody pulps). Therefore, in effort of self preservation, the Fishwrap and secular rag have to eliminate, and discredit in front of his flock, the source of the threat, namely Bishop Finn.

  26. frjim4321 says:

    G – – –

    True, Brown’s book is trash, but not all critiques of the Opus Dei are so poorly founded. Having read most of Escriva’s work, I would say there is more than enough evidence upon which to base serious concern without making things up.

    – – – JB

  27. Jim Ryon says:

    Great. Anonymous “priests” trashing canonized saints.

  28. frjim4321 says:

    Well, did not mean to trash the man, just was referring to the writings. As far as I know he was a nice person.

  29. jflare says:

    So..I waded through the link that Remnant provided to the NCR article. Sheesh! Essentially, a bunch of folks there in KC were absolutely FURIOUS that their new bishop, who’d been there for a year, decided to take a new direction.
    I found it very difficult to give them creedence, to be honest. I wished to ignore my usual distrust for NCR attitudes and see if the bishop had genuinely done something wrong. Trouble was, most of the grousing related to programs which, while I can’t definitely say they were very poor, I CAN say that the intentions were too vague to be described for good or for ill. ..And therein lies the problem. For my experience, when someone uses nice terminology, but doesn’t back the description with something that I know to work, my BS-flag antennas tend to start throwing red lights.

    I do hope Bishop Finn and his faithful in KC are proceeding to become vigorously and definitively Catholic. I’m quite weary of happy stuff that winds up enabling sin.

  30. Norah says:

    What writings and what particularly in those writings?

  31. Ezra says:

    Maybe Fr Jim was thinking of this:

    …do not forget that being with Jesus means we shall most certainly come upon his Cross. When we abandon ourselves into God’s hands, he frequently permits us to taste sorrow, loneliness, opposition, slander, defamation, ridicule, coming both from within and from outside. This is because he wants to mould us into his own image and likeness. He even tolerates that we be called lunatics and be taken for fools. This is the time to love passive mortification which comes, hidden perhaps or barefaced and insolent, when we least expect it. They can even go so far as to strike the sheep with the very stones that should have been thrown at the wolves: the follower of Christ experiences in his own flesh that those who have a duty to love him, treat him instead in ways that range from mistrust to hostility, from suspicion to hatred. They look upon him with misgiving, as if he were a liar, because they do not believe it is possible to have personal dealings with God, an interior life; and all the while, with atheists and those who are indifferent to God (people who are usually impertinent and rude), they behave in a most amicable and understanding manner… When people favour a doubtful theology and an easygoing ‘anything goes’ morality, and engage in dubious liturgical practices following their own whims, with a ‘hippie’ discipline which is answerable to no authority; then it comes as no surprise if they spread envy, suspicion, false allegations, insults, ill-treatment, humiliations, gossip and all kinds of outrage against those who speak only of Jesus Christ.

    Or maybe not.

  32. robtbrown says:

    Norah says:
    What writings and what particularly in those writings?

    It will be interesting to see whether frjim4321 responds. His MO here has usually been to spout superficial liberal slogans, then disappear when he’s challenged to defend them.

  33. Mrs. O says:

    It should be of no surprise that the Bishop may have some enemies especially as proactive as he has been. I was saddened that a facebook group had been created to have him removed.
    The Bishop has plead not guilty to the charges.

    As to the pictures that were originally found, I don’t think it is fair to compare them with the disturbing/sexualized picture of Ambercrombie and Fitch. Those who are photographed for the company agreed to it. Those pictures, or some of them, the priest had he had taken himself, without permission, not only invasion of privacy but also exploitation – or the last is part of the charges.
    I am all for challenging a company who takes picture in this manner. Some of those companies know the fine line and they get as close as they can to crossing it.

    The saddest to me is had the computer been turned over/reported to begin with (asking someone’s opinion of a photo they had not even viewed at the time is NOT reporting it), it would have been determined that some of those constituted child porn and also child exploitation. They would have started identifying victims too.

  34. Joanne says:

    “doesn’t excuse us from this basic Christian obligation of charity in this case, until all the facts are completely known.”

    Hi, Cincinnati priest: Ironic that you’re calling me out for this. Unlike some here (“Why should we take the prosecutor at her word? This is clearly ideologically/politically motivated,” etc), I have, in charity, refrained from impugning anyone’s motives. Maybe the bishop really is just kind of inept. I’ll accept that. In fact, it’s what I would PREFER to think. It doesn’t really seem in dispute that the bishop placed Ratigan in the Vincentian House. If the report is to be believed (and I find this believable), he (the bishop) placed restrictions on Ratigan’s behavior around children…and – astonishingly – expected him to police himself. 10 yrs ago, this might have been (*might* have been) an acceptable solution. But a decade into a tsunami of revelations about monsters masquerading as Catholic priests being shuffled around with minimal supervision, only to continue preying on young people? No, I’m afraid it’s just not enough any more for a bishop’s response to his irresponsibility to be, “uuhhh…ooops! Sorry!”

    I understand the tendency to reject reports of bad behavior by priests based on the source. I live in Boston. Alot of us just kind of dismissed the initial reports of sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese – because they were being reported by the left-wing Boston Globe, which had always seemed to have some kind of vendetta against the Catholic Church. But the Globe was right and we were wrong. In bringing the truth to light, the Globe actually in the long run did us a favor.

  35. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley

    Who are these commentators who roam the blogs to deride such holy persons as Saint Escriva and the wonderful Church-approved apostolate of Opus Dei? Jose Maria Escriva is a canonized saint–a person of heroic virtue in whom the gifts of the Holy Spirit blossomed fully; not every member of Opus Dei is perfect, but the spirituality has the Church’s blessing. By the way, I am not a member. I wish frjim4321 would come out of the shadows and identify himself/herself.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    Mrs. O,
    A child cannot give consent to participate in pornography. Nor can a parent give consent.
    Many of the pictures in A&F and major department stores appear to be of children below the age of consent. That age varies, from as low as 16 to 18 in most U.S. jurisdictions.
    So – my question remains: if this is child abuse, why are the sexually provocative advertising photographs of children below the age of consent not “pornography” as well, and why has the D.A. not indicted those in authority who have not “reported” them?
    And my observation that grand juries do not normally indict on a misdemeanor stands. In fact in 30 years of law practice I have never seen it happen. Solicitors or state court prosecutors issue (“prefer”) an accusation on a misdemeanor.

  37. Ioannes Andreades says:


    Am a fairly regular reader and occasional commenter . I pretty much agree with you. The facts don’t seem to be much in dispute, from what I gather. The mens rea thing is I guess the legal issue at hand. After everything that has gone on, it is simply incomprehensible to me that a bishop or anyone in a comparable role, such as a school superintendant (I work in education), would be so hands-off.

    It’s also worth remembering that Archbishop Finn has apologized. He wouldn’t have apologized if he had done nothing wrong. I think it’s a fair question whether he is being treated differently by the state from others accused of similar actions, but Abp. Finn made a some very serious lapses of judgement that call into question his suitability as archbishop.

  38. frjim4321 says:

    I was referring mainly to the material relative to what he calls “discipline” which has been called excessive and unhealthy. Indeed while the media amplified this, Escriva did encourage flagellation, which is not universally accepted as a healthy spiritual practice.

  39. robtbrown says:

    Re flagellation (use of the discipline): No surprise. It is a common criticism of Opus Dei, and so I thought that was what you were referring to specifically. It is no wonder that there are objections. The slightest personal penance has disappeared from life in the Church. The mandate of Meatless Fridays, no great act of asceticism, has disappeared.

    FYI, use of the discipline was practiced by Mother Teresa of Calcutta (and most likely her sisters). Isn’t it odd that criticism of her doing it is never heard. Also by the monks of Fontgombault and foundations (see: vocations, lots of). It is self administered, usually done on Friday, accompanied by recitation of the Miserere, and can be done as lightly or strongly as desired.

  40. Martial Artist says:

    Unless I am sadly mistaken, Bishop Finn has been charged not with malfeasance, nor with misfeasance, but with nonfeasance—i.e., he was required by law to report the presence of inappropriate images upon the computer of a priest under his authority, and did not do so. So, if that analysis is correct, some of the comments about the nature and severity of his culpability are at least a bit over the top.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

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