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Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Earlier this year I wrote that the credibly of the new Pope may depend on how he lives up to his claim of having a zero tolerance policy regarding child sex abuse.

What measure of tolerance shall we say that the Pope is giving to Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted over a year ago of failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest under his authority and still leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri?  A federal judge deemed the child porn charges of which pedophile priest Fr. Shawn Ratigan was convicted to be so serious that he sentenced Ratigan to 50 years in prison.

I am one of those Catholics who has been cheered by the new pope's refreshing tone and his embracing of tolerance and humility. Indeed, his recent comments about the Church's recent obsession with culture war issues may have pulled the rug out from under the Republican Party Auxiliary we generally call the Catholic Right. His recent statements clearly indicate that he may lead the Church to an approach to economic and social justice that transcends Roman Catholicism and embraces the entire world.

But the longer he waits to act on the problem of sex abuse in the Church, the greater the risk that the good will he had earned, and the hope he has given to many millions of Catholics (and non-Catholics) will be lost.

Only the pope has the power to remove a Bishop. And the removal of Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri would be the perfect starting point to show the world that he will back up his words with deeds.

On its face, it ought to be a no-brainer.  Let's recall that the crimes of Bishop Finn resulted from his knowledge of the related crimes of Fr. Shawn Ratigan who pleaded guilty in Federal Court to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempted production of child pornography. As I reported here and here, Bishop Finn had constructive knowledge of Ratigan's improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography. Finn not only knew of or had good reason to suspect Ratigan's crimes, but had he acted, he would have prevented other crimes against children under his pastoral care.

I've previously written that Bishop Finn -- a darling of the American Catholic Right must go.  But Finn has powerful friends.  The American Catholic Right is led by prominent neoconservatives and members of the secretive Catholic order, Opus Dei -- and Finn is one of their own. Finn is also revered as a culture warrior, par excellence -- having called on the Church to be "the Church militant."  

No matter who Finn's friends may be, Pope Francis -- who has prominently claimed that he stands with the poor and the vulnerable -- is faced with what may be the critical bellwether challenge and opportunity of his papacy.

Originally posted to Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 03:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  The forgiveness of bad behavior is the glue (6+ / 0-)

    that holds the members of some organization together. It is particularly attractive because it costs the members virtually nothing since the victims of abuse bear all the costs.
    The membership is associated by guilt, which is why "guilt by association" has some linguistic basis. Guilt, as I said, serves as a glue, something to be held over a person's head in case he fails to comply. Withheld punishment is more effective than what's doled out because fear of the unknown is stronger than a fait accomplis.
    Guilt is central to the Catholic hierarchy, even if the routine demand for confession has somewhat abated. Which is not to say that any one person is responsible for what another does.

    That said, I really find the formulation "got fifty years" offensive when it refers to a prison sentence. Incarceration is not a "get." Nor, for that matter, is "child porn" a proper characterization. Indeed, I'd even question whether looking at pictures should be considered a crime. Why some adults are turned on by naked bodies is a puzzlement. But that naked humans should be penalized for other people's reactions seems wrong. At a minimum, children should not be associated with a prurient interest. Defining crime in terms of the victim (like consumer fraud and voter fraud) serves to disguise the role of the perp. Consider, for example, that in all the discussion of voter fraud, legislators' desire to restrict and/or remove people who vote "wrong" from the electorate never came up. Ditto, when we talk about child abuse, the aggressive and exploitive adults tend to be overlooked. We put children into foster care and their parents make more.

    Why? Because the relationship between discipline and abuse seems to slip out of social consciousness. Then abuse turns into murder and society cries for the victim, but too late. But, it's what the culture of obedience demands -- compliance is defined as a social good. Death is only bad, given this perspective, because dead people can no longer comply. Indeed, the Catholic hierarchy's to the unborn is entirely consistent, since, if humans aren't born, they can't be forced to comply, either.
    One could say that the Catholic hierarchy provides the model for coerced compliance and the "national security state" seeks to mimick it in a secular way.

    "In the name of the nation, and of the dollar and the rule of law shall you and your children be sacrificed."

    •  get a clue, hannah - he *produced* it (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      native, pvasileff, Ahianne, Bronx59

      you:

      Nor, for that matter, is "child porn" a proper characterization. Indeed, I'd even question whether looking at pictures should be considered a crime.
      the diary:
      pleaded guilty in Federal Court to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempted production of child pornography.
      If he runs true to form of typical child abusers. he shared it, which means those pics are in circulation and the victims are subject to lifelong humiliation.

      Which leads to the reason why even possession of such degradation is illegal - it promotes more of same, and humiliates and re-victimizes the nonconsenting victims. This is not the same as consenting adults posing for money.

  •  Perhaps a retirement is in the offing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Cocozzelli

    out of politically necessitated respect

    Righteousness is a wide path. Self-righteousness is a bullhorn and a blindfold.

    by Murphoney on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 05:27:47 AM PDT

  •  I would change one word... (3+ / 0-)

    ...that Francis is faced with what will (not may) be the bellwether challenge and opportunity of his papacy. Anything short of swift action in response to sex abuse will be double speak. One or two ignored accounts will destroy him, if he, as the only one with the power to do so, fails to clean up his church, beginning with the likes of Finn.

  •  If I were a betting person, I would put (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes

    money on "don't hold your breath".

  •  I was going to post about this myself (5+ / 0-)

    but you beat me to it--thanks for posting.

    Is there any effort among laypeople to put the heat on Finn to resign?  If there isn't, one needs to start.

  •  Ugh (3+ / 0-)

    As a Catholic I shared some of the same sentiments as you did in regard to the new pope.  But then I read dkos this morning with not one but TWO diaries about child sex abuses by Catholic priests around the world and am reminded of why I'm so ashamed to call myself Catholic.  

    This has got to end once and for all.  If it does not end the Catholic Church as an institution will be finished in a matter of time.  A decaying husk with ever diminishing flocks of parishioners.  I still hold out hope that Pope Francis can reverse that trend and institute new changes which will end these disgusting and illegal practices by various priests as well as the complicity of the church in covering up those said acts.

    This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

    by DisNoir36 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 06:21:59 AM PDT

    •  I would highly recommend that readers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joy of Fishes, wintergreen8694

      also visit Betty Clermont's diary. She continues to hold the RCC's feet to the fire and has been one of the few diarists/bloggers to not fall into the latest ga-ga fest over Francis.

      •  Before You Compare My Work to Betty's… (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frederick Clarkson, sturunner

        You should understand that both of us know each other on a friendly basis. Beyond that, she has cited some of my work in her book on Catholic neoconservatives. And while we often take different tones and approaches with our respective work we both see the same thing: reform, not the destruction of the Catholic Church.

        •  I did not intend on giving the impression that (0+ / 0-)

          I was referring to your diariy here when I mentioned diaries that go ga-ga over the new pope. In fact I enjoyed this one of yours.

          I have, however, made very strong statements on her diaries against the church, even suggesting that the institution is so corrupt that it will never change and needs to be abandoned,  and Betty herself has given me recs for them.

  •  The Bishop knows (4+ / 0-)

    The Bishop knows that he broke the law. He knows that he let the children down, the priest with the problem down, the parish that priest was serving down, the Diocese down, the entire Church down. His conscience must be in perpetual turmoil. He is the face of the Catholic Church in his Diocese. He knows that he has lost face.

    I was raised and educated in the Catholic Church/School that this pedophile priest was "serving." I believed in my mind and heart in what I was taught at that Church and elementary school. I was married in that Church. I raised my four children in the Catholic church. I no longer go to church.

    I believe in God. I do not want to be a part of a Religious Group that has sat back and swept all of this child abuse under the rug while claiming to be the One True Religion. I have read for years that child sexual predators do not just stop because they are caught. They have a condition that does not just cease because they are exposed. They go on to commit it over and over again. If I know this, the highly educated leaders, Popes, Bishops.... know this too. So I wonder how the Bishops would just move a problem priest to a new parish and let him continue to abuse innocent children over and over again.

    The Bishop knows what is the right thing to do. It was an honor to be named the leader of a Catholic Diocese. He might have been the right person to be elevated to this position at the time. He has failed. He let every parishioner, good priest, nun, teacher and child in his Diocese down. He is the face of the Catholic church in this area and it is not a pretty face.

    If the Bishops around the world would have done the right thing every time these abuses occurred, these sexual predators would have been incarcerated away from innocent children. They tried to save the face of the Church and it blew up in their face. It is a crying shame that there had to be so many innocent young victims along the way.

    I like what I see from the new Pope. I see he is leading by example. He looks like a true leader. We will see how he does overall, but I truly hope that the failed Bishops of the world would realize that their failures do represent the face of their Diocese/Church. They are harming it and should step down from leadership. If they do not, I hope the Pope takes actions to do so.

    WAR stops a beating heart.

    by Ltddy on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 08:03:23 AM PDT

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