Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bishop Finn in the KC Star

Bishop Finn in the Kansas City Star

The Bishop of Kansas City St. Joseph was interviewed for
a story in Saturday's Kansas City Star by Helen Gray. I'm not so sure I would have consented to it, were I the man under the mitre. The Star is an anti-Catholic rag, and its religion page (just recently demoted from a Religion Section, presumably because of lack of interest in its mushy, non-substantive fare) is run by a fashionable syncreticist who hasn't manifested a belief in too much of anything permanent that I can tell, Bill Tammeus.

Were I the the bishop (and thank God I'm not, because I wouldn't have the grace or patience to do the job here, as Finn seems to have), I'd at least run the full text of the interview on my own website, free from the editorial hatchet, as cautious
Archbishop Chaput did last fall when he let the New York Times interview him.

My first reaction to the article was that it wasn't as bad as I expected. However, on reflection, I think it really was bad. Even though I hate quantitative analysis (counting things alone rarely leads to understanding them), let's start there anyways:
  • Six (cautiously negative) quotations from two of the main chancery officials who've been ousted, Rush and Noonan.

  • Negative comments from the New Wine director.

  • 0 comments from priests happy with the new change

  • 0 comments from new chancery officials

  • 1 attributed general comment from a layman positive about the change ("We traditional Catholics have kind of been held back for many years") Surely they could have found someone to say more said than that!

  • 1 unattributed quotation from someone happy to see McBrien's column gone.

  • 1 laissez faire comment from retired Bishop Boland.

Hardly a balanced article, based on the numbers, was it? I do want to note that Bishop Boland's contributions to the article (i.e., his refusal to support or detract from Finn and his exposition of his diocesan governance strategy . . . I mean, non-governance strategy) are reflective of the way he governed the diocese: ignore things and let the staff do what they want, and snap back at concerned laity that objected.

Looking at the content of the article, Finn's comments and the discussion of his actions were cobbled together for the story to almost be incoherent. But I suppose that the main "beef" I have is with the usual distinction between the supposed "pastoral" bishop and the "strict constructionist" bishop, and the unchallenged subtext of the article that Finn isn't a "pastoral" bishop.

What is a "pastoral bishop"? Why the word itself answers the question! A pastoral bishop is a Pastor Bonus, a Good Shepherd—the Good Shepherd that Christ spoke of. Who's the better shepherd? A bishop who's attitude is to delegate and to "govern least"? Or is it the shepherd who's vigilant to keep sheep from straying and keeping predators from the flock?
Somebody gave me a CD containing a sermon by a priest who hailed from a sheep farm. In that sermon, he described in disgusting, vivid terms (terms Mrs. Curmudgeon could hardly listen to) what it means to take good care of the sheep. He told the story of his finding a ewe with fleece rot and scrubbing her raw, maggoty flesh with medicine in order to save her. This priest's point was that sometimes you have to inflict a little pain in order to do what's best. Would this priest have been a good shepherd if he had just let the ewe go when she struggled against him and bawled? No.

So, then, back to our bishops. Who's the more pastoral, the one who lets McBrien's heretical column run in the diocesan newspaper and funds programs that are incompatible with historic and established moral and doctrinal Catholic teaching, or the one who watches his flock closely, and takes decisive action when he sees their well-being threatened?

Now, we can't necessarily blame Helen Gray for this article, because her work has to go through multiple edits, including (we assume) one from religion editor Bill Tammeus, who's own columns leave no doubt he's got an axe to grind against anyone who takes traditional religious teaching too seriously. But, nonetheless, it wouldn't hurt to drop an email to Ms. Gray and let her know that there are plenty of Catholics happy with what's happening here. Her email address is .

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