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Confused Cardinal

So it looks like Bishop Finn is back in the spotlight. And due to my prescient yet circumspect nature, I am inclined to think that these occurrences might signal that the case might be coming to a resolution in the Congregation of Bishops at the Roman Curia. Here are my thoughts.


Recently, at least two stories appeared where the “no nonsense” Archbishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in Missouri, Robert W. Finn was mentioned. The most notable was in an interview given by the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley to the CBS program 60 Minutes. In a very confused interview, both for him and his apologists (see here), cd. O’Malley ventured to give an “un-nuanced”opinion about the predicament in which Bishop Finn finds himself. And after looking at those replies, there are only two possibilities about how they could have came about: either the Cardinal was disingenuous or ignorant of the facts of the case. But more about this later.

I also need to mention here that I never bought into the notion that cd. O’Malley was on the COLD Christian end of the HOT/COLD Christian Continuum, and I think I can safely say that I have been proven correct. (see here)


Bishop Finn has been the subject of an Apostolic Visitation instigated by the Congregation of Bishops at the Roman Curia. (see here) The Cardinal Prefect of this congregation is the Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet. Cardinal Ouellet was appointed on the 30th of June, 2010 by pope Benedict XVI. And just for the record, with respect to where cd. Ouellet lies on the HOT/COLD Christian continuum (see here), the good cardinal appears to be a solid COLD CHRISTIAN (see here). I would even go further and say that Cd. Ouellet appears to be one of the more independent and intellectually honest members of the Roman Curia. It is no wonder that one of the first appointments that Francis made was to assign him a new secretary, one from Brazil (see here). The secretary of this congregation is Bishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari, who is a part of that group of early surprise appointments that Francis made after he ascended to the Throne of St. Peter.

Facts underlying the Visitation

The reason the apostolic visit came about was due to an incident that occurred in Bishop Finn’s diocese with one of his priests, who was caught producing child pornography. The priest is one Father Shawn Ratigan, about who is written the following: (see here) (with emphasis and [comment])

The 47-year-old priest pleaded guilty in August 2012 to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child porn, one count for each of the five victims.

Ratigan was charged in May 2011 after police received a flash drive from his computer containing hundreds of images of children, most of them clothed, with the focus on their crotch areas. Ratigan apparently attempted suicide after the pictures were discovered. [Very mild, as these types of incidents go]

Bishop Finn’s problem arose as follows and we will let the folks at the Eponymous Flower blog explain: (see here)

Basic fact of the matter is that Father Ratigan, while having a problem with pornography, was determined not to be a threat to children by his psychiatrist. Unfortunately, after his attempted suicide and being returned to light duty, Ratigan proved unwilling or incapable of following the orders prescribed for him, and Msgr Murphy then reported Ratigan to police as Kansas City Star reports:

“Ratigan attempted suicide just after the diocese learned of the troubling pictures on his computer in December 2010. He later was sent for a mental evaluation, [ by his psychiatrist as per above paragraph] after which Finn reassigned him to an Independence mission house and ordered him to stay away from children, computers and cameras. Murphy reported Ratigan to police in May 2011 after he repeatedly violated those orders.”

And it was this failure to report in 2010, based on the psychiatrist’s evaluation that determined that Fr. Ratigan was not a threat, that Bp.Finn reassigned Fr. Ratigan to another parish, and was the basis for Bishop Finn’s problems. It was on these facts that Bp. Finn was convicted of one count of failing to report suspected child abuse. Here, the KC Star via the EF blog reports:

Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph was convicted Sept. 6 of one count of failing to report suspected child abuse and acquitted on another count in a brief bench trial.

Jackson County Circuit Judge John M. Torrence issued the verdict and quickly set and suspended a sentence of two years’ probation. The charges carried a possible maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. [Once again,mild as these types of case go]

So those are the facts with respect to the bp. Finn case and the conviction.

And a thought has crossed my mind which is: I wonder how many of cd. O’Malley’s cleanup cases in Boston were this easy.

 Apostolic Visitation in Kansas City-St. Joseph

The Apostolic Visitation “originated” in the Congregation for Bishops in Rome and the Kansas City-St.Joseph diocese was informed by the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano in Washington DC, [remember that name]. A fellow Canadian (of the Congregation Prefect), the Archbishop of Ottawa, Ontario, Terrence Predergast was assigned to make the visitation to the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (see here):

An apostolic visitor is a person, usually a bishop, who is sent by the pope to investigate a particular problem in a local church or religious order. The scope of the visitor’s mandate is determined by the letter of appointment, but generally it involves investigating facts, evaluating views and reporting back to the Holy See, possibly with recommendations for a course of action.

Here is what we know about the scope of Arbp. Prendergast’s mandate:

Several of the people the Ottawa archbishop interviewed spoke anonymously to NCR. They said the archbishop made the visitation on behalf of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops and that he asked, “Do you think (Finn) is fit to be a leader?”

That’s it.

So now that we know the lay of the land, let’s move on to the O’Malley interview.

The O’Malley Interview

After a year of declining to be interviewed on the CBS 60 Minutes program, cd.O’Malley finally acquiesced, made his appearance and the program aired on Nov 16. (see here) When he wasn’t saying stupid stuff about starting his own religion and wymyn priestesses, and this after cd. O’Malley had a year of prep time, he made those mentioned “either disingenuous or ignorant statements” about bp. Finn.

So here is the pertinent part of the interview:

Norah O’Donnell: I want to ask you about Robert Finn, who is the bishop of Kansas City/St. Joseph and, as you know, he pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor for not reporting one of his priests to authorities. Bishop Finn wouldn’t be able to teach Sunday school in Boston.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley: That’s right.

Norah O’Donnell: How is that zero tolerance…

Cardinal Seán O’Malley: Well…

Norah O’Donnell: …that he’s still in place? What does it say to Catholics?

Cardinal Seán O’Malley: Well, it’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently.

Norah O’Donnell: And there’s a recognition?

Cardinal Seán O’Malley: There’s a recognition of that.

Norah O’Donnell: From Pope Francis?

Cardinal Seán O’Malley: From Pope Francis.

The response to these question would be laughable, if not for the fact that they are shocking . They are shocking for a number of reasons. The first is that there was an Apostolic Visitation and a report has been provided to the Congregation of Bishops.

However,the more glaring issue with those replies is that cd. O’Malley is (supposedly) the President of a new Church commission to combat child abuse. (see here) Here is the CBS text:

At the heart of Pope Francis’ revolution in the Catholic Church is a shy Franciscan friar, the pope’s closest American advisor, CardinalSeán O’Malley. The pope has appointed him president of the Church’s crucial new commission to combat child abuse and named him a member of the Council of Cardinals, the pope’s small “kitchen cabinet” charged with helping redraw the way the church is governed.

If this is the case, then it must be assumed that cd. O’Malley knows the facts of the Bishop Finn case. And if he knows the facts, and also knows about the “thousands” of cases in the Boston area alone that he came to cleanup, he must be in a position to assess the severity of the facts in the Finn case. Furthermore, from this interview, looks like cd. O’Malley has made a career of… how shall I put this…. cleaning up after the mess made by the “Spirit of VII” when it came ashore. Here are the transcripts relating to this :

Norah O’Donnell: Were you worried?

Cardinal Seán O’Malley: Yes. Terrified. Terrified because the Archdiocese of Boston, the onetime symbol of American Catholicism was dissolving, thanks to what was then the biggest sex abuse scandal in church history.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley: There were a thousand lawsuits against us. The seminary was empty. As I say such anger, disappointment, upset on the part of the people.

Now let the above sink in for a minute

If this is the case, then cd. O’Malley has a damn good idea of the kinds of things that the “New Springtime” brought into the Boston archdioceses. He also knows what the cleanup looks like after the Spirit of VII came ashore, since it looks like he has made a career out of it. Furthermore, from the interview it appears that O’Malley came to Boston from other cleanup operations, first in River Falls Massachusetts, then in Palm Beach. Therefore, it can easily be implied that cd. O’Malley has a good idea about how to judge assess the facts in the bp. Finn case. He also has the experience to assess how bp. Finn reacted with respect to how other bishops reacted in similar situations. And finally, cd. O’Malley has the ability to assess the degree to which bp. Finn is responsible for the situation which led to his conviction. So given the above, it is not hard to assume that the Cardinal’s responses were less then ingenuous.

However, if we do not want to impart bad will on the good Cardinal, then we can assume that O‘Malley did not know the facts.  And this is the more likely explanation. The good cardinal has not bothered to take the time to inquire about this situation. He might have been speaking out of complete ignorance.

But either way, the answers provided by cd. O’Malley look just as bad as those he provided in the rest of the interview. With one exception, these answers had a direct bearing on a fellow bishop.

And injustice was done to Bishop Finn by cd. O’Malley. The only question is: was it intentional?

I will leave this question open. Let’s chalk one up to charity.

Let’s return now to the Visitation and see if we can draw any inferences.

The Visitation in Context

As to the explanation behind the visitation itself, one aspect of this situation becomes apparent from the very outset. As with the situation at the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Bishop Livieres in the Ciudad del Este dioceses, bishop Oliveri in Northern Italy or even the situation with Bishop van Elst in Limburgh, the scale of the force used against the targeted party is not commensurate with the basic facts of the underlying situation. In other words, we are not talking here about “post Christian” political party pagan operatives who just so happen to be nuns, like in the case of the Leadership Conference on Women Religious. (LCWR). We are dealing with individuals who are sound Catholics in both their speech and behavior. And this is how the Eponymous Flower blog sees it: (see here)

On the other hand, the Visitor is himself something of an outspoken opponent of Gomorrism.  This will be a real test of Archbishop Pendergrast’s integrity if he resists what we assume is a foregone conclusion. 

Since there are so few of them, the Vatican is making little effort to hide its contempt for Traditionally-minded bishops.
 The latest target is Kansas City-St. Joseph’s Robert Fiinn, who is under investigation by the Vatican. While the secular media tries to paint Bishop Finn as someone who protected a child-molester, it doesn’t take a genius to see what really irks the Vatican about this bishop:  

• He promotes Summorum Pontificum and regularly offers the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

• He published a pastoral letter about the dangers of pornography

• He has lifted new vocations to a 40-year high, packing his seminaries with 110 new seminarians

He has publicly warned Catholics that they cannot be Freemasons

• He cleaned up the mess he inherited from his predecessor, “company man” Raymond Boland, by:

Slashing funding for diocesan bureaucracies

Revising the diocese’s adult catechesis program

Firing a lay chancellor and replacing him with a priest

Ordering the editor of the diocesan paper to stop publishing columns by dissident Richard McBrien

He took an oratory slated for demolition and transformed it into a thriving Latin Mass parish

He publicly prays rosary vigils in front of abortion clinic

Oh my! Sounds like a real Catholic bishop. I can see why the Francis Folk don’t like him.

We can also easily see the similarities with the other individuals and organizations who have found themselves under Apostolic Visitors under the reign of Francis, bishop of Rome.

Summa summarum

And a couple of final comments.The fate of Bishop Finn is partially in the hands of the Archbishop Terrence Predergast. The report he submits/submitted to the Congregation of Bishops will make for very interesting reading. The reason why it will be interesting is that bp. Predergast appears to be of a similar mindset to that of cd. Ouellet, i.e. independent and intellectually honest. But between bp. Predergast and cd. Ouellet sits the Francis appointee, the Brazilian Ilson de Jesus Montanari who one can reasonably assume to be a typical modernist, and probably the guy minding the store for Francis. And if one wanted to be cynical, one could easily make the case that the fate of Bp. Finn is in the hands of modernists like Montanari who instigated the visitation in the first place, and will most likely try to spin the report of bp. Predergast against Bp.Finn. So this upcoming situation can make for interesting theater, just like the “JPII/Familiaris Consortio Miracle Thursday” outburt of cd. Pell at the Shameful Secret Synod of 2015.

However, in reality the fate of Bp. Finn’s rests in the hands of Francis, the bishop of Rome. And he’s the king pope.

Post Scriptum

Concluding this post two further things need to be mentioned. First I would like to draw the readers attention to the scandal of Cardinal Danneel of Belgium. For those who are not familiar with this incident, Rorate Caeli has an excellent post (see here). So when the decision in the Finn visitation is announced, by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops Francis bishop of Rome, it is helpful to keep in mind and compare this decision with the manner in which Francis handled the scandal of Cardinal Danneel. As per RC post, Cd. Danneel was caught on tape tampering with a witness shall we say. Actually, one could say that cd. Danneel threatened a witness. Not only didn’t cd. Danneel face any consequences for his actions, he was rewarded by the bishop of Rome appointing cd. Danneel to the Shameful Secret Synod of 2014.

And lastly, the Danneel incident provides an excellent insight into what is of real importance in modernist Rome. It is plain for all to see that the sex abuse scandals are really of a secondary importance. What is important is the power and prestige that comes with the positions. And in these time, with a pontiff like the present one, it appears that what’s important is whatever Francis fancies on any given day.