Rod Dreher is back in the blogosphere, and has two very good blogs (here and here) on the situation in Kansas City, where Bishop Finn has just been indicted.

Dreher makes most of the important points. I have only a few words to add.

Bishops cannot be trusted implicitly. Some consider it their duty to lie to protect themselves. They do not consider anything they promise to be binding.

The Catholic Church suffers from a serious misunderstanding of the role of the clergy. The laity are infantilized, and want to regard the clergy as living oracles and saints, rather than as ordinary sinners who have a difficult and demanding role in the Catholic community. The higher clergy especially are politicians, and should be given no more trust than any other politician, whether in corporate, military, or governmental life. The laity in general turn a blind eye to this; recognizing it would make life too uncomfortable.

The Catholic Church (and other forms of Christianity) also suffers from a widespread misunderstanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift, first of all; it cannot be demanded. To be forgiven the sinner must truly repent, and part of repentance is accepting the just punishment for one’s sins (in Bishop Finn’s case, time in jail) and a desire to, as far as possible, remedy the evil that one’s sin has caused.

The role of penance has been forgotten. One has only to consider how abusive priests would have been treated in the early church. Even if repentant, they would have had to do lifelong, harsh physical penance and would have been reconciled to the church only on their deathbed.

In Newfoundland, after Archbishop Penney had transferred abusers, he appointed a commission to investigate his actions The committee told Penney that he was indeed at fault. Penney, being a faulty but an honorable man, resigned his office and devoted his life to prayer and penance for the harm he had caused. If Finn were an honorable man, he would resign, plead guilty, and tell the court he would accept whatever punishment the court saw fit. If, that is, he were an honorable man. If he knew what honor was.

Leave a Comment