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Bishop Robert Finn to preside over ordinations despite resignation

Despite announcing his resignation a week ago, Bishop Robert W. Finn will preside over the priestly ordinations of seven area deacons next month in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. Longtime critics of Finn expressed agitation over Finn’s continuing role in a diocese from which he stepped down under a cloud of scandal.
Despite announcing his resignation a week ago, Bishop Robert W. Finn will preside over the priestly ordinations of seven area deacons next month in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. Longtime critics of Finn expressed agitation over Finn’s continuing role in a diocese from which he stepped down under a cloud of scandal. rsugg@kcstar.com

Despite announcing his resignation a week ago, Bishop Robert W. Finn will preside over the priestly ordinations of seven deacons next month in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.

A diocese spokesman Monday cited a scheduling conflict that prevented the new temporary leader of the diocese, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, from ordaining the seven men on May 23 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City.

Naumann, who continues to lead the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, will preside over ordinations scheduled for the same time in Leawood.

Longtime critics of Finn expressed agitation over the bishop’s continuing role in a diocese from which he stepped down under a cloud of scandal.

“Good grief. It’s appalling,” said Michael Sandridge, who was among the plaintiffs in 32 sex-abuse lawsuits against the diocese that were settled in 2014. “Like the good ol’ boy network all over again.

“… What did his resignation mean? Nothing, really,” said Sandridge, a Kansas City resident who alleged he was raped by two priests about 30 years ago.

Finn, 62, resigned April 21 for reasons unspecified by him and the Vatican. Pope Francis accepted the resignation several days after Finn visited Rome.

During that visit, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, was made aware of the upcoming ordinations and recommended that Finn lead the Missouri ceremonies, diocese spokesman Jack Smith said.

Naumann, whom the Vatican selected to administer the diocese until Finn’s permanent successor is named, delegated Finn to ordain the priests after conferring with the papal nuncio, the pope’s ambassador in Washington.

Naumann told The Star on Monday, “If I could have done the ordinations (on the Missouri side) myself, I would have.”

But beyond his own scheduled duties to ordain four priests during the same morning hours that the Missouri ceremonies are underway, the archbishop said he wanted to respect the wishes of the seven men who trained under Finn’s tutelage.

“There is closure on this,” Naumann said in a phone interview. “Bishop Finn resigned, and the Holy See has accepted it. But he doesn’t disappear from the face of the Earth. … He still is a bishop.”

Smith, the diocese spokesman, said ordinations are scheduled months in advance and must be performed by a bishop. Friends and families of the deacons to be ordained in Kansas City had already made travel plans.

Deacon Joshua Barlett, an area native who will be among those ordained by Finn, said: “I do echo most everyone when I say we are very excited for Bishop Finn to perform the ordination.

“I started into this eight years ago. He’s led us all the way through,” said Barlett, who is completing his postgraduate studies at a theology school in Ohio.

In an open letter last week to the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, Naumann called for “healing and grace.” He cited the coming ordinations on both sides of the state line as “one of the great signs of the New Springtime in the Church.”

Naumann also has delegated Finn to lead a May 16 ordination of a seminarian who is becoming a deacon. Naumann said he will perform a June ordination of two priests in Missouri.

A Jackson County circuit judge in 2012 convicted Finn of a misdemeanor of failing to report suspected child abuse until months after church leaders and employees learned of photographs of young girls on a priest’s computer. The charges were expunged from Finn’s record after he completed a two-year probation period without incident.

The priest in question, Shawn Ratigan, pleaded guilty to producing child pornography. Ratigan was expelled from the priesthood and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Upon learning of Finn’s upcoming ordination duties, Rebecca Randles, a lawyer who represents alleged victims of sexual abuse by clergy, said: “We have a concern of the ongoing role of Bishop Finn in the diocese. Our clients had hoped the resignation of Bishop Finn finally would bring closure.”

Naumann said the church’s intention “was not to elevate anyone’s pain,” a reaction he said he understood. Rather, the ordinations provide an opportunity to celebrate people coming into the priesthood, one of the “beautiful and fruitful” aspects of Finn’s legacy at the diocese, Naumann said.

Finn had led the diocese almost 10 years.

“It probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable” to see Finn continue to perform bishop duties, said Jim Caccamo, a past critic of the diocese’s lack of leadership on the sex-abuse issue. But he said it’s time now for parishioners to start trusting.

“Somewhere along the line I have to trust people,” said Caccamo, who had led the diocese’s independent review board that evaluated cases of suspected abuse and made recommendations to Finn.

“The archbishop can only be in one place at a time,” he said. “More importantly, we have to trust that the pope knows what he’s doing and that the archbishop knows what he’s doing.”

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410 or send email to rmontgomery@kcstar.com.

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