What had begun as an attack against Bishop Robert Finn by the National Catholic Reporter has become a blueprint touted by Catholics as a way to free Diocesan offices of the shackles of years of dissenting, overpaid, power drunk liberal bureaucrats who have mismanaged the Church for the last 20-30 years.
Entitled Extreme Makeover, the article begins:
"Perhaps nowhere in America has the transition from a church focused on social engagement and lay empowerment to one more concerned with Catholic identity and evangelization been more dramatic, or in some ways more wrenching, than in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese since the appointment of Bishop Robert Finn.
Finn has brought the diocese, for decades a model of the former category of church practice, to a screeching halt and sent it veering off in a new direction, leaving nationally heralded education programs and high-profile lay leaders and women religious with long experience abandoned and dismayed."
You know it's going to be good. It's laughable that the Reporter frames this question in terms of "social engagement and lay empowerment" versus "Catholic identity and evangelization". If those are our two choices I pick Door # 2! What did Bishop Finn do to dismay the liberals?
High Crimes and Misdemeanors
# Dismissed the chancellor, a layman with 21 years of experience in the diocese, and the vice chancellor, a religious woman stationed in the diocese for nearly 40 years and the chief of pastoral planning for the diocese since 1990, and replaced them with a priest chancellor.
# Cancelled the diocese’s nationally renowned lay formation programs and a master’s degree program in pastoral ministry.
# Cut in half the budget of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry, effectively forcing the almost immediate resignation of half the seven-member team. Within 10 months all seven would be gone and the center shuttered.
# Ordered a “zero-based study” of adult catechesis in the diocese and appointed as vice chancellor to oversee adult catechesis, lay formation and the catechesis study a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.
# Ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publishing columns by Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien.
# Announced that he would review all front page stories, opinion pieces, columns and editorials before publication.
And then it got serious:
As his first year in office unfolded and as budgets were prepared for a new fiscal year, the new bishop’s priorities emerged:
* The budget of the Office of Peace and Justice was cut in half. One of two full-time staff positions was eliminated, and the other may be reduced.
* Support of the Diocesan Bolivian Mission, a relationship established with the La Paz archdiocese in 1963, was cut from $50,000 annually to $10,000 annually. Fr. Michael Gillgannon, the diocesan priest missioned to Bolivia since 1974, learned of the cut while home on leave in April.
* The Vocation Office went from a part-time priest vocation director to a full-time priest vocation director with a part-time priest assistant and additional support from the head of the newly established Office for Consecrated Life.
* A separate Respect Life Office was established to handle pro-life issues and battle stem-cell research.
* The diocesan-sponsored master’s program, administered for eight years by the Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Dominican school affiliated with Jesuit-run St. Louis University, was transferred to the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Florida-based Ave Maria University. Ave Maria is being developed by former Domino’s Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan, who has funded a host of conservative Catholic efforts.
* Finn upgraded a Latin Mass community, which has been meeting in a city parish, to a parish in its own right and appointed himself pastor. Later, he asked the parish that the Latin Mass community will be leaving to donate $250,000 of the estimated $1.5 million the Latin group needs to renovate the old church Finn gave them.
A bishop’s job is to help Catholics respond to their baptismal call to holiness, grow in the sacramental life and be closer to God, in short, to help everyone become saints. “You can’t say it more simply or profoundly than that,” he said. “Our goal is to get ourselves to heaven and take as many people with us as we can.”
And on the role of the laity:
“We have to understand where the power of the laity is,” [Finn] said. “It’s in the family, the workplace, the marketplace. That’s where [the transformation of society] has to happen.
We've waited a long time. Too long but finally we are seeing some progress in the Church in the United States. Bishop Finn, you give us hope and you make us proud.
N.B. to the NCR- a makeover is a good thing and an extreme makeover is even better.
More subversive action by Bishop Finn as he participates in Lifechain- an abortion protest.