For the first time in history, a US Catholic diocese is headed by a convicted criminal. So what’s next for Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn?
He’ll declare bankruptcy in the months ahead. That’s my prediction.
It’s always risky to claim to know what the future holds. But look at the situation in KC.
--More than two dozen civil child sex abuse and cover up lawsuits are pending.
--So too is a suit by almost 50 victims who say Finn broke a 2008 contract with them – in a variety of ways – by continuing to protect predators and endanger kids.
-- Some of the pending cases involve recent crimes and other misdeeds regarding Fr. Shawn Ratigan.
--If even one of them goes to trial, it will prove to be very embarrassing for top KC Catholic officials, including Finn.
--After all he’s been through, the last thing Finn wants is for even one of these cases to go to trial.
--So his goal (and the goal of virtually every bishop, we believe) is to prevent discovery and trials that would expose more wrongdoing by he and his top aides.
Now, let’s look at finances.
-- Finn is wasting money. (At one court hearing last fall, for instance, ten defense lawyers appeared to represent church officials.)
--Finn admits spending $1.39 million defending himself and the diocese in a criminal case. http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/kansas-city-cases-cost-diocese-139-million-legal-fees
--He’s taken heat for plans to build a five-story complex for Catholic college students.
--And he’s considering building a special – and no doubt expensive - crypt in which he’d put the remains of deceased bishops.
We’ve seen this kind of unusual and profligate spending before by bishops. . .in dioceses that end up seeking bankruptcy protection.
So what should Finn be doing at this point?
--Avoid the tempting but disingenuous cop out of bankruptcy protection and let abuse victims have their “day in court”
--Bring in an independent auditor examine diocesan finances
--Seek funds and loans elsewhere (if need be) to settle clergy sex cases (if need be)
--Hold a series of meetings with parishioners across the diocese before considering Chapter 11.
Let’s be clear: We seriously doubt that the diocese is hurting financially. Until Finn “truly comes clean” about all church finances – stocks, bonds, property, insurance coverage and other assets – we feel it is naïve for parishioners and the public to believe any cries of “poverty” by church officials.
Talk of “tough finances” by church officials is often “posturing” designed to deter victims from coming forward and tricking victims in litigation into settling for small sums.
If the diocese becomes short on funds, again, we believe Finn should exhaust all other means of raising or borrowing money to resolve the clergy sex abuse cases. (In 2002, Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law borrowed millions from a fraternal Catholic men’s group to settle with hundreds of victims.)