Do words matter or not? (And KC bishop clarifications)

Catholic officials often apologize for abuse, saying “we’ll do better.”

And victims then often criticize them, saying “Words don’t protect kids. Action protects kids.”

Church defenders rebut this by saying “Words DO matter.  Words are important.”

Except, apparently, right now. Some church defenders claim that what Pope Francis does or doesn’t say about Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn doesn’t really matter.

Victims want the Pope to “come clean” about Finn (who remains a bishop even though he resigned his office this week). Did voluntarily Finn resign? Or was he forced out?

Is Finn gone because he hid child sex crimes? Or because a quarter of his flock walked away in less than a decade?

In response, some church defenders say “Oh, the pope’s words don’t matter. What matters is that Finn no longer heads the diocese.”

So which is it? You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Here, by the way, are a few short clarifications about Bishop Finn and Kansas City cover ups.

First, he did not plead guilty (as some news accounts have said). He was found guilty by a judge.

Second, Finn did not “delay” reporting Fr. Shawn Ratigan’s suspected clergy child sex crimes to authorities (as some news accounts have said). Finn never reported them. (Finn’s vicar general called the police, while Finn was out of town. When Finn returned and learned what had happened, he yelled at the vicar general.)

Third, he did not “fail” to call police (again, as some news accounts have said). Failure implies a good-faith attempt that somehow goes awry. Finn is a smart and well-educated man with smart and well-educated advisors, lawyers and public relations experts. He did not “fail” to report Fr. Ratigan’s crimes. He refused to report them and in fact hid them, month after month.

Fourth, Finn did not “endanger kids (as some news accounts have said). Kids were in fact harmed during the months Finn refused to supervise Fr. Ratigan and give the police evidence of his crimes.

Whether it’s with Fr. Ratigan, Fr. James Tierney, Fr. Thomas Cronin, Bishop Joseph Hart or other child molesting clerics in or from KC, minimizing, misunderstanding or misrepresenting what Finn and his top aides did serves no one but the guilty. 

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