Bill Donohue stands by his man.
It has never seemed the best hill to die on, but apparently Catholic League president Bill Donohue doesn’t know how to quit defending Bishop Robert Finn, who was found guilty this week of one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse. (Be sure to readDavid Gibson’s post on the devastating Timesstory.) Back in November, Donohue declaredthat Finn was “an innocent man,” and flew all the way to Kansas City just to show how much he meant it. “In an ideal world,” Donohue claimed, “there would have been no charges whatsoever: there was no complainant and no violation of law.” Yes, and in an ideal world, when a U.S. bishop learns — nearly a decade after the 2002 wave of scandals broke — that one of his priests has crotch shots of kids on his computer, after having learned about a detailed letter of complaint about the guy from a Catholic school principal, the bishop would report the priest to the proper authorities, in accordance with civil and canon law. But that’s not the world Bishop Finn was living in. So now he stands convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse. In other words, Finn is not an innocent man. That’s why he issued a statement — both through his lawyer(.doc) and on his own behalf (.doc) — that contains apologetic-sounding words arranged in a way that avoids actually accepting responsibility for his failure to report the pornographer priest Ratigan. (Do yourself a favor and read Mark Silk on that and more here.)
You’d think Finn’s conviction would be enough to force Donohue back from the ledge, or at least show a measure of contrition. But no. He’s going all the way over. In his latest pronouncement, magisterially titled “Assessing Bishop Finn’s Guilt,” Donohue purports to bust some myths about the Finn case. Instead, he perpetrates some myth-making of his own. Let’s have a look…
The bishops are mounting a crusade for religious freedom (1) in regard to Catholic educational, health-care, and social services whose religious character (especially of Catholic colleges, universities, and hospitals) church authorities routinely suspect and whose personnel they constantly alienate; (2) in regard to forms of exemption that are hugely expansive and highly debatable; and (3) in regard to church teachings that fewer and fewer Catholics accept. This is not an obvious formula for success.
There is a healthy struggle brewing among the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops. A previously silent group, upset over conservative colleagues defining the church’s public posture and eagerly picking fights with President Barack Obama, has had enough.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent censure of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for ‘serious doctrinal problems raises a number of familiar, if troubling, questions. The LCWR, which represents most American nuns, exists to provide support for the work sisters do for the poor, the imprisoned, the ill, and the marginalized, and to give the various religious communities a corporate voice. As part of the CDF’s action, the LCWR will be put into a kind of receivership under Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain—essentially suppressing what little autonomy the group has had. Its statutes will be rewritten and speakers for LCWR meetings will now be vetted. The sisters were specifically reprimanded for speaking out in opposition to positions taken by the U.S. bishops but also for keeping ‘silent’ about church teachings on ordination and same-sex marriage. Is silence now considered a form of dissent? Are women religious not even allowed to determine the priorities of their own ministries?
In its recent statement regarding the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted that its principal means of assessing the doctrinal fidelity of the LCWR was a review of keynote and leadership addresses at the LCWR annual assembly. Many of the documents in question are publicly available on the LCWR web site. Given the controversy, I wanted to read some of these documents myself. What I found was not what I expected.
There’s really nothing much more comical/offensive than reading political analysts (invariably Anglos) speculating about how Romney picking Marco Rubio has the potential to peel the Latino vote away from Obama. The stupidity that this implicitly attributes to the Latino electorate(s) is genuinely staggering.