Screen heavily for hubris.
Among the many qualifications, both clerical and character, for the next leader of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, a lack of prideful arrogance will be of utmost importance.
The news of Bishop Robert Finn’s resignation restores nothing for those who suffered the gravest harm, the victims of sexual abuse by priests. There is no replacing a childhood stolen from its innocence. For those who were unwilling to see the damage that Finn leveraged, his departure only adds to their inability to accept the truth.
Finn’s successor will have to walk between these two grieving groups and ease reconciliation for both. Finn’s departure is a necessary and overdue step in the process of reclaiming the reputation of the diocese and restoring a sense of unity for parishioners.
Finn did not create many of the problems of the long-running abuse scandal. He was merely one high-ranking official in a hierarchy that for decades sought solace for priests more than it did for their victims.
Some of the clergy who continued in that vein under Finn remain in place. No one willed evil to occur. But not stepping backward into the mire will require sustained checks in attitude and adherence to the many systemic changes put in place to better protect children.
Finn’s sin was that he didn’t agree to changes until he was forced to do so. The pressures came from millions of dollars in settlements, from the criminal court, from public humiliation and from pressure from parishioners.
As one victim of a pedophile priest said Tuesday: “This was a victory for the pew-sitting Catholics.”
Catholics have no say in deciding who leads their diocese. But they have let their views be known in their disappointment in Finn, some withholding donations or leaving the faith.
The era of not questioning the words or deeds of priests, much less a bishop, is over. Parishioners will demand accountability going forward in ways unheard of decades ago.
The church’s greatest strength has always been from these ranks, from the believers. These are the families and singles who tithe weekly, supporting the good works of organizations like Catholic Charities and parochial schools that educate children of many faiths. Their efforts have continued under this cloud, even as many questioned their own faith because of the scandal.
These Catholics deserve a new bishop worthy of their sacrifices who can meet them in a dedication to living their lives as their faith intends.