Monday, May 08, 2006
Kansas City: Sea or Swamp?Well, the long-expected NCR story on my diocese and our new bishop is online. I would say that mostly the story is calm and balanced, though it does get a little enthusiastic at times in overstating the case against Bishop Finn. An hour interview and there's not a lot quoteworthy from the bishop: NCR might have worked harder on that. Finn gets points for agreeing to the interview. There's nothing in the Church against a leader who wants to set new directions. It happens in parishes all the time, and in a diocese from time to time. Sometimes new leaders are welcomed and sometimes they get bogged down. It's too early to tell if Kansas City will be a swamp or a calm sea for Bishop Finn. I'm not venturing any predictions. I can certainly agree with Finn's emphasis on the universal call to holiness. I've heard that message from him more than once, and I think it's a desperately needed one. My sense is that he's utterly sincere about it. Thing is, I think a lot of the old chancery personnel would have been willing to get on board with it. That's a lost opportunity. Especially telling is the commentary along the lines of "But he didn't even ask us." The pattern of non-communication is a bit disturbing. This story fills in some spaces for me and gives me a bit more insight as to what's happening behind the scenes in the diocese. There is a pattern in human behavior focused on the avoidance of confrontation, especially unpleasant confrontation. The bishop strikes me as a gentle soul. His sensitivity rather than his bold ideas may well have been more of a handicap to him in the diocese thus far. Every true leader must make tough calls. The real test of that leader is how those calls are finessed in a way that more people invest themselves in such calls. I had heard of the unpreparedness the diocese faced after it had let Beste and Noonan go. The administrative backtracking to cover butts must have been humiliating, especially to the point of offering the dismissed personnel their jobs back on a temporary basis. That probably shows that not enough listening and study went into the co-adjutor year. Embarassment aside, the question of leadership remains very much an open one today. Are there enough Catholics, especially clergy, who will follow the new bishop? Finn says he has time to wait. But essentially the wheel is getting reinvented, administratively speaking. Finn might have twenty years with us. He inherits a diocese with a substantial number of uppity folks. A lot of them are still ticked off about the mismanagement of sex offender priests. And every so often, a priest is caught doing something naughty--at least twice since I've been to town--and that doesn't include old allegations surfacing. If I were in Finn's shoes, I might have waited a year or two to make sweeping changes. The changes, however coordinated or planned, were pretty much bungled. I think a case might be made for making one's case for shifting diocesan direction. Then if people bail out, they do so on their own terms. As it is, we'll never really know if the Finn way would have been embraced. Principles were put ahead of people, something I think you can justify if the people are demons or the times are grave. It wouldn't surprise me to see Robert Finn mature into an able bishop. But I think he's unnecessarily made his own job harder, at least in the short-term. And the long-range prospects hold no guarantees.