You can file this under: “what’s in a name?” Or “freedom of the press Catholic baloney” Or (my favorite) “Catholic fundamentalists aim to strengthen strangle-hold on US Catholic Church.”

As CNA (Catholic News Agency) reported on January 31st, a canon lawyer at the Catholic University of America says that a recent column in his diocesan newspaper by Bishop Robert Finn (Bishop of Kansas City-St Joseph, Missouri) serves as a strong urging to the National Catholic Reporter to re-establish its fidelity to the Church.

“What he’s doing here,” Dr. Kurt Martens said, “is he’s giving them a warning, saying ‘Be careful, because…I’ve looked into the NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching on a number of issues.’”

“He has, as a diocesan bishop, not only the right, but the duty or obligation to oversee what is happening in his diocese,” Martens told CNA in a Jan. 30 interview, and “to make sure that the name ‘Catholic’ is not used in vain.”

The National Catholic Reporter’s editorial offices are in Kansas City.

In his January 25th column for his diocesan paper, “The Catholic Key,” Bishop Finn wrote that “in light of the number of recent expressions of concern, I have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the problematic nature of this media source which bears the name ‘Catholic.’”

Robert Finn takes issue with NCR’s editorial stance………..

“In the last months,” The Kansas City bishop writes “I have been deluged with emails and other correspondence from Catholics concerned about the editorial stances of the Reporter: officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.”

Kurt Martens, an associate professor of canon law at the D.C. university, who works closely with the USCCB, said that the gravity of the National Catholic Reporter’s editorial stance of supporting the ordination of women is significant – because it endangers church unity the sacraments.

Apparently even thinking and expressing one’s theological thinking in print is now dangerous and deviant. Is the Catholic Taliban taking over?

Martens continued……….“Bishop Finn is…exercising vigilance over the use of the title ‘Catholic’ in his diocese. And if there is a need, he intervenes by first warning, and ultimately taking away that title ‘Catholic.’”

In his column, the bishop noted that in 1968, his predecessor Bishop Charles Helmsing condemned the publication “and asking the publishers to remove the name ‘Catholic’ from their title – to no avail.”

Martens said, “it is correct that the title ‘Catholic’ can only be used with permission, explicit or implicit, of competent ecclesiastical authority” – who in the National Catholic Reporter’s case, is Bishop Finn.

“His authority as local bishop is that he has indeed that right and obligation to verify that every organization that calls itself Catholic, is indeed Catholic.” He said this is important so that the faithful are not “misled” by writings in disagreement with Church teaching.

Dr. Martens also speculated that Bishop Finn’s final step could be to remove the National Catolic Reporter’s permission to use the name “Catholic,” which is “perfectly within his rights.”

Permission to use the word “catholic”? The local bishop has the right to control an independent newspaper? It is all so very strange…….and it is a terrible aberration. Arrogant authoritarianism parading as virtue.

If the National Catholic Reporter is not open to dialogue with Bishop Finn, Dr. Martens said that the bishop “might have no other option but to take away their right…to use the title ‘Catholic.’”

In doing so, Bishop Finn would be exercising his responsibility of governing his diocese.

Martens observed that the bishop “has not only the right to do so, but he has the obligation. If there is indeed a problem with the editorials, as is the case here, and you see that someone uses the term ‘Catholic,’ yet is constantly undermining the Magisterium of the Church, then a bishop cannot just sit back and relax and enjoy a drink.”

“He has to intervene. It’s not only a right to intervene, but an obligation also. The combination of the two is important. What Bishop Finn does here, is what he has to do as a bishop.”

Have a fine week end!

Catholic John W. Greenleaf

13 thoughts on “NATIONAL C—————– REPORTER

  1. Wasn’t Bishop Finn convicted of something recently? What gives him the right to call himself Bishop. If he continues to harass the independent press, I, as Church, may remove his right to use that title.

  2. Yes……..see this article from the Kansas City Star :

    Posted on Thu, Sep. 06, 2012
    Bishop Finn is found guilty of failing to report child abuse suspicions
    Head of diocese is the highest-ranking Catholic cleric in U.S. to be convicted in abuse scandal.
    The Kansas City Star
    Once relatively anonymous in the Roman Catholic world, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Thursday made an unwelcome piece of history for the 2,000-year-old institution.

    A judge convicted the diocese’s bishop and spiritual pastor, Robert W. Finn, of failing to report child abuse suspicions, making him the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic cleric convicted in the church’s decades-long child sexual abuse scandal.

    Finn, 59, was acquitted of one other misdemeanor count of failing to report. And with Finn’s conviction, Jackson County prosecutors dismissed two similar counts that had been pending against the diocese.

    The verdicts came after a short nonjury trial in Jackson County Circuit Court. Judge John Torrence immediately sentenced Finn to two years’ of probation, then suspended the imposition of the sentence. That means that if Finn finishes the probation without incident and completes nine steps as part of his sentence, the bishop’s criminal record will be expunged.

    Finn had faced a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine on each charge. The diocese had faced a fine of up to $5,000 on each of its two counts if convicted.

    Before hearing his sentence, Finn told the judge, “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt these events caused.”

    He also said, “The protection of children is paramount, and sexual abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.”

    Because of the nature of the suspended sentence, Finn cannot appeal his conviction, said J.R. Hobbs, who represented the bishop at the trial.

    The charges stemmed from the church’s handling of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, on whose laptop computer a diocesan vendor found hundreds of lewd photos of young girls in December 2010.

    Finn’s second-in-command at the diocese, Monsignor Robert Murphy, did not report the photographs to police for five months.

    In announcing his verdicts, Torrence said he acquitted Finn of the failure-to-report count that covered Dec. 17, 2010, to Feb. 10, 2011, saying that prosecutors had not met their burden of proof.

    He convicted Finn of the count covering Feb. 11 through May 18, 2011. On Feb. 10, 2011, Finn sent Ratigan a letter limiting his exposure to children, computers and cameras. That letter suggested that the bishop clearly was aware of his priest’s threat to children, prosecutors argued.

    Finn is the first Catholic bishop in the country, and is thought to be one of only two bishops in the world, convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse. The other case happened in France in 2001, when Bishop Pierre Pican was convicted for failing to report a priest who sexually abused 11 boys between 1989 and 1996.

    Finn and the diocese had been scheduled to start a jury trial in less than three weeks, but in a surprising move Wednesday, the matter was reset for trial in front of Torrence.

    Lawyers limited the case to a narrow range of facts, which were expressed in 69 paragraphs submitted to Torrence at the hearing.

    Torrence listened to about 25 minutes of statements from attorneys, then took a half-hour break before finding Finn guilty of one count based on those facts.

    Those facts included an acknowledgement from Finn that he is a mandated child abuse reporter under Missouri law. The stipulation also contained a long recitation of the now-familiar facts of the case with several new insights.

    Those included:

    • A June 2010 conversation between Finn and Ratigan, in which the bishop told his priest that “we have to take this seriously,” after a Northland Catholic school principal complained to the chancery that the priest was behaving inappropriately around school children.

    • A chancery computer manager’s determination in December 2010 that only four or five of the hundreds of lewd photos found on Ratigan’s laptop had been downloaded from the Internet. The rest appeared to have been taken with a personal camera.

    • Ratigan’s denial, while hospitalized for a suicide attempt, that he had sexual contact with children or had any images of children involved in sexual acts on his computer.

    • A statement from a Pennsylvania psychiatrist, who found that Ratigan was not a risk to children, which appeared to support the priest’s contention that he was the victim of mistreatment by a school official who complained about his conduct around children.

    • A note that Ratigan’s “treatment” with the Pennsylvania therapist in early 2011 consisted entirely of telephone conferences.

    • A letter from Ratigan to the bishop in February 2011 in which the priest admitted having a pornography problem. “I am going to give you a brief summary of how I got to where I am with my addiction to pornography,” Ratigan wrote.

    • Finn’s acknowledgement in a March 2011 email that Ratigan had issues around children. “I am quite concerned about him attending” a sixth-grade girl’s party, Finn wrote. “I think this is clearly an area of vulnerability for” Ratigan.

    • Finn’s statement at a meeting with other priests after Ratigan’s arrest that he had “wanted to save … Ratigan’s priesthood” and had been told that Ratigan’s problem was only pornography.

    The stipulation also explained Murphy’s decision to call authorities in May 2011. Murphy complained that he was not receiving direction from the diocese’s lawyers and had misgivings about the diagnosis of “loneliness” from the Pennsylvania psychiatrist. Murphy said he had become “horrified” of the prospect that the photographs were not merely downloads from the Internet but were images of children that Ratigan had abused.

    “I thought this is just moving along with no direction, and I thought I have got to do something,” the documents quotes Murphy as saying.

    Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said after Thursday’s trial that Murphy had taken an important, if belated, step to protect children, and acknowledged that her office had agreed not to prosecute him in exchange for his cooperation in this case.

    “But for the acts of Monsignor Murphy, we’d never know,” Baker said. “And Father Shawn Ratigan would not be in a federal prison awaiting sentencing.”

    Ratigan, 46, pleaded guilty in August in federal court to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography.

    Ratigan attempted suicide just after the diocese learned of the troubling pictures on his computer in December 2010. He later was sent for a mental evaluation, after which Finn reassigned him to an Independence mission house and ordered him to stay away from children, computers and cameras. Murphy reported Ratigan to police in May 2011 after he repeatedly violated those orders.

    A few days later, state authorities charged Ratigan with possession of child pornography. Federal authorities charged him in August 2011.

    A Jackson County grand jury indicted Finn and the diocese in October. Both pleaded not guilty. Finn has maintained that he never saw any images and that he delegated the diocese’s initial response and management to his subordinates.

    Finn also could have faced misdemeanor charges in Clay County. But in November he avoided a criminal indictment by agreeing to enter into a diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor. Authorities said they would not prosecute Finn if he lived up to the terms of a five-year diversion agreement.

    The agreement required Finn to meet face to face with the prosecutor or his successor each month for five years to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse levied against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese’s Clay County facilities. Finn also was to describe steps the diocese had taken to address the allegations, and he was to visit all nine Clay County parishes to outline new programs to protect children.

    Since Ratigan’s case came to light, the diocese has taken several steps to strengthen its efforts to protect children. In June 2011, Finn appointed Jenifer Valenti, a former assistant Jackson County prosecutor, to the position of ombudsman. Her job is to receive and investigate all reports of sexual misconduct or suspicious behavior by clergy, lay employees and volunteers in the diocese.

    Torrence said Thursday that, as part of Finn’s probation, he will be required to strengthen training for clergy and administrators on child abuse reporting and recognition of child pornography. The diocese also must establish a $10,000 counseling fund for abuse victims, prepare an approved list of treatment providers and commit to maintaining the ombudsman position.

    The bishop also must require the church board that reviews abuse allegations to forward any such reports involving minors to prosecutors and police.

    Tom Bath, among several lawyers who represent the diocese, said the probation conditions would bolster the existing program.

    “The conditions strengthen our condition as we go on,” Bath said.

    Finn and the diocese face four civil lawsuits involving Ratigan and child pornography allegations. The lawsuits allege that Catholic officials had been warned about Ratigan’s troubling behavior and knew of disturbing images on his computer but failed to take immediate action.

    Kansas City lawyer Dan Ross, who is not involved in the litigation, said Finn’s conviction certainly could affect the civil lawsuits. A plaintiff’s lawyer could use it as evidence of negligence or to attack Finn’s credibility.

    “It’s great leverage for a settlement, as well as direct evidence,” Ross said.

    Lawyer Rebecca Randles, who has more than two dozen cases pending against the diocese, cautioned that Finn’s conviction does not guarantee that her actions will be successful.

    “We have certain elements that are established today with the failure to report, but there are other elements that are not,” Randles said. “So it’s helpful to the civil cases, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the civil cases win.”

    The Star’s Sangeeta Shastry and Robert A. Cronkleton contributed to this report. To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to

  3. Isn’t it God’s name that is not to be taken in vain? Has the word “Catholic” been elevated to divine status?

  4. There sounds like more than a hint of self-righteousness on both sides of this argument. Is dialogue a real possibility when we speak “past” the other position? I would hope that SOMEBODY actually is interested in pursuing the discussion of women’s ordination. It seems that NCR is interested and is trying to do so, but the local Bishop seems not to be interested. Sounds like there are many other things that are crying out to be listened to as well. But the word “authoritarian” is like gasoline on the fire when you are just trying to grill some hot dogs. Can we bring down the anger and self-righteousness volume please?

  5. I suggest that “Katholicans” who are not already subscribers to NCR give strong consideration to supporting NCR now. It’s also available for Kindle, and you can read it on a computer or smartphone if you don’t have a Kindle. For those on a tight budget, you pay monthly instead of annually. It would be great to have Finn help boost their subscriptions.


    * * * * *Subscribe to ARCC News here *

    On Sat, Feb 2, 2013 at 4:33 AM, Another Voice

  6. Sorry, but the word Catholic belongs to all Christians – and especially those who hold to the creeds – And most of those in the United States do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Kansas City is fortunate to have so many expressions of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Bishop may have certain authority over those in the Roman Institution – but history should demonstrate to him that every occasion of repressive heavy-handedness by bishops has fueled a revolution.

  7. Dr. Kurt Martens of Catholic U. expresses an opinion about a Bishop’s authority under Canon law, the law of the Church. It is of little practical value to most educated Catholics. This is especially true in Bishop Finn’s case because he is an unrepentent convicted criminal, whose moral authority has been undermined by his own actions.

    Canon law, defined as the law of the Church, is a body of work that has been written only by those in Episcopal power, so it can legitimately be called the law of the hierarchy. The word “Church” is also problematic, being constantly used ambiguously, to be open to interpretation as applying exclusively to bishops and at other times applied to all Roman Catholics who are baptized, all at the whim of what the bishop decides.

    Canon law can be used to justify Episcopal pronouncements, and politically rally all the laity who faith rises and falls on a bishop’s perceived authority, especially those taliban purification laity who treat bishops as if they were already canonized as official Saints. Fortunately, most Catholics don’t consider bishops as saintly, not with all the publicity about their corruption.

    Bishops like to think their lofty majestic authority entitles them to be abusive under the cloak of “protecting the faithful.” They “fear” disunity, they “fear” that the people will be “misled,” and above all they “fear” being reported to Rome, for “failing” to toe the Vatican line of thinking. Bishops have a lot to fear. We have been witness to the effect “fear” has had on their judgement when confronted with the sexual abuse of children. Judgements of “fear” rather than actions of justice and faith have been the consequence.

    A bishop’s authority in civil law is extremely limited except as an employer or as the official owner of Diocesan property. The bishop’s authority within the church is limited by the laity’s cooperation and acceptance. The reality is that the laity are wise to ignore the pronouncements of bishops as they have since 1968 concerning the ban on contraception. Even the old threats of excommunication are largely unenforceable. In effect, the bishop’s authority is dependent on the laity’s acquiesence and whatever influence the pastor of a parish effectively wields.

    Most of a bishop’s power comes from his ability to use political public relations and his control over communication. This is why the NCR’s
    independence is so important, and why diocesan “newspapers” are so poor. Dr. Martens comment about Bishop’s Finn’s warning is significant because it may be the openning salvo of the bishop’s campaign against the NCR.
    With the bishops, it is always about power and control, but it is only a “limb” he can go out on if he is assured of the laity’s support for his position. The
    question remains, “Does the discredited bishop want to become involved in a battle of public opinion allegience?”

  8. Too bad that the disgraceful Bishop Finn didn’t also notice the word “National” in the newspaper’s title!
    Does the USA News look only to the locality where it is published?

  9. In light of Bishop Finn’s conviction for failing to report child abuse and the comment of Jesus: “Woe to you who scandalize my children”, I think Finn should avoid casting stones at NCR.

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