National Catholic Reporter editor Dennis Coday and NCR staff writer Josh McElwee have been giving some talks recently about their recent coverage from Rome of the election of a new pope.
The other evening I was at Visitation Catholic Church to hear them describe their experiences at the Vatican.
In the Q&A time, I asked them to tell us what difference the election of Pope Francis I might make to Visitation Parish or to any parish in the Kansas City area. I also noted that Dennis had said he thinks the new pope wants to take some kind of decisive action to show he's serious about cleaning up the sexual abuse scandal in the church, so I asked whether it's conceivable that one way to do that might be to remove Bishop Robert W. Finn (pictured here) of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese. Finn, after all, has been convicted in court of failing to report suspected child abuse.
I thought they gave interesting answers and I want to share those with you here today.
Josh took the first question:
"I think what we've seen in the first couple of weeks is that style is important. From the first moments we've seen a very different style from this pope. He comes with remarks off the cuff. He speaks mostly in Italian. He hugs people. He kisses them on the cheek. . .If we believe that style matters, then at the parish level that style might translate. I think that's very easy to see. . .You can also imagine that at the priestly level. If priests are seeing the pope act a certan way, bishops know that if they want to get appointed they need to kind of emulate what is going on on high. . .You might see a different atmosphere, I think."
Then Dennis took a stab at the second question about Finn:
"From what he know about his (Francis') governing style, what we know from people who've told us about this, what we know from the book he wrote with his rabbi friend (On Heaven and Earth, co-authored with Rabbi Abraham Skorka), he is a listener. And he's also in favor of listening to national bishops conferences. I think he's going to take his cue from the national bishops conferences. The good thing that does is it puts the power of appointments of bishops closer to the source. . .The responsibility is back on the national bishops conferences."
"There are two official advisers to the pope on appointment of bishops. The prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and the apostolic nuncio in the country, or the Vatican ambassdor to the U.S.. . .But there also a lot of unofficial advisers -- people whom the pope might trust in a certain country, who he thinks knows the flavor of a country. . .What you can expect is that those advisers who had been advising Pope Benedict may not have the ear of the current pope. So you might see a shift in that, but it's so early it's very hard to tell."
In the end, Finn may well survive and be in Kansas City a long time. But if this pope wants to make a strong statement about how the church intends to proceed now to protect children from abuse, he could do so by removing Finn from office. We'll see.
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'IT'S NOT OUR HERITAGE'
Once again Buddhist treasures are in jeopardy in Afghanistan, this report by a documentary filmmaker says. Ah, yes, but Buddhism is someone else's religion, so who cares? That's clearly the attitude of the Afghan leaders. How sad.