I was baptized a Roman Catholic January, 1937, and have been a faithful Catholic since that time. I have been a practicing Catholic here in Lincoln  since 1971 when I moved here to take a position with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I have noticed that the Lincoln Diocese is very conservative and comparatively strict, which in itself is not a bad thing.

However, more recently, given world events, socially, politically and religiously, differences have arisen between what Catholic lay people hear, see and experience, between the Vatican, Pope Francis and the American Bishops. This perceived difference is especially noticeable here in the Lincoln Catholic Diocese.

Recently Lincoln Journal Star readers were informed that “A Catholic bishop who was the first American priest convicted of not notifying police of suspected child abuse in a timely manner is now the chaplain at a Lincoln convent. But Lincoln’s bishop said Robert Finn paid for his mistake by completing two years of probation and deserves mercy.”

This news came as a complete shock to the Catholic community here in Southeast Nebraska. A number of letters criticizing Bishop James Conley’s appointment of Bishop Finn appeared in the LJS, but for the most part, members of the Lincoln Diocese remained silent, perhaps fearing to publicly express disapproval of Bishop Conley’s appointment.

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The article by Dominican Father Thomas P. Doyle, a canon lawyer, “Bishop Robert Finn: the rest of the story” in the National Catholic Reporter reveals further information concerning bishop Finn, i.e.,

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“The Vatican’s sterile announcement of Bishop Robert Finn’s resignation was a typical but unsuccessful attempt by the Holy See to sanitize the harsh reality of a failed bishop. It was a removal disguised as a resignation. The absolute need for accountability of bishops would have been far better served had Finn been publicly removed rather than offered the thin camouflage of resignation.”

The rest of the story describes in some detail Bishop Finn’s disastrous, ten year term as Bishop of Kansas City and a variety of transgressions.

“Finn pretty much ignored victims. In his 10 years as bishop, he met with two and possibly a couple more, but not to extend pastoral care. His meetings with victims were all part of legal proceedings. From all sources queried, there is no evidence he ever reached out as a caring shepherd to any of the people whose lives had been ravaged by the Kansas City priests.” Finally, “Finn had to go, not because he is an ecclesiastical conservative who tried to take the diocese backward in time and re-gild the monarchy, but because he either forgot or never fully realized that when Christ referred to ‘the least of my brothers,’ he was referring to those most debased and rejected. In the church of Kansas City, the ‘least’ were those who needed Christ’s love the most: the people violated by the church’s own priest.”

I believe that Bishop Conley’s appointment of bishop Finn to duties within the Diocese of Lincoln is a mistake, and I believe it should be rescinded. I certainly do not question the sincerity and integrity of Bishop Conley’s mercy -- I do question the cause to which his mercy has been directed.

C. Patrick Rowan of Lincoln is a professor emeritus in art. 


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