Thursday, June 30, 2011

Former Prosecutor Named Ombudsman for Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph

Following is a press release from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph:

Former Trial Attorney and Prosecutor
Appointed Ombudsman for Catholic Diocese

Diocese Strengthens Abuse Reporting and Investigation

(Kansas City, MO / June 30, 2011)  Jenifer Valenti, a former team leader with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, has been appointed ombudsman and public liaison officer for the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph. The appointment was made today by Bishop Robert Finn, leader of the diocese, and is effective July 15.

“Valenti’s work will be independent and confidential. She will have the responsibility and authority to receive and investigate reports of suspicious, inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct by clergy, employees or program volunteers,” said Bishop Finn.  “Within our 27-county diocese, I have asked her to focus particularly on reports relating to children and young people,” he said.

Through a private and direct telephone number and email address, Valenti can receive and then investigate reports or charges. She will consult with law enforcement agencies as she deems appropriate or necessary.  Contact information for Valenti will be announced July 15.

Valenti graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia School and Law and joined the Prosecutor’s Office in 1997. She worked closely with law enforcement agencies, and has experience prosecuting domestic violence cases from arraignment through disposition. She rose to team leader, with responsibility for six attorneys and two victim advocates. The Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office named Valenti the Victim Champion of the Year in 2002.

“My last assignment in the Prosecutor’s Office was in cases of physical and emotional abuse,” said Valenti. “To arrive at the truth, I established relationships with victims, law enforcement, victim advocates and the community.”

Valenti will serve as an ex officio member of the Independent Review Board. The board is an external group that reviews cases and makes recommendations to the bishop about the status of the accused and future fitness for church ministry. 

As ombudsman, Valenti’s work will be closely aligned with the Victims’ Advocate Leslie Guillot. The Victims’ Advocate provides confidential support and resources for healing to any person making a report of sexual abuse. Without regard for the credibility of the complaint, Guillot’s first obligation is to offer psychological counseling to the individual and to his or her family, whether it is a recent incident or happened decades ago.

Five-Point Plan

On June 9, the diocese released an announcement to immediately fulfill Bishop Finn’s ‘call for change.’ The five-point plan consists of sweeping changes that address recent alleged sexual misconduct in the diocese.

1. Immediate appointment of former national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group and former U.S. Attorney to conduct an independent investigation of events, policies and procedures,

2. Appointment of an independent public liaison and ombudsman to field and investigate any reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior,

3. Reaffirmation of current diocesan policy and immediate commencement of an independent review of the policies for Ethical Codes of Conduct and Sexual Misconduct,

4.  An in-depth review of diocesan personnel training regarding the Ethical Codes of Conduct and the policy on Sexual Misconduct,

5. Continued cooperation with local law enforcement.

The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph is the spiritual home for more than 133,000 Catholics in 27 counties of northern and western Missouri. The diocese is a diverse faith community consisting of 98 urban, rural and suburban parishes.

Through 43 well-performing Catholic schools, the diocese educates more than 12,000 students. Annually, more than 150,000 people receive human and social services through varied programs that include: emergency groceries, rent and utility assistance, aging in place services for the elderly, and transitional housing for the homeless.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Would You Know John Wayne Gacy if He Said ‘Boo!’

I was wondering if the Kansas City Star would run anything on Michele Bachmann’s “gaffe” about the birthplace of John Wayne (they did). Bachmann now famously said that Wayne was from her own hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Wrong. There was a John Wayne who lived in Waterloo, but it wasn’t “The Duke”.

AP corrected Rep. Bachmann on her recollection. The Duke was born in Iowa, but not Waterloo. The Wayne who lived in Waterloo was serial rapist and murderer John Wayne Gacy.

The Star had to be a little self-conscious about sneering at Bachmann on this point since they made their own very famous blunder regarding Gacy in 1999 (presuming anybody from 1999 still works at the Star).

In 1999 the Star positively promoted “National Clown Week” with a picture of this clown:

Pogo el Payaso (001)

The caption read, "It's a rule. You MUST celebrate Clown Week, starting Sunday at City Market".

The picture was a file photo of – you guessed it – John Wayne Gacy in his Pogo the Clown outfit.

The Star was mighty embarrassed and plenty of people, especially clowns, were upset. The Star’s apology, no longer available on their website, is still on the WaybackMachine.

The episode would have been an interesting tidbit to add to the AP story the Star ran on the Bachmann episode. I think people would have got an appreciative laugh out of it.

But, it doesn’t fit the narrative. And the Star never leaves the narrative.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Corpus Christi and St. Josemaria

Each year, Catholics from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph join together for a Corpus Christi Procession. Pictures here are from the procession which took place yesterday afternoon in Lenexa, Kansas. As in years past, KCK Archbishop Joseph Naumann and KCSJ Bishop Robert Finn took turns carrying the monstrance.

Earlier in the day, Bishop Finn celebrated Mass in Kansas City and his homily touched both upon the Feast and the saint whose commemoration also falls on June 26:

Homily for Mass of St. Josemaria Escriva
Corpus Christi Sunday – June 26, 2011 – Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Dear Friends,

DSC_0239 Adoration is the first and most important prayer of the human heart. In the adoration of God we orient all our being: mind, heart, soul and strength toward the One God, Who alone has the right to our complete obedience and devotion.

This is what the Catechism teaches: “Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge Him as Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful love.” (CCC #2096)

Today we celebrate the Solemn Feast of Jesus’ Body and Blood, Corpus Christi. Here at Mass – and later in procession with the Eucharistic Lord, we raise Him on high in an act of adoration and love. It is only when we place God first and above all else that we begin to experience the right orientation of our life. There are so many things in our life and in our world that vie for “first place,” which seek and absorb so much of our energy and attention. Over and over we must decide what is first? – Who is first? – And when we give God this spot which is His in the perfection of justice, only then do all these other things – many which are of high importance – only then can each find its rightful place. This is the first commandment of the law: Love God above all; worship Him alone.

The sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ contains this fullness of all spiritual treasure. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC # 1324). The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of the communion in the divine life. (#1325) The other sacraments and all works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. (#1324) The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. (#1367) Here is a very important reality that helps us see the meaning of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus is not only present in His Body and Blood – as a kind of object of our adoration. But He is a living God who draws us to Himself such that our adoration now becomes a Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ. This deep truth is, of course, not just for today, Corpus Christi. Rather Jesus has given Himself and He is with us always until the consummation of the world.

DSC_0252 One of the particular reasons for my participation with you today, dear friends, is because June 26 is commemorated as the Feast of a modern day saint, St. Josemaria Escriva. Clearly the Sunday celebration, and even more, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi takes precedence over the saint day. St. Josemaria would loudly insist on this as would any saint who lived their life for God. But nonetheless I thought it would still be a suitable moment to mention and seek the intercession of the Spanish priest who loved so much the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass, and who many years before the Second Vatican Council saw so clearly this right proportion of adoration and the whole of the Christian life.

St. Josemaria, in a way that seems to have anticipated the Council, taught simply and beautifully about the universal call to holiness for every faithful man, woman, and child. He knew all were called to be saints, and that the laity in particular were called to find and live holiness in all the most ordinary and everyday paths of the world. Through our daily work, whatever it happens to be, we offer God a gift of ourselves. As we realize we are offering ourselves, we strive to carry out all we do, from the most sublime duty to the most mundane daily tasks, with great love precisely because they are given to God.

In a homily he gave on Corpus Christi, St. Josemaria called us to contemplate the depth of our Lord’s love for us that causes Him to want to stay with us. And He not only wants to be with us. He desires to share life with us. He even chooses to use us as instruments for the divine work of God. (See Homily in Christ is Passing By)

When St. Josemaria spoke of our time before the Blessed Sacrament he said that this time passes quickly, because this is what it is like to spend time with those we love. “Love,” he says, “has been waiting for us for 2000 years.” He concludes that this is not such a long time because Christ loves us. We have a constant need of His friendship. Christ doesn’t only wish to see us occasionally. He wants us fully. Jesus gave Himself to us as food. He wants to nourish us so that we can become one thing with Him. He wants to be that close with us.

DSC_0224 St. Josemaria would always seek out churches in his travels around. He would look for the tabernacle. The tabernacle, he said is like Bethany, like the house of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. There is a place where we can rest and visit with our Lord.

Speaking of the Corpus Christi procession, St. Josemaria compared this with the Gospel when in His life on earth Jesus walked through the towns and villages. People saw Him, and they were not always expecting Him. He came among us – True God and True Man. He comes into the everyday procession of our lives. But the Saint cautions us: the procession cannot just be a passing noise – seen and then forgotten.

We might say something similarly of Mass: It cannot be a passing moment, an obligation fulfilled. It is a moment, rather, of communion with a friend Who wishes to walk with us everyday. He joins Himself to us and His presence endures – but we must live in Him. He does challenge us. There is much work to be done. There is no harvest unless we are ready to sow; unless we are ready for the hard work. Jesus wants to give us Himself as the food for our hungers; human hungers of Truth, Peace, Unity, Justice. We must be ready, if we accept His Food, to carry forward the work. We come to the Eucharist and He nourishes and strengthens us, but then we are sent out to carry Christ and the work which is His love to the world.

Dear friends, I am happy this morning to be able to share this Corpus Christi with you. I am strengthened by your faith, and we know that what we do here, this morning is at the same time part of the worship of the Universal Church. We are united at this altar with St. Josemaria and a whole cloud of witnesses, a living Communion of Saints. At the heart of those who urge us to approach the Eucharistic Lord Jesus, is the very one who in accord with God’s saving power and plan brought Him flesh and blood into the world. Mary Mother of the Eucharist accompanies us in our walk with Christ. She adored Him within her womb. She showed us how to make Him first in our lives. She shared – as no other human person – in His saving sacrifice at Calvary. I ask her to watch over each of you. May Mary, St Josemaria and all the Saints join us in all the prayers and intentions we bring to the Lord Jesus: for our families, our parishes, our communities, our diocese.

We adore you O Eucharistic Lord. Give us all we need to carry you to the world!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kansas Abortion Mill Thinks Its Clients are Imbeciles - UPDATED - Clinic Closed

And basically tells them as much. This from the website of the Aid for Women abortuary in Kansas City, Kansas. Regarding “Appointment Days and Times,” Aid for Women instructs patients (my emphases):
Those doing a One-day appointment arrive between 6:30am and 7:30am, pay, do their sonography, and paperwork, and then wait 6+ hours, while the Two-day cases come and go through first. Any scheduling gaps will be filled with One-day patients on a First-Come-First-Served basis. This is to reduce delays caused by the disorganized people (50-75%) who come un-prepared (late, wrong paperwork, no ID, more weeks along than they thought and no more money, less weeks than they thought i.e. not pregnant or miscarried, chewing gum, brought children to the waiting room, support person can't stay, can't read quickly, language barriers) and delay everybody else.
You will be re-scheduled if more than 15 minutes late, NO EXCEPTIONS.
So after telling patients how reliably unreliable 50-75% of them are, Aid for Women gets to pay and penalties for changing your mind about having an abortion:
Cash, money orders, and credit cards (with State ID)(Mastercard and Visa but not American Express or Discover) are acceptable forms of payment. NO CHECKS. Let me repeat, NO CHECKS accepted. You must pay up front before the procedure. We no longer file insurance, but we can give you an itemized receipt with CPT and ICD-9 codes used to file claims yourself. . .
. . .Fees include sonography, Conscious Sedation, laboratory tests, and one month's cycle of birth control when samples are available. If it is determined by ultrasound that you are not pregnant, or are too far gestationally for our clinic, we will only charge you for the sonography. If however you change your mind later to not have an abortion we will deduct fees for the services done: sonography, labwork/sterile tray, and if applicable, the statutory counseling for minors. Fees from our previous sonogram within 30 days can be applied towards an abortion later. When minors come for a Judicial Waiver, sonography fees are collected first, and then if less than 15 weeks, the fees for statutory counseling.
HT to Kansans for Life Blog. Go there for much more about this clinic that may be among those shutting down now that Kansas is actually requiring medical standards at abortuaries.

UPDATE - This clinic has been denied a permit and is closing because it fails minimum safety standards and cannot "protect patients from substandard and even dangerous care."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bishop Finn Appoints Vicar for Clergy

Following is a press release from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph:

Bishop Finn Expands Diocesan Administration
Father Joseph Powers Appointed Vicar for Clergy

(Kansas City, MO / June 22, 2011)  Bishop Robert Finn,  leader of the more than 133,000 Catholics of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph, has appointed Father Joseph Powers, pastor of Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, in St. Joseph, Missouri, as Vicar for Clergy.

As Vicar for Clergy, Father Powers will serve as a liaison for diocesan priests and oversee assignments as well as pastoral effectiveness. Father Powers also will assist the bishop with any allegations of clerical misconduct and will serve as an ex officio member of the Diocesan Independent Review Board. He will continue as pastor of Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.

“Diocesan Vicar General Msgr. Robert Murphy will continue to have responsibility for general diocesan administration, directly supervising Chancery employees and serving on a number of diocesan boards and committees,” Bishop Finn said. 
Msgr. Murphy also will continue to serve as pastor of St. Bridget Parish, in Pleasant Hill, Missouri

“With Father Powers assuming the duties of Vicar for Clergy, we strengthen our administrative oversight of the diocese and draw upon Father Powers’ pastoral experience in urban, rural and suburban parishes throughout the diocese,” said Bishop Finn.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Father Powers grew up in Raytown, Missouri. He attended Our Lady of Lourdes Church and graduated from the parish elementary school.  He studied for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary, Conception Seminary College and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Ordained in 1979, Father Powers also serves as chaplain for the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting and also Region IX National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost Prayers for Unity in Kansas City

DSC_0086The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was packed this morning for a special Pentecost Mass called for by Bishop Robert Finn “for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon this local Church, that God may give us whatever gifts and graces we need to carry forward His commission.”

Prior to Mass a group of about 150 Catholics from throughout the diocese gathered in front of the Cathedral to pray for unity, for the diocese and in support of Bishop Finn. Another 50 prayed the Rosary inside the Cathedral before Mass. Our Lady of Good Counsel parishioner Nathan Lewis said the event before Mass came together largely by word of mouth.

“We asked God’s grace to heal and strengthen the diocese,” Lewis said. He also hoped the group would be a “witness for other Catholics” to show that the strong negativity toward the bishop exhibited in the press “is not how the majority of people in the pews feel.”

In his homily, Bishop Finn prayed for an outpouring of grace, in particular, for the gifts of truth, peace and unity. The homily was also delivered at the vigil last night at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Bishop Finn received a sustained standing ovation at the end of Mass when Cathedral pastor Monsignor Robert Gregory said that the bishop’s “courageous and faith filled leadership is deeply appreciated.”

The full text of Bishop Finn’s homily is below:

Homily for Pentecost Sunday
Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph; Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
June 11-12, 2011
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

DSC_0095Dear Friends,

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the disciples remained uncertain and fearful about the meaning of these greatest mysteries of salvation. The Risen Jesus appeared Easter night to the apostles. There they were gathered; still huddled in the Upper Room. Jesus’ message was of Peace, (Jn 20:19) but they did not yet experience peace.

Pentecost marks the completion of the 50 days of Easter. The latter part of these Easter days have not remained so joyful for us. I am well aware of what Catholics and others within our communities have had to read about in the media. These are serious realities. Once again, as bishop I take full responsibility and express again my sorrow for these events. Our faith tells us that the risen Jesus Christ is in our midst, but we are not yet at peace.

Last week we celebrated the Ascension of the Lord, and the Gospel similarly pointed to the truth that though Jesus, risen from the dead, had lived among his followers for 40 days, they did not fully experience the glory that Jesus would have at the right hand of the heavenly Father. The Gospel of the Ascension says that when Christ was ready to ascend to heaven, there was something curious: “They worshiped but they doubted.” (Mt 28:17) They wanted to believe. They wanted to rejoice in Jesus’ victory over sin, sickness and death, but their doubts remained. Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will you immediately restore the Kingdom?” (Acts 1:6) They seemed to think that right now things would get better. Though the foundation was laid by Jesus – the foundation for our salvation in His dying and rising – the fruit of this most extraordinary gift was not going to be realized right away. Instead Jesus told them to watch and pray. He promised to send the Holy Spirit. When I send the Holy Spirit, “you will receive power, and you will be my witnesses,” (Acts 1:8) to the end of the world.

Watch and pray. Last week I sent a message to our Diocese. There I tried my best to acknowledge the failures and sins that have caused so much hurt these weeks. I also wanted to remind us all – lest we lose our vision and our hope – that the work of the Church is grace-filled; it continues in the tremendous efforts of your good pastors and parishes, and also in the Diocese as a whole. Even though many are hurting and in fear, you nonetheless reach out in generosity every day to people in need in our community – for example, in the support of those just a few hours from here, who lost loved ones and property in devastating storms. These days include many wonderful celebrations – First Communions and Confirmations, graduations and anniversaries. These continue and we mustn’t forget that God can give us joy even in darkest times.

In my message, I also asked everyone in the diocese to pray – from the Ascension until this weekend, at Pentecost : for the outpouring of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, on our diocese, on our families and communities, upon each heart watching and waiting for understanding and peace. The Gift of the Holy Spirit changed the early Church. Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit was the decisive moment for the apostles. It defined the Church. It was at that moment – not even at the Resurrection itself or the Ascension – that the peoples’ fears were relieved. In Pentecost they were renewed with the full love of the Risen Jesus – such that they could go forth and proclaim Good News of salvation. And so we are praying, “Come Holy Spirit. Save us Oh Lord our God; Have mercy on us in these difficult days. Don’t let these days of Easter end without granting us the gifts we need.”

What gifts do we need?

DSC_0080Dear friends, all of us may have some idea of that. I will say to you now, I am content to allow God to give us anything and everything we need. God knows me and you through and through. He knows our needs. He loves us and knows our hearts – let us never doubt it – let not one of us ever doubt it despite the depths of our hurt or anger, our fear or uncertainty.

I do not believe that apostles fully knew or understood what the Gift of the Holy Spirit would mean for them – though Jesus gave them hints; but their hearts received Him on Pentecost, and they were made new, really for the first time. We also pray for that newness: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful; enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be (re)created; and you shall renew the very face of the earth.”

I will tell you what I am praying for: I pray first for the outpouring of the Spirit of truth. This may be – yet – a somewhat painful Gift, the truth hurts at times. It can sting. But we need the Holy Spirit of truth. From a human standpoint, this is why I have set up our Plan (in 5 points) to begin an investigation which is objective. It is not the media. It is not carried out by our supporters or by our critics. It goes forward with what must be objectivity and integrity. Come Holy Spirit of truth! And on top of truth, please give us wisdom.

Second: at Pentecost, the disciples were still fearful. They could not understand what all was happening. When that wind and fire came upon them, God cast out their fears and gave them back their joy. I pray to the Holy Spirit that, by His miracle, He will help us separate and put aside any unwarranted fears; that He will give us a dose of Peace. Come Holy Spirit, cast out fear and anxiety.

The Third thing I have been thinking about: One of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church is unity. From the account of the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament, people had been divided. All too well do we know how our hurts and fears can divide us. Come, Spirit and bring us greater unity.

Concerning unity, at the Last Supper Jesus prayed, “Father I pray that they may all be one.” Two thousand years later, sadly Christians remain divided, but Jesus’ prayer is still alive and more important than ever, “Father may they all be one.” (Jn 17:21) Parents pray for unity in their families. Pastors pray for the continuing resolution of difficulties in their parishes. I pray also that – despite the real and significant, the justified hurts that we experience that – in accord with Jesus’ own prayer, we may be One; that we will somehow trust again. This is and must be God’s work. It requires the openness of our hearts. It requires docility to the Holy Spirit. But we need to think and pray, “Come Holy Spirit, make us stronger than ever before.”

These have been a few of my prayers. You have yours deep within your hearts. In the end you and I blend them all together and yield them completely to God’s will. Our simple and powerful prayer is, “Come Holy Spirit Come. Come Holy Spirit of Love, Come.”

I thank you friends for letting me be here with you today. There is much work ahead, but I am not afraid. Our God loves us. He still loves us. The Lamb of God came among us to take upon Himself the sins of the world. It is His Spirit who sustains in us lasting hope.

Mary, our Mother, is a protector of our diocese and of each of us. She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit and I have also been asking her to beg the Spirit to grant us everything, a full measure of grace, mercy, and new life.

Mary, St. Joseph, St. John Francs Regis, all our patrons, intercede for us. Join us in our prayer, at Pentecost and always, “Come Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bishop Finn Initiates Sweeping Changes and Reviews

Following is a press release from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph:

Bishop Finn Initiates Sweeping Changes and Reviews
Five-Point Plan in Effect

Diocese engages Todd Graves, former U.S. Department of Justice
child exploitation expert and former U.S. Attorney

(KANSAS CITY, MO, June 9, 2011)  -  To immediately fulfill his “call for change,” Bishop Robert Finn, of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St Joseph,  today announced the first immediate five points of a sweeping plan to deal with recent alleged sexual misconduct in the diocese.

The diocese said further initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Initial Five-point Plan
1. Immediate appointment of former national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group and former U.S. Attorney to conduct an independent investigation of events, policies and procedures,

2. Appointment of an independent public liaison and ombudsman to field and investigate any reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior,

3. Reaffirmation of current diocesan policy and immediate commencement of an independent review of the policies for Ethical Codes of Conduct and Sexual Misconduct,

4.  An in-depth review of diocesan personnel training regarding the Ethical Codes of Conduct and the policy on Sexual Misconduct,

5. Continued cooperation with local law enforcement.

Bishop Finn stated, “These are initial steps. Other actions are forthcoming.”

Former U.S. Attorney Engaged
Former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Todd P. Graves will conduct an independent review of all issues regarding the Ratigan matter, as well as lead an independent and complete review of the diocesan Ethical Codes of Conduct and Sexual Misconduct policies, procedures and training.

From 2001 to 2005, Mr. Graves served as the national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group. As U.S. Attorney, he established state and federal task forces to investigate exploitation of children through the Internet and was instrumental in locating a Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory in Kansas City. Throughout his career, Mr. Graves has been at the forefront in enforcing laws against those who abuse children.

Bishop Finn said the review will bring clarity out of the “shame, anger, and confusion” surrounding the May 19 arrest of Father Shawn Ratigan, who faces charges of possession of child pornography.

“In addition to our ongoing and full cooperation with law enforcement, this review will help us to determine the effectiveness of diocesan policies and procedures in a very troubling situation,” the Bishop explained.

At the conclusion of the review, Mr. Graves will issue a report.  The report will be made public. The review is estimated to take approximately 30 to 45 days.  Bishop Finn pledged the complete cooperation of all diocesan personnel.

Appointment of Public Liaison and Ombudsman
In the coming weeks, Bishop Finn will appoint a public liaison and ombudsman as the receiving agent and initial investigation point for any reports of misconduct by a diocesan priest, deacon, employee or program volunteer.

The public liaison and ombudsman will screen and investigate any reports on complaints made and consult with law enforcement as appropriate. The ombudsman will be available to anyone who wishes to report a concern through a confidential telephone number and email address.

“This immediate action will ensure all concerns are addressed confidentially, respectfully, promptly and appropriately,” said Bishop Finn.    

Reaffirmation of Current Diocesan Policies
While awaiting recommendations for changes resulting from the independent internal investigation, Bishop Finn reaffirmed current diocesan policies that guide the response to reports of abuse. Members of the clergy and diocesan employees have been advised to review the Ethical Codes of Conduct and the policy regarding Sexual Misconduct.

As early as 1988, the diocese adopted a formal policy for responding to allegations of sexual abuse. The policy established a Diocesan Response Team to provide support for persons making complaints. The policy required full cooperation with the laws of Missouri for reporting child sexual abuse. By 1993, diocesan practice reflected growing lay involvement with the creation of an Independent Review Board.

Diocesan Policies Require
  • protecting children in all church, school and program settings,
  • pending a full investigation, removing ministers and employees from service when reasonable suspicion exists,
  • counseling and pastoral support for persons making a complaint,
  • advising people making complaints of their rights to go to civil authorities or the media, and,
  • ensuring that lay professionals respond to and give advice about complaints and fitness for ministry.

In 2002, the diocese mandated multi-jurisdictional criminal background screening and safe environment training for all adults working or volunteering with children. The Protecting God’s Children program identifies the warning signs of abuse and teaches strategies for maintaining safe environments for children. By May 2011, this program had reached more than 20,500 people.

“The best way to deal with a problem is to prevent wrongdoing,” said Bishop Finn. “We believe that, when adults who interact with children increase their awareness of child sexual abuse, they form a shield that protects children,” he said.

As a companion to the adult safe environment training, the diocese implemented developmentally appropriate personal safety training for all children and youth in 2006.  Through Catholic schools and parish programs the diocese reaches some 16,000 children each year.  Circle of Grace is an ongoing part of the curricula for all Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade, and Called to Protect reaches all high school aged students.

The Bishop concluded with the words he delivered to the diocese this past Sunday:

“As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them. Clearly, we have to do more,” said Bishop Finn. “While we must deal with these difficult and trying issues, we also must give thanks for the daily accomplishments of our lay faithful, priests and others for the many good works that continue on behalf of neighbors, sick or poor, young or old.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

‘X-Men: First Class’ – Review by Santiago Ramos

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Platt

x-men first class Once I saw the glistening and snow-white January Jones declare herself to be the villainous mutant Emma Frost, my first thought was, “I wonder if she’s afraid that she’s been typecast to appear exclusively in films that take place in the 1960s?” Jones already plays the quintessential 1950s housewife/reborn 1960s liberated woman in the TV series Mad Men, and in that role, she has already taken part in an episode structured around the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (the season two finale, “Meditations in an Emergency”).

The plot of X-Men: First Class makes more liberal use of the same near-catastrophe, by crafting an alternate history in which a group of evil mutants (of which Emma Frost is a prominent member) engineers the crisis between the USA and USSR, in an attempt to destroy the human race and make the world hospitable to the new generation of mutated human beings—mutants with sundry powers and quasi-supernatural capacities, not least of which must include (one would assume) universal invulnerability to radioactivity. The chief villain, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is also a 1960s echo. Assuming the role of a double-breasted, tight-pants-ed Bond villain whose lines and swagger are refracted through Austin Powers, Bacon had the unenviable and difficult task of acting a part that is only 67 percent ironic. If my memory tells me that he was lightly stroking a white kitten at any point during this movie, it is to the credit of the writing staff and the character that they created. But the writers were also able to mine a quarry that never stops yielding shiny objects which fascinate the public: the events of the 1960s.

I am now feeling a bit guilty about writing so flippantly about a movie that is, after all, 33% serious, so the first thing to do would be to point out that the heart of this story—a heart which the director did not allow to beat as vigorously as it could have—is the relationship between Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the soon-to-be villain Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who in his younger days (and the time span of this film) is named Erik Lensherr. Xavier is a privileged son of a well-to-do New York family with a transatlantic accent; Erik is not as lucky as a child, having seen his mother shot before his very eyes by a Nazi during the Holocaust. What both men share in common, however, is an early awareness of their mutant abilities, which they take to be gifts. They also share a conviction that the rise of mutated human beings will herald a new horizon for the human race.

But what the two men do not share is the most important thing: an ideal. Xavier believes it is reasonable to hope for a future in which mutant and normal human can coexist peacefully. But of course, the intelligent, Oxford educated, cosmopolitan Xavier would hold such a dream. Erik, on the other hand, had all of his dreams destroyed by a totalitarian ideology, and he has never indulged in utopian ideals. He prefers simple vengeance. Both men agree, however, on one practical goal: that Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, and their lemmings must be stopped before they bring the two world powers to war. Erik also has some ulterior motives, however. Sebastian Shaw had been the Nazi who shot his mother. He would like to shoot him; Xavier tries to convince him that killing will not bring him the peace that he desires.

The conflict between Xavier and Erik is the morality tale within the script, and it lies somewhere beyond the central story of the movie. The story which pits Sebastian and the bad mutants against Xavier, Erik, and the young, alienated, but innocent mutants they can gather to their side, is only the plot of the movie, not its main concern. A point to ponder about this plot, incidentally, is the fact that the alternate, X-Men universe has non-humans both causing and resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis. The point in which humankind came so close to dramatically (and negatively) altering its own future becomes, in this film, an event which humankind cannot control. There are moral and philosophical implications there that the reader may wish to think about.

The morality tale is more significant. It reaches its climax after that final battle, when Erik and Xavier confront each other about what mutants should really do in this brave new world of armed human beings who do not accept them. The decisions that each man makes will have repercussions for the entire world. The repercussions of this standoff run throughout all the X-Men movies.

My favorite among those is still the third one, X-Men: Final Stand (2006), with its final scene of cataclysmic romanticism in which Wolverine tells Jean Grey, “I love you” before he kills her. There is no such poetry in this film, even though there are stretches of compelling drama. Nevertheless, I would have preferred more Erik v. Xavier debates, and less of the young mutants showing off their powers and talking like teenagers (they are teenagers, but still). Ultimately, in the spectrum of comic book incarnations, this movie is closer to being campy like the 1966 Batman rather than tragic like The Dark Knight. It serves the purpose, however, of extending the franchise: I do want to know more about the X-Men and the world that they are trying to create.

Santiago Ramos is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at Boston College.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Message from Bishop Finn to All in Our Diocese

The following message from Bishop Robert Finn will be read at Masses in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph this weekend:

These past few weeks all of us have endured the consequences of our human failure. The destructive sins of a few and the serious lapses in communication have caused us shame, anger, and confusion.

There are victims that are hurting, and others who have been left vulnerable by our processes. As you know, in the past two weeks one priest was arrested and we removed another from ministry. They are the first sitting pastors to be removed in our Diocese in more than 20 years.

These are sobering realities, particularly for those who knew and trusted them. We are assessing what went wrong and applying our analysis as we move forward. This past week, I met with our Independent Review Board chairman and discussed the objectivity of our decision processes. I have also met with parishioners, our priests and Chancery staff, as well as the media. These meetings and discussions will continue.

As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them. Clearly, we have to do more. Please know that we have --- and will continue to cooperate with all local authorities regarding these matters.

While we must deal with these difficult and trying issues we also must give thanks for the daily accomplishments of our lay faithful, priests and others for the many good works that continue on behalf of neighbors, sick or poor, young or old.

You generously responded to the need of people devastated by recent storms. Our food pantries and advocacy for the disadvantaged are second to none in our community.

These difficult days have also been marked with celebrations of our faith: First Communions and Confirmations, school graduations, weddings, anniversaries and Ordinations and other ceremonies. These blessings are noticed and counted, not lost.

On Pentecost Sunday, June 12, I will offer the 9:00 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Please join me.  At the same time I ask our pastors to offer the Pentecost Mass in your parishes – for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon this local Church, that God may give us whatever gifts and graces we need to carry forward His commission.

+Bishop Robert Finn

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Who’s this 8-year-old Dressed as a Bishop? . . .He’s a Cardinal Now

0603_Baum_child BW He was a Kansas City priest and now he’s the longest serving American Cardinal ever. Find out who in this week’s Catholic Key.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fr. Ratigan Story and a Clarification on St. Pat’s Principal

My article on the Fr. Shawn Ratigan story is here - Diocese faulted for handling of accused priest – on the Catholic Key website.

This post does not concern that, but rather some speculation out there, spurred by the omnipresent, though by no means omniscient, David Clohessy of SNAP, that the diocese is going to make St. Patrick Principal Julie Hess the fall guy in this story. This nonsense was actually egged on this morning over at NCReporter by Jamie Mason, who weekly provides NCR readers a demonstration of the value of an M.Div from Yale. There is even a petition to “save Julie Hess’ job”.

Read my story above. This rumor is complete nonsense. Why in the world would the diocese fire a principal for filing a report that the diocese says it wished it had acted upon more thoroughly? It doesn’t even make sense from a PR standpoint. It is pure, malicious rabble-rousing.

But I’m only the newspaper guy – maybe they keep me in the dark. So, I walked down the hall to ask the school office.

Pat Burbach, associate superintendent of schools, told me that Julie Hess did the right thing in turning in the report. She said Julie Hess is well-respected throughout the diocese as an excellent educator and administrator. Burbach said Hess was an integral part of the school department recently earning diocese-wide accreditation.

“We love Julie,” Burbach said.

There are plenty of reasons for frustration and anger. This phantom isn’t one of them.