Bishop Robert W. Finn wishes the independent National Catholic Reporter weren't so independent.
Finn is the bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Kansas City-St.
Joseph in Missouri.
The National Catholic Reporter is a 59-year-old
not-for-profit newspaper based in Kansas City.
Finn was convicted in September of shielding priests from
sexual-abuse allegations -- prompting editorials from the
newspaper calling for his resignation.
Now, Finn, who is on probation,
has taken to his own diocese's journalistic bully pulpit to denounce the
"In the last months 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," Finn wrote this weekend in his diocese's newspaper, the Catholic Key.
Finn noted that the National Catholic Reporter had long been a thorn
in the side of Kansas City bishops; in 1968, one tried to get the
publication to remove "Catholic" from its name.
Early in his tenure, Finn said, when he solicited the newspaper to "submit their bona fides
as a Catholic media outlet in accord with the expectations of church
law, they declined to participate, indicating that they considered
themselves an 'independent newspaper which commented on "things
At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a dead
The National Catholic Reporter has won awards for its investigative
reporting and has been covering church sex scandals since 1985, National
Catholic Reporter publisher and former editor Tom Fox told the Kansas City Star.
“We are a Catholic publication, but independent of the church
structure. That’s one of the keys to our credibility," Fox told the
Star, adding of Finn, "He’s hurting. I know he thinks he’s doing his
According to the original criminal indictment against Finn, sometime
in 2010 or 2011 Finn discovered that a priest's laptop computer
contained "hundreds of photographs of children … including a child's
naked vagina, up-skirt images and images focused on the crotch."
who did not report his knowledge of the priest's photos for months,
became the first bishop convicted in the U.S. in the church's sprawling child-abuse scandal.
Finn has been apologetic; the National Catholic Reporter's writers, less so.
"No one is suggesting Finn can't be forgiven his sins. Indeed,
forgiveness is precisely what God always stands ready to offer," Bill
Tammeus wrote in a December column published on the publication's
"But when someone in a position of ecclesial authority has failed in
so spectacular a way that even a secular court has found him guilty, he
has the obligation to do what he can to avoid further damage to what
Finn often calls -- in words that should make him quake -- Holy Mother
In other words: Resign.
Finn has not resigned.
Instead, he has endured rumblings that he has lost support from the priests inside his diocese,
as well as parishioners.
Nor has he been released from his duties by
Pope Benedict XVI, who holds authority over the church's bishops.
Finn's Friday editorial was occasioned by the church's World Communications Day,
in which the pope urged the faithful to reflect on how to find
meaningfulness in communication both digital and analog.
started with his evocation of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of
journalism, and closed by narrowing his eyes at the National Catholic
"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,'" Finn wrote in his conclusion.
"While I remain open to
substantive and respectful discussion with the legitimate
representatives of NCR, I find that my ability to influence the National
Catholic Reporter toward fidelity to the church seems limited to the
supernatural level. For this we pray: St. Francis de Sales, intercede