Opus Dei Bishop Declares War on Religious Freedom
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun May 10, 2009 at 08:47:20 AM EST
Speaking recently to pro-lifers at an event billed as the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention held in Overland Park, Kansas, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese - and a member of Opus Dei, the authoritarian-minded Catholic lay group - described Catholicism as "the Church militant" and told the audience, "We are at war."

And with whom, according to to Bishop Finn, are we at war? Well, none other than Notre Dame University President, Father Jenkins - and, of course, his guest of honor, President Obama!

Prior to Bishop Finn leading us into war, we last discussed Bishop Finn upon his arrival at the Diocese of Kansas City-St, Joseph. At the time he was making his authoritarianism known.  He sees his diocesan flock -- as well as non-Catholics -- not as much as living as citizens in America democracy, but as part of  "a kingdom." Biological issues such as opposition to LGBT rights, abortion and embryonic stem cell research now take precedence over long-standing concerns such as distributive justice or universal health care.

His idea of leading a kingdom at war, (however metaphorical such notions may be)  is not only against those with whom he disagrees but against pluralism and its adherents - Catholic and non-Catholic alike - but there is nothing metaphorical about that.

Bishop Finn's most recent remarks were published on April 28, 2009 by The National Catholic Reporter. Among his more incendiary statements:

The more dangerous "human enemies" in our battle are those who in this age of pluralism and political propriety seek ways to convince us of their sincerity and good will. With malice or with ignorance, or perhaps with an intention of advancing some other personal goal, they are willing to undermine and push aside the values and the institutions that stand in their way.

They may propose "tolerance" and seem to have a "live and let live" approach to all human choices - even if the choice is not to "let live," but actually to "let die," or "let life be destroyed." These more subtle enemies are of all backgrounds. They may be atheists or agnostics, or of any religion, including Christian or Catholic.

And then he turned his rhetorical guns on both President Obama and Notre Dame University's Father John I. Jenkins:

This dissension in our own ranks should not surprise us because we all experience some dissension against God's law of love within our own heart. But the "battle between believers," who claim a certain "common ground" with us, while at the same time, they attack the most fundamental tenets of the Church's teachings, or disavow the natural law - this opposition is one of the most discouraging, confusing, and dangerous.

In my first U.S. Bishops' Conference meeting - June of 2004 - the bishops passed what seemed to me to be a compromise statement as a result of our lengthy debate on politicians and Communion. There we stated that pro-choice leaders (and specifically, Catholic leaders were mentioned) should not be given public platforms or honors. As we all know, the eminent American Catholic University Notre Dame is poised to bestow such an opportunity and honor on President Obama, who is, of course, not Catholic. But it doesn't take another Bishops' Conference statement to know this is wrong: scandalous, discouraging and confusing to many Catholics.

God knows what all motivates such a decision. I suspect that, since Notre Dame will need a scapegoat for this debacle, and Fr. Jenkins will probably lose his job, at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something right instead of something wrong. He ought to disinvite the President, who I believe would graciously accept the decision. Notre Dame, instead, ought to give the honorary degree to Bishop John D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who has supported and tried to guide the University, despite their too frequent waywardness, faithfully for 25 years.

It is not surprising that an Opus Dei bishop such as Robert Finn would attack Father Jenkins and Notre Dame. The Catholic university at South Bend has a long history of open-mindedness towards those who disagree with Church dogma. During the 1980s then president Father Theodore Hesburgh gave the pro-choice Catholic governor of New York Mario Cuomo the opportunity to make his case.  Jenkins invitation to President Obama to give this year's commencement address places  Jenkins squarely in that tradition.

Where Hesburgh and Jenkins have no fear of different points of view, Finn is compelled to acts of censorship. As I previously noted:

He [Bishop Finn] is not tolerant of dissent and personally censors articles that appear in diocesan publications. To that end, he has ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publishing columns by the progressive Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien. He also announced that he would review all page one stories, opinion pieces, columns and editorials before publication. This behavior is consistent with Opus Dei's own internal practice of discouraging free thought through censorship. The lay group maintains a list of "forbidden" books, it does not want its members to read. It is a list that includes Enlightenment writers such as Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire.

Such a fear of knowledge and different ideas epitomizes Opus Dei, the highly secretive and ultra-conservative Catholic, personal prelature of the Pope to which Bishop Finn belongs. Although Catholicism no longer maintains a list of banned books, Opus Dei still does. In El Salvador, for example Opus Dei has used its heavy hand to erase any vestige of liberation theology.

While Bishop Finn may see himself as a pro-life warrior, he is acutally a modern-day Inquisitor. In a zeal of religious supremacy he has little or no toleration for the idea that other Americans follow different paths to salvation. Such a concept is simply unacceptable to the bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.




Display:
Men such as Bishop Finn are doing nothing more than provoking schism; provoking it within Catholicism, within society and trying to do so within our friends and family.

The Bishop would do to remember Proverbs 11:29, "He who troubles his own house shall inherit the wind. The foolish shall be servant to the wise of heart."

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun May 10, 2009 at 09:52:23 AM EST

Finn is marching backwards, but I'll be damned if I let him take the Church with him. As far as I am concerned, he can join the SSPX, but I doubt he will as long as they have broken with the Pope, and Opus Dei makes submission to the Pope a cornerstone of its operation.  In addition, Finn should know the best way to get people to read something is to censor it. I read what I want, I may not always agree with it, but I'm not going to let someone else tell me what I can and can't read.

As you noted, Bully Burke is trying to provoke the same schism. As Thomas Reese noted in his article, Republican operatives are trying to make the Roman Catholic Church the Republican Party at prayer and enlisting the bishops in their cause. Apparently it hasn't occurred to the bishops their moral authority has evaporated.

by khughes1963 on Sun May 10, 2009 at 08:49:27 PM EST
Parent



My fundamentalist sister went through mine and my daughter's libraries comparing the authors names and book titles against a list that she carried in a binder. She was disturbed that we were in possession of several books on "the list." I informed her that it was my home, and though she was welcome to be a guest she was not in charge of what we read. That was a few years ago and she's still in a snit about it.

The attempts at censorship by Protestants are as troubling as attempts at censorship by Catholics, and anyone else; religious or political. They don't like it, but we have to take a stand for the most basic of our freedoms.

by offbeatjim on Sun May 10, 2009 at 07:53:47 PM EST

I caught flack from some ultra-conservative cousins for reading the Harry Potter series. They'd be horrified to know I let the kids watch the movies at CHURCH lock-ins! They would also be horrified to know that I, a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, have actually read AND enjoyed the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman. Since most of what people objected to in that series had to do with the destruction of the idea of God as judgmental and unloving, perhaps those who refused to read the books before they condemned them would completely miss the irony if the DID read them...

by RevRuthUCC on Sun May 10, 2009 at 08:42:07 PM EST
Parent

Sadly, this sinner would be tempted to populate the coffeetable with several books by Borg, Ehrman, (the gay) Bishop Robinson, (the gay) Peter Gomes, +Spong (specifically the title on "how to rescue Christianity from fundamentalism"), and so on, for the benefit of that sister.

by NancyP on Tue May 12, 2009 at 09:01:36 PM EST
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