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Issue Date:  May 12, 2006

An affinity for indulgences and Latin

Bishop Robert Finn’s promotion of traditional practices and use of language that goes with them has been welcomed by many in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese. Others are uneasy about this, describing it as a return to the vocabulary and style of the 1950s.

Finn seemed to acknowledge this in a Nov. 4, 2005, column he wrote in The Catholic Key. He announced that he was extending the All Soul’s Day special plenary indulgence to anyone visiting the Blessed Sacrament from All Souls’ Day through the following Sunday, and he spelled out the conditions that had to be met.

This “may seem quaint or even archaic to some,” Finn wrote, but “the notion of the indulgence is a meaningful expression of the doctrine of grace and merit and bears testimony to the power of our prayers for another, even beyond this life.”

In June 2005, he was the keynote speaker of the second annual Kansas City Catholic Conference. The weekend long event began with Benediction and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Friday night.

In a talk that followed he spoke movingly about his own faith journey and his discovery of “Jesus Christ as the true north.” He told how in the early 1990s he became convinced of the importance of eucharistic adoration, which he practices an hour a day. He said he found in adoring Christ an antidote to the “age of relativism.”

As a new coadjutor bishop, Finn made a round of visitations to the diocese’s five regions. In homilies he spoke of what he thought was important.

“In this increasingly secular society, a contraceptive/abortion culture has led to the sad deterioration of families. We as Catholics must focus on keeping married love together, with openness to children. This openness to children is an antidote to societal poisons,” he told a gathering at the St. Joseph co-cathedral, according to reporting in The Catholic Key.

Catholic education should be thoroughly and unashamedly Catholic, he said. Catholic schools should teach that salvation is achieved only through Jesus. Whether students are Catholic or not, the schools must teach Catholic doctrine and promote the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the veneration of the saints and the use of sacramentals, such as, wearing religious medals, he said.

Families should attend Mass together regularly and make frequent confession. The themes would be repeated again and again.

At a Mass for Catholic school teachers and principals for the school year beginning in August 2004, Finn -- still coadjutor then -- admonished the teachers to help their students resist the “culture of death” and the “age of relativism.” He said: “There are objective truths. There is right and wrong. Holy Mother Church is our mother who loves us and she knows best. Catholic schools must be places where these moral truths are taught without variation and without ambiguity for the sake of souls and salvation.”

Finn’s first public liturgical act as ordinary was to lead a Corpus Christi procession in midtown Kansas City. A couple of weeks later at the Kansas City Catholic Conference, he talked about how thrilling it was to carry Christ in a monstrance through the city streets at the head of 2,000-strong procession that included altar boys in cassocks and surplices and Knights of Columbus in full regalia.

“It was a beautiful expression … a great display of faith. It brought Christ into the world in a visible way,” Finn said. “We lifted him up in the streets of our city.”

In 1988, Bishop John Sullivan gave permission for a regular celebration of the Latin Mass using the 1962 pre-Vatican II rite. In 1994, Bishop Raymond gave the Latin Mass community a home in a city parish. By August 2005 the community numbered about 200 members, and Finn announced it would be its own parish with its own church.

He gave the community Old St. Patrick Church, in downtown Kansas City. The parish was suppressed in 1959, but the building, which dates from 1875, was used as an oratory under the care of the nearby cathedral.

Finn appointed a priest of the Institute of Christ the King, a religious community of priests specially trained to preserve the Latin Mass rituals, as rector to see to the community’s day-to-day needs, but he named himself pastor.

According to a story in the Aug. 19, 2005, Catholic Key, Finn told the Latin community, “You will be receiving my support in various ways. It is my intention to see this community prosper.” He promised he would celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation for the parish at Old St. Patrick according to the pre-Vatican II rites.

“I love the Novus Ordo Mass [the post-Vatican II rite] as a priest,” The Catholic Key quoted him as saying. “I love the church, and I love the [Second Vatican] Council. But I also have a love and a respect for the Tridentine rite,” he said. “This also has a special place.”

-- Dennis Coday

National Catholic Reporter, May 12, 2006

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