By midday Tuesday, there were still many among the flock of Catholics in Kansas City who didn’t yet know that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of their Bishop — Robert William Finn.
Finn has been at the center of controversy for years. He became the highest ranking official of the church to be convicted of a crime when he was found guilty of failing to report allegations of child abuse in 2012.
Kansas City-area Catholics reacting to the news revealed a wide range of opinions.
At Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Church at 33rd and Broadway in Kansas City, the lunchtime Mass was just beginning. I tried to talk to more than a dozen people as they walked in or out — only three agreed to talk. No one wanted me to use their name, and most of them defended the Bishop.
One elderly man said Finn had inherited the sex abuse scandal and that he did an excellent job dealing with it.
“He came into a mess. It wasn’t of his doing. I thought he was a tremendous Bishop. The best one we’ve had for a long time,” the anonymous church-goer said.
At her home near the Plaza, lifelong Catholic Susie Evans had mixed emotions. On the one hand, she says she feels very sorry for Bishop Finn.
“He’s living in a time that is in the past. Some find it hard to give up their beliefs, but the church is moving ahead. It must be very difficult for him.”
Evans says she’s stopped going to Mass regularly, largely because of the way Bishop Finn was leading the church. She loves the serenity of the Mass, and misses it. She says she’ll never leave the Catholic church, but found it increasingly hard to accept the direction her diocese was going.
“I find it unacceptable to embrace something I don’t agree with. I don’t think that’s what Jesus wanted. People have to stand up and say what’s right, and what’s wrong. And that wasn’t happening.”
In his downtown office, local business owner Ace Wagner says he was a “Cradle Catholic,” educated through college at Catholic schools. Wagner says while he respects those who feel differently, he feels Bishop Finn betrayed Catholics and acted hypocritically to continue in a leadership role in the church. He's relieved the Bishop is stepping down.
“If the church is to represent a higher road of moral conviction, of which (Finn) so regularly would speak, then it seems it well past time for him to have removed himself or been removed from a position of leadership in a diocese,” Wagner says. “As (he is ) the shepherd of this diocese, I am of the opinion that this transition should have happened much earlier.”
Wagoner now worships at Unity on the Plaza.