No one is above the law.

Thursday, 4/30/15

Our first reading gives us an account of Paul’s words to the Jewish community in Antioch. He introduced Jesus to them by showing them that Jesus was not apposed to their beloved traditions, but rather, that their old traditions led up to Jesus.

That story might have you think about how, as old time Catholics, we don’t like being told about new ways in our religion. I was just reading a magazine story about a priest friend of mine who got into big trouble by sticking to old ways.

When I’d visit with my sister in St. Louis, I often went to Mass, sitting in her pew with her. The priest, Father Bob Finn, used to say that to uphold the dignity of our priesthood I should be on the altar, not out in the pews like a layman. I didn’t like differing from him, because he was a highly respected young priest.

Bob got to be bishop of Kansas City, where he championed the Church’s old way of doing things. When he got word that one of his priests had been molesting children, he was saddened deeply, but he didn’t was to make the matter public. Our seminary training had repeatedly told us “we don’t wash our dirty linen in public.”

One of our great saints, Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been feuding with King Henry II who wanted priests to be tried by the civil law. When Thomas a Becket would not give in to that, King Henry had him cut down at the altar.

Bishop Finn was deeply saddened by the abuse the children suffered from one of his priests, but in the tradition of St. Thomas a Becket, he protected the offending priest  by transferring him to another parish. That freed the priest to repeat his crime.

There have been centuries when priests were like nobility who were above the law. Pope Francis, by accepting Bob Finn’s resignation as bishop of Kansas City, signaled us that we do wrong by following any ancient customs that put anyone above the law.

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