Kansas City, Mo. — Despite stepping down as head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese last week, Bishop Robert Finn is scheduled to preside at two ordinations here next month.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., who was named apostolic administrator of the neighboring diocese, told a meeting of priests on Thursday that he had asked Finn to oversee the ordinations after realizing that the Kansas and Missouri dioceses had scheduled ordinations on the same days.
According to Jack Smith, spokesman for the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, Naumann consulted with the Vatican's apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, about the schedule conflict, and he suggested that Finn could celebrate the ordinations. Finn also raised the ordinations issue at the time he turned in his resignation to Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who also suggested Finn preside over them, Smith said.
On April 21, the Vatican in a brief bulletin announced that Finn, 62, had resigned as bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese. No reason, outside the citation of a canon from the Code of Canon Law, was given. In May, Finn would have led the diocese for 10 years.
The ordination of seven deacons to the priesthood is set for May 23 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City. The sacrament of holy orders requires each new priest to make a pledge of obedience to their bishop.
In addition, Finn will also preside at the ordination of a seminarian as a transitional deacon on May 16 at Christ the King Parish in southern Kansas City. Smith told NCR the diocese has two additional ordinations of two deacons currently studying in Rome. Naumann will ordain them in June, Smith said.
Asked if there was concern that Finn's presence could cause a distraction from the ordinations, Smith said Finn had expressed that worry to him, "but nonetheless, Archbishop Naumann decided to delegate him to do that because he felt that was the appropriate thing to do." Naumann was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
A day earlier, the archbishop told the Kansas City Star, "There is closure on this. Bishop Finn resigned, and the Holy See has accepted it. But he doesn't disappear from the face of the Earth. ... He still is a bishop."
Smith told NCR that Finn is still living at the chancery and will remain there until other arrangements are made. He did not know a timeline on such plans.
One priest who attended the Thursday meeting at the chancery said the ordination announcement "sent surprise waves through the room," as did Naumann's decision to uphold controversial pastoral assignments announced in the diocesan newspaper three days before Finn resigned.
During the meeting, several priests asked the archbishop to reconsider the appointments -- specifically those to Visitation Church and St. Thomas More Parish, both in Kansas City and two of the diocese's largest parishes -- but Naumann told them that he prayed over the decisions and ultimately chose to let them stand.
The roughly hourlong meeting, held in a large room at the chancery offices in downtown Kansas City, was well attended, with more than 100 diocesan and religious order priests present. Several told NCR they had never seen so many priests from the diocese gathered in one spot. According to reports, Naumann remained until all questions were asked.
In his comments to the priests, Naumann again reiterated a need for unity and reconciliation in the diocese before taking questions from the priests, a message he stressed in an April 21 open letter to the people of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese.
He also emphasized several times that he believed his time as administrator would be brief, but stopped short of defining a timeframe.