To promise respect and obedience

Bishop Finn installs Jim McConnell as a Reader (Nov 2008): Photo by Kevin Kelly

I'm sure many of you have read the recent reports coming from the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese regarding Fr. Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn.  (The story begins here with developments here.)

I've not posted on this story until now and I'm doing so because of a seriously significant decision made by Jim McConnell, one man in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese.  McConnell was to have been ordained a permanent deacon last weekend but at the last minute chose to withdraw himself from ordination.  Here's what he wrote to his home parish community about his decision:
Dear Holy Family Parish:
After a great deal of soul searching, prayer and reflection, I have decided not to accept the call to Holy Orders that I have received.
Because of the recent disclosure of failures within the diocese to protect the people of St. Patrick Parish from harm, I cannot promise respect or obedience that is a part of the diaconate ordination. To me this breakdown in the system that was put in place to protect God’s children is inexcusable.
It is with great sadness that I must inform you that I will not be able to serve Holy Family Parish as your deacon. Holy Family has been my spiritual home for over 30 years, and I have received great love and support during many joy filled and sometimes very difficult events in my life. Cindy and I will continue to support Holy Family in what ever way we can and wish to express our appreciation and love to all of you.
Jim and Cindy McConnell
Jim McConell spent four years in academic and spiritual formation programs to prepare to be ordained a deacon.  As you can see from his message above, he was deeply involved in the parish he hoped to serve in the diaconate. 

At his ordination, McConnell would have been asked to promise respect and obedience to his bishop and to his bishop's successor's.  It's a serious, solemn and binding promise to make.  No, it is not a pledge of blind obedience to a bishop's whims and no one is ever required to respect or obey what is wrong.  Still, this promise establishes a relationship between the one being ordained and the bishops with whom he will minister.

I have great respect for many elements of this story.

I have great respect for the call Jim McConnell received to be ordained and for all the work he did to prepare to receive that call.

I have great respect for the seriousness with which he understood the promise of obedience he would be asked to make to his bishop.

And I have great respect for a man whose obedience to his informed conscience leads him to make such a difficult decision and to live with its painful consequences.

Pray with me for: Jim McConnell and his wife; for their parish community; for the people of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph - especially for any who have been abused; for Bishop Robert Finn; and for Fr. Shawn Ratigan. 

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  1. Lurker, here. I can understand his decision, but it's absolutely heartbreaking. We need more people like him among the ordained. If we did, then maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today.

  2. Heartbreaking is the word that came to my mind as well. I admire Jim McConnell's deep integrity and grieve the circumstances that require him to express it. Prayers, indeed.

  3. Prayers, yes. I read about this earlier, first at Catholic Sensibility and then at Deacon Greg's and then Deacon Bill's. I found some of the comments at Greg's hard to take... I respect this man's decision and can't imagine it would be an easy one to make.

    Very sad indeed, very sad. Thank you for the thoughtful and respectful way you put this.

  4. It is a blessing that Mr. McConnell realized now, rather than later, that he is not prepared to be a deacon.


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