KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A newspaper known for unflinching coverage of the Roman Catholic Church scandal was rebuked by a bishop in its own backyard after calling for his ouster in a battle that illustrates tensions between U.S. bishops and groups that call themselves Catholic but aren't sanctioned by the church.
The National Catholic Reporter, an independent Kansas City, Mo.-based weekly, called for Bishop Robert Finn's removal or resignation in September, after he was convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse.
Bishop Finn, leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, later wrote in an editorial in his own diocesan newspaper that parishioner anger is growing over the NCR's challenges to Catholic orthodoxy on topics ranging from the ordination of women to contraception.
In the last several years, church leaders have been trying to shore up the religious identity and mission of organizations that call themselves Catholic, including trying to bar groups from saying they have ties with the church if bishops believe the organizations stray from church teaching. Conflict over the issue intensified in the 2008 presidential election, when some Catholic advocacy groups backed Barack Obama despite his support for abortion rights.
Bishop Finn, who declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press, wrote in his editorial that a local bishop first asked the paper to remove Catholic from its name in 1968 -- "to no avail."
Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking U.S. church official convicted of a crime related to the sex abuse scandal. The misdemeanor charge stemmed from the case of an area priest who pleaded guilty in August to producing child pornography. Bishop Finn and other church officials knew about photos on the priest's computer six months before they turned him in.
NCR, founded in Kansas City in 1964, has been widely lauded for its coverage of the church and garnered widespread recognition for its reporting on child sex abuse in the 1980s.