Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, Missouri, nearly three years after the bishop was found guilty on criminal charges for failing to report sexual abuse, Catholic Culture reported.
Catholic Culture quoted a spokesman for the diocese in disclosing that Bishop Finn had met privately last week with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. He later met with Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the US, to arrange plans for his resignation.
The Associated Press noted that in 2011, Bishop Finn waited six months before notifying police about Father Shawn Ratigan, whose computer contained hundreds of lewd photos of young girls taken in and around churches where he worked. Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. He was subsequently laicized.
The wire service said no U.S. bishop has been removed for covering up for guilty clergy.
Crux’s John Allen provided background on the case:
In May 2010, a principal at a Catholic school where Ratigan served wrote a detailed five-page memo to diocesan officials outlining concerns about the priest’s conduct, though she did not report a concrete charge of abuse.
Finn’s top deputy received the letter and spoke with Ratigan about setting boundaries with children, then gave a summary to the bishop. Finn later acknowledged that he had been briefed on the memo, but said he didn’t read it until a year later.
In December 2010, a computer technician working on Ratigan’s laptop discovered images of girls aged 3 to 12 and reported the finding to diocesan officials. Those officials contacted a police officer and the diocesan attorney the next day, both of whom said that the images did not constitute child pornography and thus there was no crime to report either to a diocesan review board or to the police.
After learning that his images had been discovered, Ratigan attempted suicide. After his recovery, Finn sent Ratigan for psychiatric evaluation, then placed various restrictions on his ministry including staying away from children.
Finn eventually reported Ratigan to the police when he violated those conditions, leading to his arrest in May 2011. He was charged with producing, or trying to produce, child pornography, and was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2013.
Finn was indicted for failure to report in October 2011, and after a one-day bench trial, he was found guilty by a judge on one misdemeanor charge. The judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict on another.
Bishop Finn, 62, "remains the highest-ranking Church official in the U.S. to be convicted of failing to take action in response to abuse allegations," AP said. "The Vatican’s failure to sanction or remove him had fueled victims’ complaints that bishops were continuing to enjoy protections even under the ‘zero tolerance’ pledge of Francis."
The National Catholic Reporter opined:
Finn’s resignation will have significance beyond the borders of Missouri. The issue of holding bishops accountable has long been the largest and most provocative unresolved element in the Church’s handling of sexual abuse cases.
In diocese after diocese and country after country, abuse victims, parents and advocacy groups have asked why bishops who inappropriately handle dangerous priests are rarely, if ever, held accountable.
The newspaper, based in Kansas City, Missouri, wrote about the coincidence that Bishop Finn’s visit to Rome overlapped with a meeting of the new Vatican commission on clergy sexual abuse on April 12.
Members of that commission, known formally as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, met April 12 with Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the president of the commission and a member of Francis’ Council of Cardinals.
Commission member Peter Saunders said in an interview Tuesday that the members discussed Finn’s case at the meeting.
"I believe that there was already some movement on the Finn case, from what Cardinal O’Malley said, so I think this was going to happen," Saunders said. "But maybe we were in some small way instrumental in ensuring that it did."
Bishop Finn issued a brief statement urging the people of the diocese to pray for the bishop who will eventually be appointed to take his place. "It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith,” he said.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the neighboring Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, has been appointed as administrator of the Missouri diocese until a new appointment is made.