From Associated Press:
Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Finn pleaded guilty in 2013 to failing to report a suspected priestly child abuser in the first known case of a pope sanctioning bishops for covering up for pedophiles. The Vatican said Tuesday that Bishop Robert Finn had offered his resignation under the code of canon law that allows bishops to resign early for illness or some “grave” reason that makes them unfit for office. It didn’t provide a reason. Finn, who leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, waited six months before notifying police about the Rev. 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.
Finn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse and was sentenced to two years’ probation in 2012. Ever since, he has faced pressure from local Roman Catholics to step down, with some parishioners petitioning Francis to remove him from the diocese. No U.S. bishop has been removed for covering up for guilty clergy. Finn remains the highest-ranking church official in the U.S. to be convicted of failing to take action in response to abuse allegations. 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.
This comes right on the heels of headlines announcing that confirmed abuse allegations against Catholic priests were in the single digits for 2014. One allegation is too many, but clearly the zero-tolerance measures put into place over the last ten-or-so years, and the laicization of hundreds of bad priests under Pope Benedict XVI is having the desired effect. As to the ouster of Finn, it is not unexpected. Ears to the ground, we’d heard the bishops and advisers counselling Pope Francis were insisting that for the good of the church and the healing of its abuse victims, it was time to take effective action at higher levels — specifically against those bishops who had not been pro-active in responding to allegations. In Finn’s case, this is kind of a no-brainer; he is the first and only bishop to be convicted of “failing to report a suspected abuser.”