Finally, Pope Francis did something about one of the world’s most notorious and noxious examples of clergy pedophilia cover up: he accepted the resignation of criminally convicted Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn today. It’s a step in the right direction. But we will watch to see if it leads to more Vatican action to hold complicit bishops accountable. Because much more needs to be done.
In September 2012, Finn was convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor, after he learned of child pornography found on the computer of a priest, Shawn Ratigan. Finn became the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic clergyman convicted of a crime connected to the Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal. Ratigan pleaded guilty to producing child pornography, and was imprisoned for 50 years and removed from the priesthood. Finn received two years of probation; the conviction will be expunged from his record.
For three years after his conviction, Finn remained as the bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, in spite of cries for his removal by survivors, survivor advocates and parishioners. Given the Catholic Church’s decades-old sex abuse scandals and its countless promises to protect children, Finn’s retention of power was unbelievable, hurtful to survivors and just plain surreal. A survivor who sits on the pope’s sexual abuse advisory commission recently stated, aptly: “I cannot understand how Bishop Finn is still in position, when anyone else with a conviction that he has could not run a Sunday school in a parish. He wouldn’t pass a background check.”
We urge Pope Francis to remove other sitting archbishops and bishops known to have covered up and protected priests who molested children and harbored child pornography. Not doing so would waste the promise of today’s action.