Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City, who was found guilty of failing to report suspected sexual abuse of a child to authorities, is now refusing to resign, and the Roman Catholic Church is wholly supporting him in this refusal.
Unfortunately it seems that the Roman Catholic Church has absolutely no problem with these types of activities based on their reaction to this case, although to their credit they have removed some clergy in the past over sex abuse allegations. What might be even more troubling is that one such Catholic priest was later hired as a supervisor for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
That being said, they are about as far from blameless as they could get, since Pope Benedict XVI himself refused to remove a priest “who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit,” according to The New York Times.
The charges brought against Robert Finn were, in my opinion, far from adequate seeing as he was only charged with two crimes and only found guilty of a single misdemeanor charge.
He was found guilty for “failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls,” according to The New York Times and each count carried a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Finn also failed to respond to warnings received by the diocese from a principal at a parish elementary school which detailed the suspicious behavior of Reverend Shawn Ratigan around children.
Ratigan plead guilty in August to federal charges of both producing and attempting to produce child pornography, and prosecutors have stated that they are looking to sentence him to life in prison for his crimes, although a sentencing date has yet to be set.
However, Bishop Finn doesn’t even have to actually face this relatively minor penalty. Finn was sentenced to a mere “two years probation, suspended,” according to Courthouse News.
Personally, I find the excuses put forth by Finn’s attorneys to be nothing short of disgusting. Courthouse News reports, “Finn’s attorneys said he should not have been charged because he was not the Diocese’s mandated reporter under the law. That responsibility rested with Vicar General Robert Murphy at the time, according to The Associated Press.”
In other words, they claim that Finn shouldn’t be responsible because it wasn’t officially his job. Using this absurd logic, one might be able to justify never reporting any crime because no particular citizen is specified as the mandated reporter under the law.
According to the British Guardian, despite advocates for the victims of clerical sex abuse challenging the Vatican directly and calling on the Pope to step up and dismiss Finn from his position, the church isn’t budging.
“The bishop looks forward to continuing to perform his duties, including carrying out the important obligations placed on him by the court,” said Jack Smith, diocese spokesman, in a statement. Even some Roman Catholics realize just how absurd this is and have launched a campaign to push for Finn’s resignation which includes a newly created Facebook page entitled, “Bishop Finn Must Go.”
Since Pope Benedict XVI alone has the ultimate authority over bishops, all he would have to do is give the word and Finn would be removed.
This is, in my opinion, a quite unlikely scenario given that, “Through the decades-long abuse scandal, only one US bishop has stepped down over his failures to stop abusive clergy: Cardinal Bernard Law, who in 2002 resigned as head of the Archdiocese of Boston,” according to the Guardian.
One of the more troubling aspects of this case is the fact that Finn was actually aware of nude photographs of children discovered on Ratigan’s laptop computer in December of 2010 and still failed to turn him over to police, instead opting to send Ratigan to live at a convent in Missouri.
According to court documents, the photographs were eventually handed over to authorities in May 2011 by Monsignor Robert Murphy against the wishes of Finn.
Monsignor Murphy turned over the evidence after Ratigan continued to refuse to stay away from children and not take pictures of them. While Finn has apologized for the pain his actions (or lack thereof) caused, he still shows no interest in stepping down from his position.
“Now that our justice system says he’s guilty, he has lost his ability to lead our diocese,” said a member of the Catholic Church in Kansas City, Patricia Rotert, to the Guardian. “He’s lost his credibility. There is turmoil and angst around him and I don’t think he can bring people together.”
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is now calling for the Pope to intervene in the situation in a letter penned by SNAP director David Clohessy.
“Now, for the first time in US history, you have a diocese headed by a proven criminal,” Clohessy wrote. “You must act if you are serious about making the church safer for children, discouraging future cover-ups in child sex cases, and ameliorating the wounds of tens of thousands of suffering adult victims and millions of betrayed parishioners.”
According to Clohessy, dismissing Finn from his position would “strongly deter other church officials from acting recklessly, callously and deceitfully in other child sex cases.”
Hopefully the Pope will no longer cover up the sexual abuse of children by priests, although given the Pope’s history – and the Roman Catholic Church in general – I’m not going to hold my breath in anticipation.
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