Bishop Finn

I wanted to let the furor die down a little before commenting on the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.

What remains unknown is whether he resigned willingly or was forced out.

What is clear is that there is pain on all fronts, whether you are a supporter or detractor of Bishop Finn, and there will be healing.

In an open letter to the diocese, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas explains his role as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese until such time another bishop is named.

Bishop Robert W. Finn

The case of Bishop Finn, Father Shawn Ratigan (now laicized), and the employees of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph is very complicated.  I have followed this closely from the start several years ago. In the many news and opinion pieces as well as blogs on the issue, I have yet to see a piece that captures the entire picture correctly.

Facts point to media bias on the reporting. The links I am providing throughout this post lead to articles that come closest to the truth.

The landscape in the city was ripe for a scandal when Father Ratigan began taking upskirt pictures of little girls.  The diocese was split right down the middle theologically.  Years ago, when the orthodox Finn went to Kansas City and cleaned house of the previous liberal establishment, he quickly made enemies.  There were previous abuse lawsuits, which brought with them hurt and angry victims in search of healing and closure.

Politically, the county prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, had an agenda. The case had holes throughout. She had plenty of time and resources to prosecute this, yet her is lenient to violent offenders.  Violent offenders. She wanted to make her mark on history, and she did.  Meanwhile, violent offenders went  free and often returned with victims in their wake.

This is not to take away from the failings of Bishop Finn.  It is to put into perspective the overall picture.

To get a good grip on the story, one must read the findings of an independent investigation released on September 1, 2011.  It was commissioned by Bishop Finn to delve into diocesan policies and procedures and events surrouding claims of sexual misconduct.  It details one problem after another, but no clear-cut cover-up or intent to mislead authorities

Sadly, Bishop Finn has become a symbol of lack of bishop accountability in clergy sexual abuse.  He is the highest official to be criminally convicted on the issue of clergy sexual misconduct.  But read carefully: he was not convicted of “covering up abuse.”  He was not convicted for “not reporting abuse.”  He was convicted of failing to report suspicion of child abuse.  And the child abuse that took place: one picture of child pornography that he never saw.  Suspicion is the key word in the state of Missouri.  This article explains that many other employees also had suspicion, were mandated reporters, but never made a call.  Bishop Finn was the only person prosecuted.

He will return Kansas City to preside over the ordinations of seven deacons to the priesthood later in May, a move that has been met with mixed reviews.

We all know the devastating effects of clergy sexual abuse of minors.  The Catholic Church is riddled with problems.  The case of Bishop Robert W. Finn is tragic.  Post-2002 Dallas Charter, we should know better.  He was only one of many in a chain of people who could have, and should have, reported suspicion of abuse.

We, as Church, have a lot to learn.  It is up to us to look for the red flags that signal potential child abuse, whether in a home or a church.  If we are mandated reporters, make the call to the Division of Family Services!  Courage, people.  Have the courage to do what you need to do.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it.  That is what happened in Kansas City.  As a result, children were harmed.

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