The Vatican yesterday announced the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn who was convicted of a child abuse cover-up three years ago.
Following his conviction, Bishop Finn remained in office as the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City, much to the horror of abuse survivors, their families and advocates. Finn will remain a bishop although his resignation relinquishes his leadership of the diocese.
Much criticism of Finn has come from within Pope Francis’ own team, particularly from Marie Collins, a member of the Pope’s advisory committee on abuse.
This week, before the resignation announcement, Collins, who is from Ireland, told Catholic news site Crux, “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,” she said. “I don’t know how anybody like that could be left in charge of a diocese.”
In 2012, Finn was criminally convicted for not telling authorities information he acquired regarding a suspected pedophile priest. He received two years probation for failing to inform police when a computer technician told him he had found hundreds of images of child pornography on Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s laptop.
Despite learning of the images in December 2010, Finn did not inform authorities until May 2011, when Ratigan was arrested. During this time, Ratigan was allowed to attend children’s birthday parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families, host an Easter egg hunt, and preside over a girl’s First Holy Communion – all with the permission of Finn.
Ratigan was indicted with possession of inappropriate photographs of young girls, including images of a child’s naked vagina, upskirt images and other images focused on the crotch.
Concerns over Finn’s continued position of authority within the diocese led to calls for his removal and a three-year-old petition collecting 263,588 signatures. The petition’s initiator, local Catholic Jeff Weis, told the Washington Post yesterday that the “prayers of this hurt community have been answered.”
Finn was the only U.S. bishop to be criminally convicted in an abuse cover-up and, while it is rare, it is not completely unprecedented for a resignation to be accepted by the Pope following confirmation of a clergy member's complicity in clergy abuse.
In a statement from clergy abuse watchdog, Bishop Accountability, co-director, Anne Barrett Doyle, said that although there was still more to be done, accepting the resignation as “a good step.”
Doyle called on the Pope to pursue this path into “a new era in bishop accountability,” saying that Finn was guilty of a“failure to make children’s safety his first priority.”
The resignation is seen as a significant achievement by Pope Francis in his endeavors to increase accountability within the Church during his papacy.
In a brief announcement made by Vatican Radio, the Vatican said, “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Kansas City – St Joseph (USA), in conformity with canon 401, paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law.”
According to canon law 401, paragraph 2, Finn’s resignation was accepted under the grounds that: “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”
In a statement made by Finn to the Kansas City diocese, he writes, “It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith.”
Kansas City, Missouri diocese spokesman, Jack Smith, told the Washington Post that Kansas City, KA Archbishop Joseph Naumann will act as diocesan administrator until the Pope appoints a new bishop to the role.
Naumann also emailed a statement to the diocese saying that the coming months were to be “a time of grace and healing” for the area following years of controversy in the child-abuse scandal.