Pope Pressed on Bishop Who Supervised Pedophile
By Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
February 14, 2014
|Jill McQueen worshiped with other parishioners at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City, Mo., at a Sunday Mass in 2011. Steve Hebert for The New York Times|
A group of Roman Catholics in Kansas City, Mo., and a priest with expertise in canon law petitioned Pope Francis this week to take disciplinary action against Bishop Robert W. Finn, who was convicted in 2012 of failing to report a priest who was an active pedophile.
The parishioners wrote to Francis asking why he suspended a German bishop who spent tens of millions building his opulent quarters, but left in office a bishop who failed to protect children. They argued that Bishop Finn also broke church law and should be subject to a penal proceeding.
“Your holiness, these past two years have been extremely painful for the Catholic community in this diocese,” wrote John Veal, one of the parishioners. “The anger and hurt is palpable among many who still attend Catholic liturgy, including many priests who feel helpless to speak out. Many laity have left the Church.”
Bishop Robert Finn at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City in 2011.Missouri Bishop’s Conviction Leaves Clergy DividedDEC. 2, 2012
Bishop Robert W. Finn, convicted on Thursday, expressed regret in court “for the hurt that these events have caused.”Defying Canon and Civil Laws, Diocese Failed to Stop a PriestSEPT. 7, 2012
Bishop Robert Finn spoke with other clergy members at the annual fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore on Monday.Kansas City Bishop Makes Deal to Avoid More Criminal ChargesNOV. 15, 2011
The Catholic church in the United States instituted policies in 2002 that require reporting suspected abuse to civil authorities, but the church has not resolved what to do about bishops who fail to do so. This month, a United Nations panel on children’s’ rights criticized the Vatican harshly for failing to hold bishops accountable, and the Vatican is discussing the issue, church officials said.
|Bishop Robert Finn in 2012. He was convicted of failing to report a pedophile priest. Pool photo by Tammy Ljungblad|
Pope Francis is forming a new Vatican commission on child sexual abuse, and some of his advisers have said they are examining the issue of accountability.
Bishop Finn, the first American prelate convicted in the long-running sexual abuse scandal, was found guilty on a misdemeanor charge for failing to inform authorities after he learned there were hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls on a laptop belonging to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan. Bishop Finn was given two years of court-supervised probation. Father Ratigan, who had photographed local girls as young as toddlers, was sentenced last year to 50 years in prison.
Jack Smith, communications director in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said, “Bishop Finn has his supporters and his detractors, and people are free to have their own opinion about what happens here. We remain committed to fostering safe environments in all of our schools and parishes, and we’ve made great strides.”
Mr. Smith said that Bishop Finn’s office had received a copy of the letters and other materials, which were sent Tuesday to the Vatican’s representative in Washington to be forwarded to Francis. The materials included letters from a nun and 13 parishioners in Kansas City, and a petition asking for Bishop Finn’s removal signed by more than 113,000 people worldwide.
The request to the pope was initiated by the Rev. James E. Connell, a priest and a canon lawyer in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who belongs to a newly formed group of priests and nuns known as Catholic Whistleblowers.
Father Connell cited Canon 1389 in the church’s Code of Canon Law, which says that a person who through “culpable negligence” harms another person by performing or omitting his “ecclesiastical power” is to be given a “just penalty.” Father Connell said he cited this canon because it was recently mentioned by Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief prosecutor, as a means of holding church officials accountable.