The man who became a symbol of the Catholic Church’s failure to stem the sexual abuse crisis that has plagued it has resigned.
In a news bulletin the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of the bishop of Kansas City, Robert W. Finn. The Vatican provided no reason for the resignation, only that Finn was leaving under the code of canon law that allows bishops to resign early for illness or some “grave” reason that makes them unfit for office.
In 2012 Finn was found guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse, and became the first American bishop in the decades-long sexual abuse scandal to be convicted of shielding a pedophile priest. The counts each carried a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation. In 2014 Roman Catholics based in Kansas City took the rare step of petitioning Pope Francis to discipline Bishop Finn and asked for his removal. The Vatican received the petition, signed by more than 113,000 people, with no public comments or actions.
The resignation of Finn is a positive step, but a small one. Let us not forget that for centuries the Catholic Church has institutionally worked to cover up sex abuse committed by priests with an agenda of denials and attacking the accusers. Finn knew priests who were abusing children yet chose to protect the abusers rather than their victims. It is a tragic scenario that has played itself out time and time again. How many other Bishops chose the same path of action? How many cases of sexual abuse have been covered up?
Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse who I have known and represented in lawsuits against the Catholic church have asked me how could the Vatican allow Bishop Finn, a convicted criminal who covered up for a priest involved in child pornography, remain as spiritual director and Bishop for the people of Kansas City for three years. The only answer I can give is that the Vatican’s continuing priority is protecting bishops not children.
I would ask Pope Francis: Why would you not remove Bishop Finn against his will for the moral depravity for which he was criminally convicted? Why allow Bishop Finn to resign and not make any statement that such conduct is not to be tolerated in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church?
Bishop Finn should have been fired and condemned for his conduct rather than allowing him the power to select resignation in an ambigous manner. Bishop Finn should also be tried in a cannonical court within the eclesiastical system in the Catholic church and removed as a priest.
That would send a message to the world that the Catholic Church had changed and would provide some solace to survivors of childhood sex abuse that their mental and spiritual health was a priorty over protecting the bishops of the church.
Admitted to both the California State Bar and the Florida State Bar, Joseph Saunders has also practiced in the United States District Court and the United States Court of Appeals. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representation and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury or death at the hands of insurance companies, large corporations, medical providers or governmental entities.