Robert W. Finn, Will You Please Go Now?
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 02:56:51 PM EST
The well-connected conservative culture warrior, Robert W. Finn, still leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri more than three months after being convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse.  This has led to a growing unease inside and outside of the Church that the problems that led to shocking child sex abuse scandals and high level coverups, are far from over.
The New York Times recently reported:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In the three months since Bishop Robert W. Finn became the first American prelate convicted of failing to report a pedophile priest, lay people and victims' advocates have repeatedly called for his resignation.

Now, recent interviews and a private survey by a company working for the Roman Catholic diocese here show for the first time that a significant number of the bishop's own priests have lost confidence in him.

But of course Finn still has his defenders, including one conservative priest who said, "Yes, there is a divide in the presbyterate, but in my opinion it's the same old tired divide that has existed from the day he arrived." He added, "In a word, some of the priests wish that we had a more liberal bishop, and they are willing to use any means to achieve that end."

And then of course, there is the ever-full-of-bluster, Catholic League president, William Donohue.

Donohue, never one to let the facts get in the way of defending the indefensible, recently responded to the Times article. In a December 3, 2012 op-ed in the Albany Tribune, entitled, "Bishop Finn and the Catholic Left," he dissembled once again, trying to frame the issue as solely one of a battle between conservative and liberal Catholics:

The Times says that Finn's conviction of a misdemeanor "stemmed from his failure to report the Rev. Shawn Ratigan to the authorities after hundreds of pornographic pictures that Father Ratigan had taken of young girls were discovered on his laptop in December 2010."

That statement is factually wrong. On October 15, 2011 the Times mentioned there was "a single photo of a young girl, nude from the waist down," and "hundreds of photographs of children" showing "upskirt images and images focused on the crotch."

Continuing directly, he made this incredible statement:

Now anyone who takes such pictures is clearly disturbed. But it also needs to be said that crotch shots are not pornographic. Moreover, the diocese described the "single photo" of a naked girl to a police officer who served on the diocesan sexual review board, and he said it did not constitute pornography. So why would the Times say that "hundreds of pornographic pictures" were found two years ago this month? The record shows that it was not until after the diocese called the cops in May 2011 that porn pictures were found on Ratigan's computer.

He concluded by claiming, "In short, Bishop Finn deserves better. The attack on him, coming exclusively from the Catholic Left, smacks of an agenda."

This is nonsense. Writing for The Religion News Service on December 4, 2012 Mark Silk pointed out that in fact, the picture was indeed defined as "pornography" in a report prepared for the diocese.

Silk added:

That's not just pornography, Bill, it's the kind of child abuse that is supposed to get a priest reported to the civil authorities. How do I know this? It's right there in the USCCB's Rome-approved "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which mandates compliance with civil reporting statutes for the "grave delict" of "the acquisition, possession, or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of fourteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using any technology."

Donohue's argument about "the Catholic Left" also holds no water. There are conservative Opus Dei bishops leading the dioceses of Brooklyn-Queens and Newark. Another very conservative bishop presides over the Archdiocese of Los Angeles while Catholic Right culture warrior Archbishop Chaput presides in Philadelphia. In none of these locales is there any such call for resignation as there is in Kansas City. Why?  Because the issue is one that should transcend politics: child abuse.

On the same day as Donohue's piece, Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter put it best:

Today is December 3. On September 6, Bishop Robert Finn was convicted in civil court of failing to report an instance of child sexual abuse. Not only is Finn now serving a suspended sentence, he is in violation of the Dallas Charter the bishops adopted ten years ago to confront the sex abuse crisis. Three months. Bishop Finn is still the Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The Vatican is said to want the American bishops to exert fraternal correction and get Finn to step down. The US bishops are said to be waiting for the Vatican to move. Enough already. Someone do something.

There does indeed however, appear to be a political angle at play in this whole sad episode. But Donohue doth protest too much.  If there is a political impulse affecting Finn's status, it is coming from the neoconservative Catholic Right, not the Catholic Left -- beginning with Bill Donohue!

Finn's stepping down would, perhaps coincidentally, remove a high-profile conservative voice from a Mid-Western bastion of liberal thought. Kansas City is also a center for  Post-Keynesian economics (antithetical to neocon Catholics) particularly among the faculty at the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC). The school also serves as home base for the Keynesian-based Center for Full Employment and Price Stability as well as Savings and Loan regulator and Roosevelt Institute fellow, Bill Black who serves as an associate professor of economics.  And as I have previously pointed out, Finn is  one of a number of outspokenly conservative prelates in liberal locales.

In any case, "If Finn remains at the helm of Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese," I previously wrote, "the Vatican will essentially be telling the faithful that they care far more about high profile reactionary leaders, and little to nothing about the rest of us." And as the recent New York Times story reminds us, "Only the pope can remove a bishop from office."

Proverbs 11:29, "He who troubles his own house shall inherit the wind. The foolish shall be servant to the wise of heart."

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:01:48 PM EST

Of course, Finn and Benedict don't think they have to listen to mere lay people like us. Benedict is more interested in cracking down on perceived deviations from orthodoxy, while Finn really thinks he should not have to answer to his priests, lay people or the civil government for his inactions. Benedict is too interested in attracting the Society of St. Pius X back into the Church, with all the Society's attendant anti-semitism and reactionary politics, although it has to be said that the SSPX did expel their worst offender, Bishop Richard Williamson. Robert Mickens of the Tablet gave a really good talk about the impending Vatican implosion at the City Club of Cleveland on November 16. There is a video of it at YouTube, and I highly recommend it.

by khughes1963 on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:19:08 PM EST

I think an editing note was left in one of the paragraphs above...

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:28:50 PM EST

Doesn't this guy have any shame!

by Long Ben Avery on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 11:49:53 PM EST
The bishops have no shame.

by khughes1963 on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 01:01:26 PM EST

what a company NOT working for the diocese would have found out about the priests' confidence in their bishop.

While Donohue is beyond common sense, I wonder why some of the conservative "leaders" in the church don't see how this is hurting their cause. I know very few Catholics anymore who have faith in the bishops. Our bishop in Cleveland is viewed with a fair amount of contempt for merely shuttering churches in a high-handed fashion. How much more contempt much the people in this diocese have for their bishop.

by anastasia p on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:14:23 PM EST

The KC judge found Finn guilty of concealing and not reporting sex crimes against innocent little girls. This has NEVER happened to a US bishop before. and there are many other bishops who could have been sitting in that court room and been found guilty also. So we can not expect any of the other bishops to confront Finn.

Church officials are not able to police themselves because there is no punishment for the bishops who break their own rules. Victims deserve to be treated with respect no matter how long ago their abuse happened, Child predators need to be exposed and removed from their ministries no matter how old the allegations, because they can never be trusted to be around children.

The KC diocese sexual abuse cover up is not an isolated case by any means.
Even though Bishop Finn received no jail time, he is now deemed a criminal, he can not even pass the Catholic Conference of Bishops' own "child protection back ground check". and therefore he needs to be defrocked from the priesthood.

Until a bishop is jailed nothing will change, and kids are still not safe today.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director,
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

by JudyJones on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 01:01:17 PM EST

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