And Yet Finn Remains Bishop
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 22, 2014 at 07:37:56 AM EST
It has been more than two years since Bishop Robert Finn was convicted by a Missouri criminal court for failing to report child abuse by Fr. Shawn Ratigan. Finn had been warned about Ratigan's behavior but the prelate inexplicably waited six months before notifying authorities as required by law. Within that same period of time, Ratigan pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.  He is now serving a 50-year sentence in prison. But Finn walks free.

Enter Pope Francis.

The new pontiff has been a breath of fresh air in many ways.  But when it comes to removing Bishop Finn as head of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Missouri the air around the pontiff has gotten stale.

That's why many were encouraged when Cardinal Sean O'Malley was interviewed  recently by the CBS News program 60 Minutes. O'Malley is not just any Cardinal. He is a close friend of and advisor to Pope Francis, who appointed him to lead the Vatican's new sexual abuse commission aimed at strengthening rules to protect children. When the conversation turned to Bishop Finn, Cardinal O'Malley did not mince his words:

Norah O'Donnell: I want to ask you about Robert Finn, who is the bishop of Kansas City/St. Joseph and, as you know, he pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor for not reporting one of his priests to authorities.  Bishop Finn wouldn't be able to teach Sunday school in Boston.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: That's right.

Norah O'Donnell: How is that zero tolerance...

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well...

Norah O'Donnell: ...that he's still in place? What does it say to Catholics?

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well, it's a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently.

Norah O'Donnell: And there's a recognition?

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: There's a recognition of that.

Norah O'Donnell: From Pope Francis?

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: From Pope Francis.

But it was not to be. Or at least not yet. It has been more than a month since that interview when it sounded like Bishop Finn was on his way out the door.  

Why is he still there?

The differences between Francis and Finn are as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon.

Pope Francis - a Jesuit - is tolerant, open minded, and often talks about the Church and its mission to help the poor and the marginalized.  Bishop Finn is not only a shrill cultural warrior, and a member of the conservative and traditionalist order, Opus Dei -- but he is an admitted and convicted criminal.

This makes the Pope's inaction even more puzzling.

His inaction is eroding his credibility. It suggests he is a leader who says the right thing, but doesn't do the right thing.  Finn is a darkening stain on his this papacy. It is long past time to remove it.

Decision (question) the Holy See needs to address... yes Pope Francis is recognizes that. I have no reason to question either statement - both carefully worded and guarded statements by an officer of the church in high position. Politics by its very nature is give and take, deals, support for positions not simply on merit but in exchange for support of another position. The public will never know what happens behind the closed doors - what might be the 'bigger goal' than an individual matter of discipline. I would be frustrated with the delay, with the message it sends, with the press that accompanies the delay. But, were I in leadership I would tend toward patience - looking for the slower/bigger/longer lasting changes that Pople Francis is directing. While I imagine it's true, he could simply sign papers and act independently on this specific case - I'm sure he understands that the more specific decisions he makes independently, the less he impacts the body who govern's - not only during his life, but going forward as well. I remain optimistic that real change is happening in Rome.

by chaplain on Mon Dec 22, 2014 at 11:08:45 AM EST

I suspect that Finn has a number of lay and clerical allies in the American Catholic community who are going to bat for him in the same fashion that Angelo Sodano protected Marcial Maciel Degollado up until Ratzinger became Pope. Finn also has Opus Dei behind him, and they provide a great deal of protection to their own. Finn should have been sent out the door the minute after he pleaded guilty to failing to protect the children from Shawn Ratigan. It is a scandal to the faithful that the Vatican has not sent Finn packing, and not a few Kansas City Catholics have been wondering why Finn is still bishop.

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