Bishop Robert Finn, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Kansas City Missouri was convicted last week of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse to authorities. Bishop Finn has indicated that despite his conviction he will not resign his see. As he was not sentenced to prison but received a probationary sentence, he will not be impeded in any significant way from carrying out the responsibilities of his office, yet this is the first time that a Catholic Diocese in the United States has been led by a bishop convicted of such a crime. (Note, the crime of not reporting the suspected abuse is a misdemeanor under the law, not a felony.) Pressure by victim advocate groups is being put on the Vatican to remove Bishop Finn if he does not willingly resign but the Vatican does not respond well to such ground-roots pressure so it is unrealistic to expect he will be deprived of his Diocese. In fact, the Vatican (I certainly need to refrain from using the term “Holy See” in this instance as the irony would be appalling) is all but certain to back up the bishop’s decision. Hopefully they won’t promote him to a higher See.
Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas
For those who think that this is just another case of the secular world harassing the Church, it should be noted that Bishop Finn himself had appointed former United States Attorney Todd P Graves to conduct an independent investigation of Diocesan policies and procedures regarding charges of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy or Diocesan employees. Graves was the national co-chairman of the U.S. Justice Department's Child Exploitation Working Group. Graves’ final evaluation was “that Diocesan leaders (read: the bishop) failed to follow their own policies and procedures for responding to reports" of sexual abuse by clergy.” In other words, not only did a Court find that the Bishop failed in his responsibilities, but the independent counsel the Bishop hired to investigate the situation found the bishop at fault. Bishop Finn needs our prayers as to the people of the Diocese of Kansas City in Missouri. The victims of abuse need our prayers and the clergy whose sins and sickness has led to this debacle need our prayers. But also the Old Boys Club in Rome needs our prayers that the Lord will open their eyes to comprehend the problem. In other words, Cardinal Law still doesn’t get it. Talk about Invincible moral Ignorance! Incidentally, when Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone assumes the responsibilities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco on October 4th, he will be the second Ordinary to assume the diocese under a legal cloud as he was arrested recently on charges of drunk driving—another misdemeanor. He is due to appear in court five days after his installation as Archbishop. I only hope he has the aplomb not to wear his cappa magna to the courthouse.
My complaint here is not against Bishop Finn or Archbishop-designate Cordileone. I live in a glass house myself and am not anxious to throw stones. I am sure that each is a good man within the parameters of basic moral structures; they (and those responsible for their advancement) are simply injudicious. And injudiciousness at this level is not simply unadvisable, it is immoral. What I am complaining about is that the American Church not only deserves but is in desperate need of better men for the ministry of Bishop. The Church is being humiliated not by external enemies who ultimately are unable to wound the Church but by her own hierarchs who can do great damage to the faith. I know that there are wiser and holier men for the ministry of Bishop than we are getting in many of our Sees—and at some Roman desks. I have met priests who would make better bishops than Finn or Cordileone or the clique responsible for their advancement (The Burke-Law-Lori axis). Please just give us the leadership we need.