Bishop Robert Finn failed to notify police about a suspected child abuser
- He waited months before telling authorities about ReverendShawn Ratigan
- In 2012, Finn plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was given probation
- He is now the highest-ranking church official convicted of sex abuse charges
· Children’s rights advocates have called on Pope Francis to do even more
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of an American bishop who pleaded guilty to failing to report a priest who was a suspected child abuser. Bishop Robert Finn, 62, offered his resignation under the code of canon law that allows bishops to resign early for illness or some ‘grave’ reason that makes them unfit for office. But children’s rights advocates are urging Pope Francis to do much more to deal with clergy who become embroiled in child sex scandals.
Ratigan had a computer containing hundreds of lewd photos of young girls taken in and around churches where he worked. He was eventually sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
Finn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse and was sentenced to two years’ probation in 2012. It has made him the highest-ranking church official in the U.S. to be convicted of failing to take action in response to abuse allegations. Since then, he has faced constant pressure from local Roman Catholics to step down, with some parishioners petitioning Francis to remove him from the diocese.
Despite a catalog of child sex cases within the catholic church, so far, no U.S. bishop has been forcibly removed for covering up guilty clergy.
One pope has finally seen fit to oust one bishop for complicity in clergy sex crimes.That’s encouraging. But it’s only a very tiny drop of reform…
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the online abuse resource BishopAccountability.org, said while Finn’s resignation was a welcome step – more has to be done. She has called on Francis to publicly state that he was removed for mismanaging the Ratigan case and failing to protect children. She noted that bishops had been allowed to resign under the previous two popes, but that the Vatican has never publicly linked their resignations to mishandling abuse cases. ‘We urge Pope Francis to issue such a statement immediately. That would be unprecedented, and it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun,’ she said. Meanwhile U.S. victims group SNAP, praised Finn’s resignation as a ‘tiny but belated step forward.’
David Clohessy, a spokesman for SNAP said: ‘After centuries of abuse and cover-up done in secrecy … one pope has finally seen fit to oust one bishop for complicity in clergy sex crimes.That’s encouraging. But it’s only a very tiny drop of reform in an enormous bucket of horror.’
Last fall, The Vatican sent a Canadian archbishop to Finn’s diocese as part of an investigation of his leadership. But until Tuesday, there had been no word about what the pope would do. In a statement issued by the diocese, Finn said it had been an ‘honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith.’ He asked for prayers for the next bishop. Francis has already tapped Archbishop Joseph Naumann to lead the diocese temporarily until a new bishop is named. Naumann said he prayed ‘that the coming weeks and months will be a time of grace and healing for the diocese.’ Earlier this month, members of the pope’s sex abuse advisory commission came to Rome in an unscheduled session to voice their concern about Chilean bishop Juan Barros. They are concerned that his longtime affiliation with the Reverend Fernando Karadima – who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for sexually abusing minors – makes him unsuitable to head child protection programs.