Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, finds himself without a job Tuesday, as Pope Francis accepted the embattled prelate’s resignation three years after his conviction for failing to report suspected child abuse.
The Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, SNAP, called the move “encouraging,” but said there is still more work to do, describing the resignation as “a very tiny drop of reform in an enormous bucket of horror.”
“Finn’s departure will, in the short term, make some adults happier. By itself, it won’t, in the long term, make many kids safer,” the statement read.
A group that monitors bishops agreed that Finn’s removal was a “good step,” but called on Pope Francis to elaborate on the reasons for Finn’s dismissal.
“But what no pope has done to date is publicly confirm that he removed a culpable bishop because of his failure to make children’s safety his first priority. We urge Pope Francis to issue such a statement immediately,” Anne Doyle, a spokesman for BishopAccountab
The Vatican issued a bulletin Tuesday, stating simply, “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral ministry of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Robert W. Finn, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.”
That canon states that a bishop who is “less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause” are requested to submit their resignation to the Holy See.
Finn was convicted in 2012 of a misdemeanor charge for failing to notify police police in a timely manner that pornographic images of children were found on a computer belonging to one of the priests in the diocese, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan.
Pope Francis is currently considering a proposal from his commission on sex abuse dealing with bishop accountability. The commission has discussed Finn’s case, as well as that of the newly installed Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, who is tied to one of that country’s most notorious abusers.
A member of that commission, Marie Collins, told Crux in an interview published on Monday that it was time for Finn to go.
“I cannot understand how Bishop Finn is still in position, when anyone else with a conviction that he has could not run a Sunday school in a parish. He wouldn’t pass a background check,” she said. “I don’t know how anybody like that could be left in charge of a diocese.”
But some are standing by Finn.
“Bishop Finn, we love you, your pastoral heart,” a statement from a group called Justice for Bishop Finn read.
Last fall, the Catholic League released statements defending Finn, saying that he was the victim of a “well-coordinated war” by “enemies” seeking to “to drop a bishop who is an outspoken defender of the faith.”
The group stood by Finn Tuesday.
“Though no child was ever touched or abused by Ratigan, it is clear that he never belonged in the priesthood. But Bishop Finn did not take a cavalier attitude toward his misconduct. If he had, Ratigan’s problem would have been ignored altogether,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the archbishop of the neighboring archdiocese, Joseph F. Naumann, will lead Finn’s diocese while the Vatican searches for a successor. He will spend Tuesday with staff in the Missouri chancery, but he will retain his duties in the Kansas City archdiocese.
Naumann said in a statement that he anticipates a “time of grace and healing” for the Missouri diocese.
“This will not be a time for innovation or change, but a time to sustain the ordinary and essential activities of the Church and where possible to advance the initiatives that already are underway,” he said.
Finn released a short statement as well, stating “It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith.”
In 2002, Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law became the first American prelate to resign over allegations that he mishandled priests. Some Catholics were outraged that following Law’s resignation, he was given a plum appointment in Rome, running the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The Vatican has not announced what Finn, 62, will do next.