Let’s give credit to Pope Francis: he yanked the scandal-ridden Bishop Finn from Kansas City. From John L. Allen at Cruxnews:
In what is likely to be hailed as major step toward accountability for Catholic bishops who mishandle sexual abuse allegations, the Vatican has announced the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
The announcement came Tuesday in a brief statement in the Vatican’s daily news bulletin, released at noon Rome time. Finn, whose resignation is effective immediately, will remain a bishop, but no longer lead a diocese. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City-Kansas has been appointed as the apostolic administrator of Finn’s diocese until Pope Francis names Finn’s successor.
Finn, 62, is the lone American bishop ever to be found guilty of a criminal charge for failure to report an accusation of child abuse. His September 2012 conviction on a misdemeanor charge stemmed from Finn waiting several months before telling police that explicit images of young girls had been discovered on the computer of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, one of his priests.
Finn was sentenced to two years of probation, and the diocese received a fine of $1.1 million when an arbitrator ruled that it had violated the terms of an earlier settlement.
The fact that Finn has remained in office for almost three years after the outcome has been a central bone of contention for critics who regard the Catholic Church’s official “zero tolerance” policy on abuse as inadequate as long as there aren’t consequences for managers who fail to implement it.
It is ridiculous that Finn held his see for three years after his conviction, but let’s give thanks that justice was finally done by the Vatican in this matter. David Gibson has some takeaways:
1. This is a big deal
During the past decade, the most intense years of the Catholic Church’s long-running clergy sex abuse scandal, thousands of priests have been punished or defrocked for abusing children, and a few bishops found guilty of molestation have also quit.
But until Finn, no American bishop had ever been forced from office (despite the terse Vatican announcement that he “resigned”) for covering up for a predator priest.
That sets a precedent in an institution where many have regarded the hierarchy as a privileged caste that should not be held to the same standards as others in the church. Some feared that if a bishop were pushed out for failing to do his job, it would create a domino effect that could topple the entire superstructure.
“We all know there are other US bishops wondering ‘who is the next?’” tweeted church historian Massimo Faggioli.
But Francis seems to be betting this sort of accountability at the top will strengthen the church, and even help restore the credibility of the bishops.
I think that’s right. Gibson, who is a liberal Catholic, says that the Finn resignation is a blow to Catholic conservatives, given that Finn is a member of Opus Dei, and has been a favorite of leading conservative prelates. I take his point, but I’m not as certain that it’s as big a blow as Gibson thinks. Finn’s conviction showed that there is nothing about a given bishop’s orientation within the political cultures of the Church that show that he’s going to be good or bad on abuse. Liberal bishops did it as often as conservative ones. Sensible conservatives understand that the Church is more important than any given bishop, and they want the Church to maintain its moral authority. If a bishop like Finn causes the Church to lose credibility in the eyes of the faithful — and he most certainly did — then he needs to go. It weakens the Church to see the Vatican propping up bishops guilty of complicity in sexual abuse. By now, nobody, liberal or conservative, should be under the impression that the only bad bishops are those on the Other Side.
That said, I hope Francis will stand by Archbishop Cordileone in San Francisco, who is facing a mutiny in his diocese not because he is guilty of any crime or gross mismanagement, but because he is trying to govern the diocese in accord with Roman Catholic teaching. Sacking Cordileone because well-heeled Catholic laity are raising hell about him would send a deeply discouraging signal.
I don’t think Francis will budge. I hope he won’t. Cordileone needs to know the pope has his back on this issue, and so do the five Marin County nuns who walked out of class yesterday to protest a propaganda stunt:
At issue was Friday’s annual Day of Silence, promoted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network — whose corporate sponsors include McDonald’s, Target, Disney/ABC, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Google and the NBA. It bills itself as a group of “students, parents, and teachers that tries to effect positive change in schools,” but the nuns at Marin Catholic High see it as anti-Catholic.
The school declined to participate in the Day of Silence. Instead, a morning prayer was read over the school’s PA system “to acknowledge and pray for students everywhere who have the experience of being ostracized, marginalized or silenced by bullying,” school officials wrote in their letter.
“Our intention was not to take part in a Day of Silence, but rather take a moment in the morning to pray together as a school community,” the letter to parents said.
Unfortunately, the administrators said, the school’s message was “compromised and misinterpreted” the night before when it was linked on Facebook to the campaign by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, “an activist group with which we are not affiliated.’’
When some Marin Catholic High students began handing out Day of Silence-related stickers and flyers on campus Friday morning, the five nuns felt “felt compromised, offended and uncomfortable,” Sister Clare Marie, one of the teachers, later wrote in a lengthy e-mail to her students.
She said the sisters “do not support bigotry or any kind of prejudice,” but that they were compelled to act out against an event promoted by a group that “believes actively in promoting homosexuality in all classrooms, K-12.”
Her e-mail also accused the group’s members of speaking out “against Christians who do not share their views” and handing out materials that “say that any church which teaches homosexuality is sinful is an ‘oppressor’ and should be opposed.”
Five faithful nuns versus Big Banks and Big Business. Francis will stick with the actual Catholics here, who happen to be the underdogs.