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Pope accepts resignation of Bishop Finn

April 21, 2015

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, Missouri, nearly three years after the bishop was found guilty on criminal charges for failing to report sexual abuse.

Bishop Finn was the first American prelate ever convicted on criminal charges in connection with the sex-abuse scandal. His resignation could mark a turning point in the Vatican’s handling of cases in which bishops fail to discipline abusive priests.

Bishop Finn had met privately last week with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, a spokesman for the Missouri diocese disclosed. He later met with Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the US, to arrange plans for his resignation.

The Vatican announced the resignation quietly, with a terse announcement on April 21 that Pope Francis had accepted the bishop’s resignation “in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.” That provision allows for the early resignation of a prelate who becomes unfit for office due to illness “or other grave reason.”

Bishop Finn issued a brief statement of his own, urging the people of the diocese to pray for the bishop who will eventually be appointed to take his place. "It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith,” he said.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the neighboring Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, has been appointed as administrator of the Missouri diocese until a new appointment is made.

Bishop Finn’s resignation comes as the Vatican considers new policies to hold bishops accountable for their handling of sex-abuse cases. Conscious of the cynicism that has developed as the public learned how many bishops protected predatory priests and covered up evidence of abuse, Cardinal Sean O’Malley—who heads a special commission appointed by the Pope to study the issue—has called for new standards that would respond to “abuse of office” by negligent prelates.

Bishop Finn became a central focus of the debate on sexual abuse in 2011, when it emerged that he had failed to inform law-enforcement officials about pictures of small children in sexual poses, found on the computer of a troubled priest, Father Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan would eventually be convicted of child pornography, imprisoned, and laicized. But Bishop Finn’s reluctance to warn public officials about the case gave rise to broader criticism, and led to his indictment and conviction on a misdemeanor charge of endangering children. He was sentenced to two years of probation.

Last year a Vatican-appointed investigator, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, visited the Kansas City diocese and prepared a report for the Vatican on the damage done to Bishop Finn’s credibility. After that report reached Rome, Cardinal O’Malley told an American television audience that Bishop Finn’s continued leadership of the Missouri diocese was “a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently."


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  • Posted by: meegan2136289 - May. 01, 2015 9:29 PM ET USA

    I'm thrilled that Finn has finally been held to some account by the Church for his negligence. This restores a small bit of my confidence in the hierarchy. And hopefully the next bishop or other priest who is tempted to shirk his responsibility in this regard will think twice.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Apr. 21, 2015 8:53 PM ET USA

    Bishop Finn needs our prayers and support more than ever as he carries Christ' cross

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Apr. 21, 2015 6:54 PM ET USA

    I am very disappointed in Cdl. O'Malley and Pope Francis. Bishop Finn was convicted of a misdemeanor. In the current anti-Catholic state we find ourselves, you know they would have thrown the book at him if they could. I hate to see Cdl. O'Malley and Pope Francis siding with the enemies of the church.

  • Posted by: The Sheepcat - Apr. 21, 2015 1:42 PM ET USA

    Point of info: Abp Prendergast's first name is Terrence with two Rs.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Apr. 21, 2015 10:55 AM ET USA

    I found it absolutely grossly inappropriate when Cardinal O'Malley was publicly talking about Bishop Finn's continued leadership of his diocese being a problem. It is a problem from a PR perspective as a result of malicious activism. Finn's mistakes over the invasive photographs of Fr Ratigan were just that, mistakes, which he made unknowingly without having personally viewed the photos and on the basis of advice from an attorney and police officer. Bishop Finn is a very good man.