Tuesday, April 21, 2015

U.S. Catholic bishop in child pornography case resigns

Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of American Bishop Robert Finn, who in 2012 was convicted for failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest in his diocese, the Vatican said. Despite the US conviction, the 62-year-old bishop had stayed on as the head of the Catholic diocese in Kansas City, Missouri. Finn had pleaded guilty to failing to inform police in 2010 that one of his priests, Father Shawn Ratigan, was sexually abusing a minor.

He was sentenced to two years’ probation and placed under investigation by the Vatican in September last year. Victims’ groups in the United States have been calling for him to step down for some time and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley had also called on the Vatican to take action. US bishops have looked into sexual abuse allegations on an annual basis ever since a scandal over paedophile priests took the spotlight in 2002. In the fallout, senior church officials acknowledged they had protected priests responsible for sexually abusing children.
The latest US report said there were 657 allegations of underage sexual abuse by priests, of which 130 have been recognised, with 243 still under investigation and the rest unproven. Most allegations relate to events that took place years earlier. Finn’s resignation comes as the Vatican prepares to introduce legal procedures to hold accountable bishops and members of the Catholic hierarchy found guilty of covering up abuse.
It is likely that the Holy See had asked for Finn’s resignation given the pontiff’s “zero tolerance” stance to the past culture of cover up within the Church.  But although the pontiff has personally taken up the cases of abuse victims in Spain and Italy, he has recently come under pressure to reconsider the controversial appointment of Chilean Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros, who is suspected of having shielded a paedophile priest.
The Vatican has so far said it sees no reason to reverse Cruz Barros’ appointment.


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