A convicted bishop in the room


When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meet in Baltimore next week (Nov. 12-15), they will talk about how to cope with the re-election of a president against whom many bishops actively campaigned against, but will they notice the, ahem, elephant in the room?


In September, Bishop Robert Finn of Missouri became the first bishop to be found guilty of covering up for a priest suspected of child abuse….

…The verdict against Finn, leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and an outspoken conservative, initially prompted widespread calls for his resignation, a Vatican suspension or discipline from his fellow bishops.

Yet in the two months since Finn’s conviction no bishop or church authority has addressed his case, nor has anyone spoken to Finn privately, according to Jack Smith, Finn’s spokesman.

“Bishop Finn will be attending the USCCB meeting, as he has been fulfilling all of his responsibilities as Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph,” Smith wrote in an email. “Bishop Finn and the Diocese, through its Office of Child and Youth Protection, are actively engaged in fulfilling the terms of probation.”

Smith added that Finn did not intend to address the bishops either in their public or closed-door sessions. USCCB officials also said there were no plans by conference leaders to raise the issue of Finn’s status.

So here is a Bishop who would not be allowed to teach Sunday school in an American parish under the USCCB’s own rules. How does this affect the trust of ordinary parishioners that the hierarchy will make their parishes safer places?

By remaining silent on the issue, critics say the bishops are not only undermining their own policies – Finn heads a diocese yet would not be allowed to teach Sunday school in an American parish under the USCCB’s rules – but they are undermining their credibility and their claims to have learned from the devastating scandal.

“Nothing has changed over the past 10 years,” said Anne Burke, an Illinois state Supreme Court justice and an original leader of the National Review Board, a blue-ribbon panel of lay Catholics that the USCCB set up in 2002 to hold the bishops accountable….

….David Clohessy of SNAP, the leading victims advocacy group, agreed. “Our secular justice system has punished his wrongdoing, but the full Catholic hierarchy has ignored his wrongdoing,” he said of Finn. Clohessy said that SNAP – the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – was writing to Finn asking him to stay away from the Baltimore meeting as a sign of contrition.

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