On Tuesday, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Robert Finn, a former bishop who willfully protected priestly purveyors of child sexual abuse during his years-long tenure as a leader in the Roman Catholic Church.
In December of 2010, a technician discovered graphic child pornography on a laptop belonging to Father Shawn Ratigan, a then-priest in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, whose parish was adjacent to a Catholic elementary school. Ratigan’s photographs featured images of underage parishioners in various states of disrobe.
The technician promptly reported the incriminating pictures to the Diocese, helmed at the time by Bishop Finn. Though Finn removed Ratigan from many of his daily duties, he did not report his knowledge of Ratigan’s criminal behavior to authorities until May of 2012. During the intervening months, Finn permitted Ratigan to host an Easter egg hunt, attend children’s birthday parties, and confer the sacrament of First Holy Communion to an elementary-school-aged girl.
In a press release today, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) notes that, while it’s nice the Pope eventually got around to firing a bishop who protected active child molesters, Finn’s resignation does relatively little to secure justice for his victims or holistically create a safer environment for children in the Catholic Church going forward. SNAP also points out that – beyond Ratigan – other priests during Finn’s tenure perpetuated sexual atrocities on children as well, including Father Michael Tierney, Father James Urbanic, and Monsignor Robert Murphy.
In the words of SNAP director, David Clohessy: “After centuries of abuse and cover up done in secrecy, and decades of abuse and cover up done somewhat in public, one pope has finally seen fit to oust one bishop for complicity in clergy sex crimes. That’s encouraging. But it’s only 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.”
Before getting embroiled in his own scandal surrounding sexual morality, Finn urged his flock to vote in ways that align with Catholic teachings surrounding human conception. Prior to the 2008 November elections, Finn penned the following in a Catholic Culture editorial: “Our Catholic moral principles teach that a candidate’s promise of economic prosperity is insufficient to justify their constant support of abortion laws, including partial-birth abortion, and infanticide for born-alive infants. Promotion of the Freedom of Choice Act is a pledge to eliminate every single limit on abortions achieved over the last thirty-five years. The real freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ compels us, not to take life, but to defend it.”