If I were Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, I’d be nervous. At his in-flight press conference on the way back from the Holy Land yesterday, Pope Francis had this to say when asked about the sexual abuse crisis in the church: “At the moment there are three bishops under investigation. One has already been convicted and the punishment needs to be decided.”
Finn, of course, is the one bishop on God’s green earth who has been convicted of failing to report a suspected case of child abuse by a priest. And so far, he has received not so much as a verbal rap on the knuckles from either the Vatican or his fellow bishops. Now, it seems, a punishment is in the works.
Unless, of course, His Holiness was referring not to bishops who cover up abuse, but to bishops who perpetrate it. But so far as I know, no bishop ever been convicted of child abuse in a secular court. Of course, the pope might have been referring to a canonical conviction, correcting himself on the fly. As in: Of three bishops whose cases have been taken up in Rome, one has already resulted in a conviction, punishment to be decided.
Which would still leave open the question of whether these are cases of bishops charged with covering up abuse. I think they are. The next sentence in the pope’s comment was: “There will be no preferential treatment when it comes to child abuse,” followed by a statement about how in Argentina those who receive preferential treatment are called “spoilt children.”
Francis was clearly addressing how the church has treated those charged with abuse. His position is “no preferential treatment.” It’s the bishops who have delivered the preferential treatment. The news, I’d say, is that the Vatican is addressing three examples of that. Whatever “conviction” the pope was referring to, Finn’s the one with the target on his back.
As I said, if I were him I’d be nervous.