“A tiny but belated step forward” is how David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, reacted to the Vatican’s announcement of the resignation of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn. Yes, it was belated. But it’s a big step forward.
Two-and-a-half years ago Finn was found guilty of the misdemeanor crime of failing to report a priest suspected of child abuse to civil authorities. The way Catholic League President Bill Donohue tells it, Finn behaved correctly — but Donohue, as he has for years in this matter, is blowing smoke.
Finn did exactly what bishops used to do all the time: cover up a priest’s sexually abusive behavior and give the priest another job in the diocese. And he did it in contravention of the American bishops’ own rules. And none of them made a public peep about it.
Sure, it would have been good if the Vatican had gone ahead and given the reason for the resignation. Sure, there are others who deserve Finnistration, such as Archbishop Nienstedt in the Twin Cities and the mistakenly ordained Bishop Juan Barros in Chile. And sure, it remains to be seen if, as promised, Rome promulgates tough disciplinary procedures for bishops charged with covering up abuse cases. But none of this should be allowed to minimize the significance of what happened today.
Last month, Clohessy leveled sharp criticism at Pope Francis for not doing what he’s now done: “By keeping Finn on the job, he’s essentially saying to bishops ‘When it comes to kids’ safety, no matter how egregiously and illegally you act, no worries! Your job is safe.'”
Now, by getting rid of Finn, the pope is essentially saying to bishops, “When it comes to kids’ safety, if you’ve acted egregiously and illegally, start worrying! Your job is not safe.”