Calls for Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn to resign started even before last week, when he became the highest-ranking church leader in the sex abuse scandal criminally charged with sheltering an accused priest.
The bishop of Kansas City, Mo., had acknowledged in May that he waited five months to tell police about the hundreds of images of alleged child pornography found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s computer. Ratigan had taken some of the photos of girls months ago at an Easter party he hosted, investigators said. More than 700 people have joined a Facebook page called “Bishop Finn Must Go.”
However, no such demands have come from within the church hierarchy. Finn, who has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected child abuse, is expected to stay on.
Finn has “a full schedule of pastoral activities,” his spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said. “That will continue and he has no plans to change it.”
In the 25 years since the clergy abuse problem became public, only one American bishop — Cardinal Bernard Law, former archbishop of Boston — has resigned over keeping guilty clerics in church jobs without notifying parents or police. Law had to ask Pope John Paul II twice before receiving permission to step down.
Grand juries in several regions investigated how bishops handled claims against priests. However, most of the cases were decades old and far beyond the statute of limitations. Some bishops, including those in New Hampshire and Phoenix, negotiated deals with local authorities to avoid prosecution of their dioceses.
The case closest to Finn’s was that of Bishop Daniel Walsh, formerly of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif.
Walsh continued to lead the diocese for about five years after he was threatened with criminal charges in 2006 for waiting five days after a priest admitted wrongdoing to report him. The priest fled to Mexico before he could be arrested. Walsh agreed to participate in a four-month counseling program and was not charged with violating state law requiring clergy to immediately report suspicion of child abuse. Walsh stepped down as Santa Rosa bishop earlier this year, one year ahead of the mandatory age, 75, at which bishops must submit their resignations to the pope.
In Finn’s case, the Holy See is not expected to intervene. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he would not discuss the situation “because there’s a civil process under way.” Al Notzen, chairman of the National Review Board, a lay panel formed by bishops to help monitor child safety, said the board doesn’t comment on individual cases. No other American prelates have remarked publicly on the Kansas City case.