Bishop’s Conviction Affirms Church Accountability

A high-ranking Missouri bishop has been convicted of failing to report suspicions of child abuse, affirming the church hierarchy’s accountability in its infamous child sex-abuse scandal.

On Sept. 6, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, became the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic official convicted as a result of the child sex-abuse scandal. Finn was found guilty because of his handling of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who stored hundreds of lewd photos of young girls on his laptop computer, the Kansas City Star said.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker was pleased with Finn’s conviction.

According to the Religion News Service (RNS), she said, “The bottom line today is that finding by the court, a finding of guilt, means the diocese and whoever is its leader must adhere to the very clear legal requirements regarding protection of children.”

RNS blogger Mark Silk said the conviction is historic.

“The importance of establishing that Catholic bishops have the same legal obligation to report suspected child abuse as any other supervisor in society cannot be overemphasized,” observed Silk. “Since Imperial Rome permitted bish­­ops to adjudicate the criminal behavior of priests 1,600 years ago, they have seen themselves as having special dis­cre­­­tionary authority. Finn’s criminal conviction says otherwise.”     

Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation, but his criminal record will be wiped clean if he completes his probation without incident, the Star said.