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Responding to Clergy Abuse of Children: Not Rocket Science, Part 2

Sep 24, 2012 — Categories: , ,

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn has been convicted of failure to report suspected child abuse; he is the first Bishop to be held accountable for shielding a pedophile priest. He received no jail time or fine; rather he was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation.

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn has been convicted of failure to report suspected child abuse; he is the first Bishop to be held accountable for shielding a pedophile priest. He received no jail time or fine; rather he was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation.

Finn had argued that he had done nothing wrong in not reporting the pedophile priest and a high-priced defense team tried to make his case. The legal fees associated with both the criminal and civil cases against the diocese and Bishop Finn have so far exceeded $1.6 million. Although these fees are covered by the diocesan insurance program, the consequence for parishes is an 11% increase in the premiums they pay to insure the diocese. The people in the pew pick up the tab again.

After his conviction, Bishop Finn’s attorney made this statement: “The Diocesan process and procedures as previously existed failed to adequately identify the necessity to inform the Children’s Division of Shawn Ratigan’s behavior in a more timely manner. For this the Bishop is truly sorry.”  So it was the process’s fault!

Bishop Finn made this statement: “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt that these events have caused.”   What he should have said: “I broke the law. I truly regret and am sorry for the suffering that I have caused by my inaction to protect children.”

The inability of church leaders to take right action and their subsequent inability to take responsibility for their failures is what led Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, chairman of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, to conclude that the church’s credibility in responding to abuse is “shredded."

At least there is one U.S. bishop who is willing to speak the truth. There simply are no more excuses.

Finally the question remains: will Bishop Finn keep his job? The church leadership has not commented and therefore the jury remains out on this one. But you can bet if instead of being convicted of not protecting children he had come out in favor of gay marriage, he would be long gone by now.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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P.S. I strongly encourage leadership training for judicatory leaders and others who handle complaints. I am teaching FaithTrust’s Responding to Clergy Misconduct course in Nashville on October 14-16, 2012, at the Scarritt Bennett Center. Please join me.

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Posted by Mary E. Hunt at Sep 25, 2012 05:48 PM
Thanks for this excellent post. I think the Roman Catholic Church can look forward to many more cases like the Philadelphia one and this one. Is there any data on priests who are imported to the US because of the so-called priest shortage here (lots of priests, just many of them women) and their incidence of abuse either here or in their home country? I worry that some bishops abroad may be solving some of their problems the way US bishops have.
Best, MEH