And still another important statement about the conviction of Kansas City bishop Robert Finn on criminal charges of having failed to report the possession of child pornography by a priest under Finn's pastoral authority: National Catholic Reporter has now published an editorial calling for Finn either to resign or be removed by Rome. As the editorial notes, now that he has been convicted of this crime, if he wanted to volunteer to teach religious education class at a parish in his diocese or chaperone a parish youth group to World Youth Day, he would not be allowed to do so. Because the diocese has policies in place requiring a criminal background check before one can work with young people in local Catholic institutions.
And yet he is still leading his diocese following a criminal conviction that would not permit him to engage in pastoral work as a layperson in the same diocese. The editorial concludes:
Last month, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, head of the bishops' committee on child protection, talked about why people remain skeptical of the bishops' efforts in the area of child protection.
"Our credibility on the subject of child abuse is shredded," Conlon told a conference of lay staffers who oversee child safety programs in American dioceses. "You may have a better chance. People -- in the church, outside the church and hanging on the edge -- need to know that real progress is being made."
Everywhere, the insight is apparent. Until there is some reason to believe bishops can and will be held accountable for their failings, the church's credibility remains in tatters. We urge Finn to take seriously the harm done to the church and the faithful -- especially the most vulnerable young children -- because he did not meet the moral requirements of the charter.
Finn, under any other circumstances, would not be permitted to publicly minister to children. The inescapable conclusion is that for the good of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and of the larger church, he must either resign or be removed.
Let's see what happens. It took Benedict no time at all to ride Australian bishop William Morris out on a rail when he asked for dialogue about women's ordination. But Morris doesn't belong to the powerful, well-heeled Opus Dei group as Finn does, and so he doesn't have the protectors in the Vatican (and among wealthy economic elites in Europe and the U.S.) that Finn has.
Sometimes Rome moves with lightning speed. At other times . . . .
And I strongly doubt that a company man of Finn's ilk will resign without a signal from Rome telling him to resign.
The graphic is from Greenery's Flickr photostream, under Creative Commons license.