Friday, April 24, 2015

Three More Statements on "Resignation" of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City: Francis Must Prove He Is Different



Three more statements about the "resignation" of convicted felon* Bishop Robert Finn of St. Joseph-Kansas City, from groups supporting survivors of childhood clerical sexual abuse:



Pope Francis’s removal of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph is a good step but just a beginning. The pope must show that this decision represents a meaningful shift in papal practice – that it signals a new era in bishop accountability. This action alone is not unprecedented: both of Francis’s predecessors fired bishops whose handling of abusive priests caused scandal. (See BishopAccountability.org’s list of complicit bishops who resigned or were removed.) 
But what no pope has done to date is publicly confirm that he removed a culpable bishop because of his failure to make children’s safety his first priority. We urge Pope Francis to issue such a statement immediately. That would be unprecedented, and it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun. 
It should be noted too that Pope Francis’s decision on Finn will add fuel to the fire in Chile; calls for the removal of Chilean bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid will intensify. We hope Francis will honor the pleas of Karadima’s victims, of his own Commission members, and of the priests and parishioners of the Osorno diocese, and rescind this disastrous appointment immediately. If Francis means business, he must be consistent.


How can Pope Francis prove he is different? He can start by publicly confirming that Finn was removed because he harbored a sexual abuser. Such a modest admission by a pope would be unprecedented, and it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun. 
More importantly, the Pope must keep cleaning house, and without the same agonizing delay. Sadly, it’s not hard to identify other unfit bishops. Archbishop Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis should be at the top of the list. There’s documentary evidence that children in recent years have been sexually assaulted because of his wanton irresponsibility. 
And just as quickly, Francis must reverse his strange and disastrous appointment of Chilean bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid. Several victims have testified that Barros witnessed their sexual abuse by disgraced priest Fernando Karadima. Francis must ignore the pressure to retain Barros that he likely is receiving from his friend Cardinal Francisco Err√°zuriz, another enabler of Karadima. The pope instead should honor the pleas of the victims, his own Commission members, and of the priests and parishioners of the Osorno diocese. 


Voluntary resignation instead of firing is not justice. 
It is part of the dance of a gentlemen’s game. 
Yes, Bishop Robert Finn would no longer be the head of the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph under either circumstance but it is important to make the distinction. 
The permitting of a voluntary resignation allows Finn to retain the financial support that any retired bishop receives from the Roman Catholic Church and gives him a glide path of exit. . . .  
We don’t think Finn should be allowed a gracious retirement free of any obligation to serve. There are plenty of soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and other activities in the Church where Catholics without episcopal rank do the work of the Gospel every day. Robert Finn should be shoulder to shoulder with them.

* For a discussion of the precise term to be applied to Bishop Finn's criminal conviction, please see the thread following this posting, and this footnote to the discussion posted several days later.

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