Well, it has finally happened. Bishop Robert Finn, of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and the diocese itself have been indicted by a county grand jury on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse in the case of a priest who had been accused of taking lewd photographs of young girls.
This is a terrible event and bitterly saddening for those who suffer with the Church during this long, extended agony. Great progress and cooperation with civil authorities has been present in the vast majority of the dioceses since the bishops developed their own mode of operation in 2002. The fact is that there have been shocking, really shocking failures. Two years ago, Cardinal Francis George in Chicago was discovered to have kept a priest predator in active service in a situation where he could do terrible harm. Last year, the Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia stated that there were no priests working in the archdiocese who were charged or suspected of improper conduct with minors. Local authorities released a list of 37 names against whom credible charges had been made. Cardinal Justin Rigali resigned shortly thereafter. There are about 1,000 priests in the archdiocese.
Now comes Bishop Finn ten years after Dallas.
The indictment states that the bishop and the diocese had reason to suspect that the priest might subject a child to abuse. Hundreds of pornographic photographs of children had been discovered on the priest’s laptop. Indicting a bishop is a humiliating event, but the fact is that throughout all of these agonizing years the first reaction of most Church leaders has been trying to cover problems up, to operate under secrecy. In their naivety, they were attempting to avoid scandal but, in acting so imprudently and unjustly, they have generated an agonizing amount of scandal. Let’s pray that the end is in sight.