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Pope receives formal request to investigate prelate

Kansas City bishop implicated in protecting abuser priest

Pope receives formal request to investigate prelate

Mercy Sister Jeanne Christensen has led calls for a canonical review of Bishop Finn (picture: National Catholic Reporter) 

Brian Roewe for National Catholic Reporter
United States

February 19, 2014

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Catholics formally asking Pope Francis to conduct a canonical review of Bishop Robert Finn say the church's lack of response to his misdemeanor conviction has caused further spiritual harm to the diocese.

"Civil law has done what civil law can do. The church has done nothing in terms of calling Bishop Finn to accountability. He continues as bishop as if nothing really ever happened," said Mercy Sr. Jeanne Christensen, a former victims' advocate for the diocese co-heading the appeal. She spoke at a press conference Monday outside the diocesan offices.

The Kansas City Catholics' petition, dated Feb. 11, represents a formal request that the Vatican initiate a penal process to determine whether Finn violated church law by failing to report suspected child sexual abuse in connection to Fr. Shawn Ratigan.

In September, Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison on child pornography charges; a year earlier, a Jackson County, Mo., court convicted Finn of a misdemeanor for failing to report and sentenced him to two years of probation. To avoid a similar charge in Clay County, Mo., Finn entered an agreement that requires him to meet monthly with the county prosecutor for five years.

"This lack of action by the Catholic Church to do justice and to repair scandal contributes to the ongoing scandal among the faithful that is a result of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis," wrote Fr. James Connell in the formal appeal.

Connell, a retired Milwaukee priest and member of the Catholic Whistleblowers victims' advocacy group, acted as the catalyst to the appeal and contends that Finn's actions -- or inactions -- violate ecclesiastical law and thus requires some form of church response. However, he refrained from suggesting an action to the pope, instead limiting his request that an investigation begin.

In the petition, Connell argues that Finn's failures in the Ratigan case to protect children create a poor example others could follow, and in addition, "could lead other people to alter their faith life and their religious practices."

For Jim McConnell, the alteration was abandoning his preparation for the permanent diaconate a week before his ordination. Speaking at the press conference, he said he spent five years preparing to become a deacon for his parish of 30-plus years, Holy Family Church, in Kansas City.

As the Ratigan news began to emerge in May 2011, McConnell requested a meeting with Finn "to discuss my disillusionment about the handling and mishandling" of the case by the bishop.

"After a one hour discussion with Finn, I told him that I could not go before him and promise respect and obedience as required for ordination because I told him I had lost respect for him," McConnell said.

He said much the same in a note in his parish bulletin announcing his decision at the time, saying it came "after a great deal of soul searching, prayer and reflection ... To me this breakdown in the system that was put in place to protect God's children is inexcusable."

"That's scandal," the Milwaukee priest Connell commented. "... He might have a vocation from almighty God to be a deacon. ... This is not a minor thing."

Full Story: Kansas City Catholics ask Pope Francis to investigate bishop 

Source: National Catholic Reporter


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