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What to do with a bishop convicted of an abuse cover-up?

Since his landmark guilty verdict, Bishop Finn still runs a diocese - yet he would not be allowed to teach in one of its Sunday schools.

  • David Gibson
  • United States
  • November 9, 2012
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As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gathers for its annual fall meeting in Baltimore next week (Nov. 12-15), one of the biggest issues confronting the prelates won’t be on the formal agenda: how to cope with the re-election of a president whose policies many bishops denounced as unprecedented attacks on the Catholic Church.

But another topic not on the agenda may loom just as large for a hierarchy hoping to wield influence in the public square. In September, Bishop Robert Finn of Missouri became the first bishop to be found guilty of covering up for a priest suspected of child abuse.

Unlike President Barack Obama’s election, however, Finn’s status isn’t a subject the churchmen are eager to discuss.

The verdict against Finn, leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and an outspoken conservative, initially prompted widespread calls for his resignation, a Vatican suspension or discipline from his fellow bishops.

Yet in the two months since Finn’s conviction no bishop or church authority has addressed his case, nor has anyone spoken to Finn privately, according to Jack Smith, Finn’s spokesman.

“Bishop Finn will be attending the USCCB meeting, as he has been fulfilling all of his responsibilities as Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph,” Smith wrote in an email. “Bishop Finn and the Diocese, through its Office of Child and Youth Protection, are actively engaged in fulfilling the terms of probation.”

Smith added that Finn did not intend to address the bishops either in their public or closed-door sessions. USCCB officials also said there were no plans by conference leaders to raise the issue of Finn’s status.

By remaining silent on the issue, critics say the bishops are not only undermining their own policies – Finn heads a diocese yet would not be allowed to teach Sunday school in an American parish under the USCCB’s rules – but they are undermining their credibility and their claims to have learned from the devastating scandal.

“Nothing has changed over the past 10 years,” said Anne Burke, an Illinois state Supreme Court justice and an original leader of the National Review Board, a blue-ribbon panel of lay Catholics that the USCCB set up in 2002 to hold the bishops accountable.

Burke said the yawning hole in those policies is the lack of any mechanism for disciplining bishops who violate the charter, as the collection of child safety measures is known. While the bishops pledged to “apply the requirements of the charter also to ourselves,” they have shown no willingness to do so, she said.

Full Story: Convicted bishop is Catholic hierarchy’s elephant in the room

Source: Religion News Service
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