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Vatican removes Bishop Finn after years of attacks for upholding Catholic identity

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KANSAS CITY, MO, April 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- After years as the American media’s object of blame in the Church’s sexual abuse scandal, and criticism from the left for his efforts to promote Church doctrine and traditions, the head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has been removed by the Vatican from his position.

Bishop Robert Finn “has become less able to fulfill his office,” according to the Vatican, which announced April 21 that Pope Francis has accepted the bishop’s resignation.

Bishop Finn’s exit is “in conformity with canon 401, paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law,” the Vatican said, which indicates that he would have been “earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

“It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith,” Bishop Finn said in a statement on his diocese’s website. “Please begin already to pray for whomever God may call to be the next Bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph.”

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Joseph Naumann, head of the archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, as apostolic administrator temporarily until Bishop Finn’s successor is named.

Archbishop Naumann said he “prays that the coming weeks and months will be a time of grace and healing for the Diocese.”

Finn will remain a bishop, but not have a diocese. The diocesan statement did not indicate what he will do now.

A grand jury found Bishop Finn guilty of a misdemeanor in 2012 for failing to report a priest, Fr. Shawn Ratigan, to the police after the diocese discovered that he had sexual images of minors on his computer.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has defended Finn throughout the ordeal. In a press release today, Donohue offered the following point-by-point of the facts surrounding the case:

  • In 2010, a computer technician found disturbing crotch-shot photos of girls fully clothed on Ratigan's computer; there was one naked photo of a non-sexual nature.
  • Even though there was no complainant, a police officer and an attorney were contacted by diocesan officials. They both agreed that the single naked photo did not constitute pornography.
  • After Ratigan attempted suicide, he was evaluated by a psychiatrist—at the request of Finn. Ratigan was diagnosed as depressed, but was not a pedophile.
  • Finn put restrictions on Ratigan, which he broke. The diocese then contacted the authorities, though it had no legal mandate to do so.
  • Finn ordered an independent investigation, even though there was no complainant.
  • When it was found that Ratigan was again using a computer, an examination revealed hundreds of offensive photos.
  • The Vicar General, Msgr. Robert Murphy, then called the cops (Finn was out of town).
  • A week later Ratigan was arrested.

“Though no child was ever touched or abused by Ratigan, it is clear that he never belonged in the priesthood,” said Donohue. “But Bishop Finn did not take a cavalier attitude toward his misconduct. If he had, Ratigan's problem would have been ignored altogether, counting on the fact that no one ever called his office saying Ratigan had abused his child.”

“Our prayers are with Bishop Finn, and we thank him for cleaning up the mess he inherited. It will make his successor's job that much easier,” Donohue added.

Since assuming leadership of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in 2005 the bishop has been the subject of vitriol for undertaking efforts to refocus the diocese’s direction in union with the Church. Changes in staff and programs, along with steps to ensure the diocesan newspaper functions faithfully, drew liberal ire and public attack from the beginning.

Shortly after his arrival, a local newspaper circulated a derisive eight-page issue focused entirely on biasing the faithful against the bishop, placing it in numerous churches throughout the diocese.

Bishop Finn, an ardent defender of life throughout his episcopate, has been completely misrepresented in the media campaign against him, say the nuns in a contemplative women’s religious community in the diocese.

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“Our Bishop is a man who inspires faith, holiness, and a great zeal for the things of God,” Mother Cecilia, prioress for the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, told LifeSiteNews in November. “It breaks my heart that so many people only know about him what they hear from the blaring voices of the media and news outlets which have carried a prejudice against him from the beginning.”

She also defended the bishop’s work to faithfully shepherd the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, pointing out that it resulted in making him a target.

“Ten years ago, Bishop Finn was thrown into the midst of a diocese known far and wide for being a hotbed of heterodoxy and dissent,” Mother Cecilia said. “He made necessary and important changes right from the start, and those who were displeased have never forgotten nor forgiven.”

During Finn’s tenure, the diocese has experienced explosive growth in vocations to the priesthood and diaconate, he has opened the cause for canonization of a religious sister, and has overseen the building of two new churches.

The Vatican’s decision to investigate Finn surprised many given that several high-ranking Church officials have faced strong allegations of shielding sexual predators, yet have been left in place.

Mother Cecilia told LifeSiteNews last fall that despite the campaign against him, Bishop Finn has persisted in humility and fidelity to the Church throughout. 

“Our bishop has edured and suffered so much throughout these years,” Mother Cecilia said. “I continue to be amazed and inspired by his humility, charity, and patient resignation amidst so many relentless attacks.”

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