First Conviction of a Catholic Bishop…

Robert W. Finn

Buried in the news, during this political season, was an article in the New York Times that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kansas City was convicted at a bench trial on one misdemeanor charge and not guilty on a second charge, for failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls.  He was sentenced to two years of probation.  He could have been sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

But here is the kicker (there always is one in these cases)… His conviction can be expunged (“Process by which record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from the state or Federal repository.” Black’s Law Dictionary) if he complies with all the conditions of his conviction. Those conditions, outlined by the presiding judge, include strengthening training for clergy and administrators on child abuse reporting and recognizing child pornography; creating a $10,000 victim counseling fund (surely that will be paid for by the parishioners who are still donating money and not by the convicted prelate); drawing up an approved list of treatment providers (Servants of the Paraclete?); and maintaining an ombudsman (job title change for the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator?).

Finn’s case was set for a trial by a jury.  That changed yesterday when the prosecutors and defense attorney avoided the jury trial yesterday when the  submitted 69 paragraphs of stipulated facts in a bench trial.   The bench trial allowed for victims to be spared the pain of testifying and will help protect their identities.  In exchange for his cooperation in the case, authorities agreed not to file an indictment against a second-ranking diocese official, Monsignor Robert Murphy, who had reported his suspicions to the police.

My question…  Since he has been convicted, will the hierarchy of the church remove him from his position?   Will he do the right thing and step down?  Don’t hold your breath!  When they move to expunge his record, it will be like nothing ever happened and they will act accordingly.

Read the article at:

New York Times

The Kansas City Star – Kansas City.com

Boston Globe

1 thought on “First Conviction of a Catholic Bishop…”

  1. I read the articles last week, and my initial impression was “just another slap on the wrist.” Setting up a $10,000 fund for counselling services is laughable. It seems unlikely based on this conviction that Finn will be promoted to larger diocese, so my guess is he will be staying right where he is. I don’t see him stepping down or being removed – how could he meet the terms of his probation if he no longer is the bishop?

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