VATICAN CITY — Nearly two and a half years after being the first U.S. bishop convicted of a misdemeanor in failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest in his diocese, Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.’s bishop has resigned.
The Vatican confirmed Pope Francis’ acceptance of Bishop Finn’s resignation according to Canon 401, Article 2 in the Code of Canon Law in an April 21 statement, released at noon local time.
Article 2 of Canon 401, according to the Vatican’s website, refers to a situation when “a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”
Bishop Finn’s resignation will take effect immediately, and although he will still be a bishop, he will no longer lead a diocese. It is up to Pope Francis to choose his successor.
The brief Vatican statement gave no word as to what Bishop Finn will do following his resignation.
Last September, two years after Bishop Finn’s trial and guilty verdict, an archbishop held a visitation on behalf of the Vatican and met with Bishop Finn.
The reasons for the visitation were not revealed; however, some reports indicate that the visitation was intended to evaluate the bishop’s leadership of his diocese.
In September 2012, Bishop Finn, now 62, was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese failed to report that lewd images of children had been found on a laptop belonging to Father Shawn Ratigan, a priest of the diocese, in December 2010.
The diocese’s vicar general had told Bishop Finn about one of the images, but the bishop did not see them himself.
Father Ratigan attempted suicide after the images were discovered and initially had not been expected to live. Diocesan officials told law enforcement officials about the images in May 2011, months after their discovery.
A diocese-commissioned independent investigation said diocesan officials conducted “a limited and improperly conceived investigation” into whether a single image, which the vicar general did not see, constituted child pornography. The diocese’s legal counsel also said that that single image did not constitute child pornography.
Further investigation revealed that the photos had been taken in and around churches where the priest had worked. In 2012, Father Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison on child-pornography charges.
Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation for failing to report suspected abuse.
The diocese settled two lawsuits from the parents of two girls photographed by Father Ratigan for a total of $1.8 million in February 2014.
The Father Ratigan case has also triggered further legal action from an arbitrator who levied a $1.1-million penalty against the diocese, on the grounds that the diocese violated the terms of a 2008 abuse-lawsuit settlement in which Bishop Finn and the diocese agreed to report suspected child abusers to law enforcement.
The diocese objected to the arbitrator’s penalty, but it was upheld in court, and the diocese paid the fine.