Friday, 7 September 2012

US Bishop Finn found guilty on abuse cover up charge

In a US first, Bishop Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, has been found guilty by a judge of failing to report a priest suspected of child abuse in 2011.   

The bishop was sentenced to two years probation, but the sentence was suspended.

The bishop apologised for what had happened.

Systematic failures

The case appears to illustrate the contention that despite the rhetoric, Church officials continue to fail to follow their own procedures and cover up cases, often with the support of unsound psychological advice.
The case concerns a priest who, when pornographic material was found on his computer, instead of 'zero tolerance' policies being implemented, was removed from his parish and sent to act as chaplain to a convent of sisters, and instructed to stay away from children and the internet.  And we are not talking about twenty years ago, but last year!

When the subsequently breached these conditions, the bishop reported the matter to the police.  The priest concerned has pleaded guilty of to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography and faces further charges relating to pornography charges.

Poor handling within the diocese and the dangers of psychology

Part of the problem in this case seems to have been poor handling of the case and misinformation allegedly provided to the bishop about just what the priest had done.

But equally, Bishop Finn is reported as being concerned to 'try and save the priesthood' of the perpetrator because if was 'just about pronography'. 

Even more alarming are some of the background facts that have come out in this case:
  • a complaint against the priest concerned by a school principal of inappropriate behaviour around children dating a year earlier does not seem to have been taken seriously because of a statement by a 'mental health professional' that the priest 'was not a risk to children';
  • most of the material on the priest's computer was not downloaded from the internet, but were photos he took himself;
  • the priest denied the charges vigorously and attempted suicide;
  • the priest's “treatment” consisted entirely of telephone conferences.
I imagine bishops around the US and closer to home will be taking a hard look at their own vulnerabilities in the light of this case, if they haven't already...


Mary said...

I found Cardinal Burke's comments on disregard for Canon Law causing many of the problems relating to the sex abuse crisis within the Church very interesting.
His talk can be found here:

Robert said...

A comforting sentence from F.J. (Frank) Sheed (the Australian-born author of numerous worthwhile books including A Map of Life and Theology and Sanity) is perhaps worth quoting amid the latest examples of episcopal ineptitude or worse. Sheed wrote:

"We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the Cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope."

Terry said...

Bishop Finn was only given a two year suspended probation. One wonders if that will be a sufficient deterrent to other bishops or even to Bishop Finn. Judging by the news items of recent years, I think not.