#28 – Our Pope: Francis by Jered Klodt, Cavalier AFS, N.D. (Charcoal) – “A portrait of Pope Francis done in charcoal with white chalk highlights on 11″x14″ pastel paper.”

#28 – Our Pope: Francis by Jered Klodt, Cavalier AFS, N.D. (Charcoal) – “A portrait of Pope Francis done in charcoal with white chalk highlights on 11″x14″ pastel paper.” RNS

If I were Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, I’d be nervous. At his in-flight press conference on the way back from the Holy Land yesterday, Pope Francis had this to say when asked about the sexual abuse crisis in the church: “At the moment there are three bishops under investigation. One has already been convicted and the punishment needs to be decided.”

Finn, of course, is the one bishop on God’s green earth who has been convicted of failing to report a suspected case of child abuse by a priest. And so far, he has received not so much as a verbal rap on the knuckles from either the Vatican or his fellow bishops. Now, it seems, a punishment is in the works.

Unless, of course, His Holiness was referring not to bishops who cover up abuse, but to bishops who perpetrate it. But so far as I know, no bishop ever been convicted of child abuse in a secular court. Of course, the pope might have been referring to a canonical conviction, correcting himself on the fly. As in: Of three bishops whose cases have been taken up in Rome, one has already resulted in a conviction, punishment to be decided.

Which would still leave open the question of whether these are cases of bishops charged with covering up abuse. I think they are. The next sentence in the pope’s comment was: “There will be no preferential treatment when it comes to child abuse,” followed by a statement about how in Argentina those who receive preferential treatment are called “spoilt children.”

Francis was clearly addressing how the church has treated those charged with abuse. His position is “no preferential treatment.” It’s the bishops who have delivered the preferential treatment. The news, I’d say, is that the Vatican is addressing three examples of that. Whatever “conviction” the pope was referring to, Finn’s the one with the target on his back.

As I said, if I were him I’d be nervous.

Categories: Institutions

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Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

12 Comments

  1. Quoted by pope: ” We must go ahead with zero tolerance” —

    But what is Pope Francis going to do about the bishops and cardinals who do not follow the “zero tolerance” policy.? And yes, KC Bishop Finn would most certainly would be the first to go, but we will believe it when we see it. The pope’s words do not protect kids.
    Tragically the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their power and the institution rather than protecting innocent children.

    Everyday the pope delays in taking significant actions to demote, fire and discipline the high ranking church officials who continue to protect the child predators, another child is being sexually abused within the archaic system.

    Delays and silence are not an option anymore. It only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511, SNAPJudy@gmail.com
    SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

    • I agree about punishment due those in the church that are involved in any sex scandal, especially abuse of children. My question is why would any parent go to a bishop with an abuse case instead of going directly to the police. I think any parent that would go to church authorities is abusing their child’s rights, they certainly are naïve, and they are not protecting their children as parents should. I would not put the church before my children, of course I do not have children for I am a retired priest.

  2. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh

    As a Catholic who is a physician and who has met many who have been sexually abused by priests, I do not trust Pope Francis anymore. There is a huge disconnect from what he says and what he does. He himself has protected the predator clergy from police and from criminal law. Right now he is protecting his Archbishop Wesolowski from facing charges of sexually abusing young boys in Poland and in the Dominican Republic, where he was papal nuncio. I believe the pope secretly brought him back to the Vatican. The pope says he will be investigated in the Vatican. Who gave Pope Francis the right to be his own law?
    It is the job of the police, not the church, to investigate the crimes and criminals in the church. The United Nations reports have been clear that the Catholic Church is not protecting children from sexual abuse by its clergy, nor is the Catholic Church demanding that all allegations of clergy sexual abuse must be directly referred to the regular police, not the Vatican police, for investigation and prosecution as needed.

  3. Lynne Newington

    I doubt very much he will be doing that; [punishing bishops], he may well find a few prepared to fall on their sword for the church’s/ institutional/ sake, recalling a German vicar general a fall guy in Benedicts time, later recounting the pressure he had been placed under and recounted.
    It’s also interesting to read of the dark cloud hovering of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, another “good guy” who never impressed me when denouncing abuse claiming with few exceptions most abusive priests not remorseful, repeating the words of one by psychologist “with common attributes of narcissism and grandiosity” and coupled with Owen Felix O’Neill’s pending historical lawsuit against he and Archbishop McQuaid……
    It would certainly explain why Martin never received the cardinal hat that many expected with all his two-ing and frow-ing to Rome.

  4. I think we’ve made significant progress, no thanks to bishops. Pope Francis laying down the law, as some would have it, only perpetuates one facet of the addiction to power, control, and domination inherent in the bureaucratic church. Frankly, I don’t think it’s the pope’s job. Except in his own diocese and in the Roman bureaucracy.

    My sense is that most bishops are good bishops, and that many of them are under scrutiny for the lost credibility of the college of bishops as a whole. Their fundraising plans are downsized. They face criticism from their clergy and laity when they are reasonably open, and they tend to isolate themselves when they are not. That they all suffer collectively should be motivation for fraternal correction.

    I think it would be far more effective if some of his brother bishops were to tell it to Robert Finn straight up. And who knows? Maybe that’s already happened.

    I knew Shawn Ratigan personally, and my daughter’s faith was shaken because of the crimes of her once-favorite priest. So I might have more of a dog in the fight than most commentators. I used to think that Bishop Finn could be sent off to a monastery.

    But it must be punishment enough to sit on the Kansas City cathedra hearing the vocal opposition, wondering if the silent supporters are really supporters or if they’re just sucking up.

    His first pastoral letter was on pornography–clearly not an expertly written tome as it turns out. The only metaphor I can think of is that he thought he’d been given an assignment to cook for a household, but the handles on all the implements are six feet long. And now he’s been locked in the kitchen for twenty years and nobody wants to help him. It’s got to be a hell of an assignment–quite literally. The only consideration that leans in favor of relief is thinking of the hungry people in the dining room.

  5. At best, there will be a few token sacrifices, but I seriously doubt there will be any significant change to the clerical culture of the church. Popes come and go. As I look at who is coming out of seminaries today, in large part it is a generation that relishes the trappings of clericalism both externally and internally. Jesus weeps still…

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