A Jackson County judge today found Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse. It’s the first time such a high-ranking Catholic Church official has been convicted on a criminal charge.
The judge found that Bishop Finn, who’s in charge of the Catholic diocese in Kansas City, knew for months that one of his priests had been taking pornographic photos of kids, and that Finn had the responsibility to call state authorities, but never did. It was a misdemeanor violation. The judge sentenced Finn to two years of probation.
This all happened at a quick “bench trial” before a judge only, not a jury. And it left victims' rights advocate David Biersmith feeling like a major opportunity had been missed.
"I’m a Catholic. I’m 75 years old," says Biersmith. "In my whole life this is the one time we had a chance. The first time ever that a bishop has been criminally charged - criminally charged! - in the history of the church for 2000 years! And we’re going to sit here and watch this go right down the drain?"
Biersmith says jail time for the Bishop would have sent a much stronger message. County prosecutors were glad to avoid the strain a two or three-week trial would have placed on victims.
There were a number of stipulations accompanying Finn's probation. He, himself, will have to undergo training in identifying child abuse and reporting requirements under Missouri law. He also must set up a similar training program for clergy under his supervision. A third requirement is to establish a $10,000 fund to help provide counseling for abuse victims.