Bishop Robert Finn

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Around a year ago, Bishop James Johnston came to Kansas City to lead the Catholics of northwest Missouri at a challenging time. He came in with an agenda not of his choosing: to clean up the mess of the sexual abuse scandal that engulfed his predecessor. But he also has hopes and priorities of his own.

Bishop Johnston spoke with guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard about what his job entails, and about his journey from electrical engineer to getting the call from the Vatican to come to Kansas City.

file photo

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Springfield-Cape Girardeau Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. as the new bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. 

Johnston, 55, replaces Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who had been leading the diocese on an interim basis since the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn in April.

Archbishop Naumann introduced Bishop Johnston to Chancery staff at the Catholic Center in downtown Kansas City Tuesday morning.

An attempt by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to circumvent three rejections from the City Plan Commission met strong citizen opposition in a Kansas City Council committee hearing Wednesday.

Members of the St. Francis Xavier Church and neighbors objected to the plan to build a 237-bedroom “Catholic-oriented living experience” for college students at the site of the former St. Francis School at 53rd Street and Troost Avenue.  Objections included parking problems, population density, design and the basic premise itself.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

By midday Tuesday, there were still many among the flock of Catholics in Kansas City who didn’t yet know that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of their Bishop — Robert William Finn.

Finn has been at the center of controversy for years. He became the highest ranking official of the church to be convicted of a crime when he was found guilty of failing to report allegations of child abuse in 2012.

Kansas City-area Catholics reacting to the news revealed a wide range of opinions.

Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

The Vatican announced Tuesday that Bishop Finn had offered his resignation under a law that allows bishops to resign if they are ill or have another "grave" reason. The announcement did not include a reason for Bishop Finn's resignation.

In 2013, Finn plead guilty to charges that he failed to report suspected child abuse. It was the first case where a pope sanctioned bishops for covering up pedophilia.

In 2012, he was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge for failing to report suspected abuse.

The Catholic Church is located in Vatican City, an ocean away and then some. But what happens in Rome affects the lives of Catholics living in Kansas City, and what happens here reverberates all the way up to the top. This conversation explores whether a perceived shift in the Catholic Church affects the priorities and attitudes of Catholics in our region. 


The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is still reeling from Bishop Robert Finn's conviction this month for failing to report child sexual abuse.

Frank Morris / KCUR

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.

Frank Morris / KCUR

UPDATE at 3:30 pm: Bishop Robert Finn: Guilty on one of two counts. 

Bishop Finn: 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Aug 30, 2012

The Kansas City Star reported Thursday afternoon on comments made by Bishop Robert Finn regarding pornographic images of children on a priest's computer.

Bishop's Bid Fails, Child Sex Charges Stand

Apr 5, 2012
Dan Verbeck / KCUR

Bishop Robert Finn and the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese will proceed to trial in September.  The clergyman and the institution have lost a bid to have charges against them dismissed.

No Fast Ruling In Historic Case Of Catholic Bishop

Mar 27, 2012
Dan Verbeck / KCUR

It will be two days or a week before Bishop Robert Finn and those following his case and that of his Catholic Diocese will know if the man and the institution will continue to face trial.