Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln defended his decision to allow Bishop Robert Finn, former bishop of Kansas City, Mo., to take a position as chaplain of a community of religious sisters in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. saying that justice for his past negligence “has been served.”
“The Church in Lincoln is committed to serving and protecting our people,” Bishop Conley said in a Feb. 4 column in the Lincoln Journal-Star. “We will do that without further punishing those who have already met the demands of justice.”
In September 2012, Bishop Finn was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese did not disclose that lewd images of children had been found on a laptop belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City, in December 2010.
Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation for failing to report suspected abuse and he retired from his position as bishop in April 2015.
“Because of serious acts of negligence under his leadership, Bishop Finn faced serious penalties,” Bishop Conley said.
“He faced a criminal court, and served the sentence he was given. He resigned his leadership position in the Church. He also accepted responsibility for his actions, and he has expressed sincere regret to those whom his negligence may have harmed,” he added.
In December 2015, Bishop Conley announced that he was inviting Bishop Finn to serve as a chaplain for a community of religious sisters who are long-time friends of his and who reside in the Diocese of Lincoln.
Allowing Bishop Finn to serve as chaplain for a community of religious sisters will in no way place him in “a position of authority, administration, or oversight.”
“He has a purely religious role, in an appropriate adult setting, which he has undertaken in humility,” Bishop Conley said. “Bishop Finn has not ever been accused of sexual abuse of children. His ministry as chaplain does not represent an issue for anyone’s safety.”
Since he became Bishop of Lincoln in 2012, Bishop Conley says that the safe-environment and child-protection policies in the diocese have undergone a “systematic review” from an independent review board made up of experts in criminal justice, psychology and education “to recommend enhancements to our background checks and training programs.”
He reassured parents that the Diocese of Lincoln is “fully compliant with the child-protection laws of Nebraska and the child protection policies of the Catholic Church.”
Some critics are angered by Bishop Finn being invited to spend his retirement in the diocese, which Bishop Conley said is “understandable,” especially for those who are themselves victims of sexual abuse or have relatives who are.
“Their pain is real, and the Church has an on-going duty to help them heal,” he said.
However, he added, Bishop Finn has paid for his negligence and justice has been served. To further punish him by refusing to allow him to spend retirement serving a community of religious sisters is not justice, “it is malice.”
“... those who have acknowledged and paid the penalty for past actions, who seek to serve in humility, and who pose no on- going danger to anyone, have a right not be harassed and disparaged once justice is served,” he said. “To do otherwise is not justice; it is malice. And it is not worthy of our community.”
The Diocese of Lincoln has extended an invitation to meet with these critics, which has been turned down.
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