Kansas City, MO — Reverand Matthew Brumleve is waiting for an apology. Like many other priests in the diocese headed by Bishop Robert Finn, he is waiting for the bishop to give a “robust” apology for his actions.
Father Brumleve wants to know why — when Finn knew that one of his priests was exploiting children, photographing hundreds of pornographic images, and storing them on his computer — the bishop didn’t turn the priest over to authorities.
Finn is the leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and “an outspoken conservative in the American hierarchy,” according to USA Today. Not so outspoken, however, that he would turn one of his own priests over to authorities even after discovering that the Reverand Shawn Ratigan had taken hundreds of lewd images of children in Catholic schools and parishes.
Instead, Finn sent Ratigan to a convent and called it good. While the crimes were discovered by Finn in December of 2010, authorities were not notified until another priest notified went over the bishop’s head to notify police in May 2011.
In the trial, Finn became the first US bishop ever convicted in criminal court for “shielding an abusive priest.” Finn received two years of probation but is back to work, performing his duties as the leader of 87 parishes and 130,000 people.
“Some say he has made that apology, he has said he’s sorry, but he hasn’t told us what he’s sorry for,” said the Rev. Matthew Brumleve, pastor at Holy Family in Kansas City and another 20-year veteran of the diocese. “Is he sorry he got caught? Is he sorry we don’t see things the way he sees them? Or is he truly sorry for letting down the children of this diocese?”
“That’s going to be the millstone around our neck until that happens,” he said.
While Finn has decided to stay and go on with his responsibilities, The NY Times received responses from 32 of the 40 priests under Finn’s leadership about whether or not Finn should resign.
Half of the priests suggested the bishop resign.
“The Bishop looks forward to continuing to perform his duties, including carrying out the important obligations placed on him by the Court,” Finn’s spokesman, Jack Smith, said in a statement to Religion News Service shortly after Finn’s conviction.
No matter how the diocese feels about Finn, Pope Benedict XVI is the only one with the authority to forcefully remove a bishop from office. And the Vatican has remained silent on the issue thus far.
During the priests’ annual retreat in November, Finn denied that he had done anything wrong by protecting Ratigan from authorities, according to two priests who were in attendance.
“For the good of the diocese and the church, I think he should apologize and resign. Then a new bishop can begin the healing process,” said the Reverend Thomas Reese, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center.
In court, evidence addressed by prosecutors showed that Finn, 59, had received numerous complaints about Ratigan’s behavior over the course of a year beginning in December 2010. Not only did Finn ignore the complaints, but he even failed to inform authorities even after Ratigan attempted suicide.
Ratigan, 46, pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Do you think the Pope should remove Finn from his duties?