April 21, 2015 / 11:12 AM / 4 years ago

U.S. Catholic bishop in child pornography case resigns

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City, who remained in office for three years after he was convicted in 2012 of shielding a priest who took pornographic pictures of girls, has resigned, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

Finn, 62, is the only U.S. Roman Catholic bishop to be convicted for not reporting suspicions of pedophilia. Groups representing victims of abuse by clerics had been urging the pope to dismiss Finn.

“Pope Francis’s removal of (Finn) is a good step but just a beginning,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a resource center for sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church.

“The pope must show that this decision represents a meaningful shift in papal practice, that it signals a new era in bishop accountability,” she told Reuters in an email.

A judge in Kansas City convicted Finn in 2012 of failing to report suspected child abuse after a technician found pictures of young girls’ genitals on a computer owned by Shawn Ratigan, a former priest of his diocese. Ratigan took many of the lewd pictures himself and had collected others, the court was told.

Finn sent the priest to a therapist, moved him to a new post and ordered him to stay away from children. But Ratigan continued to take the pictures for nearly six months before he was reported to police in 2011.

Ratigan, who tried to commit suicide when the pictures were discovered and was later defrocked, was sentenced to 50 years in prison and Finn to two years of probation in separate trials.

The Vatican began an investigation of Finn last September after calls for him to be removed increased. Several hundred thousand people signed an on-line petition demanding his ouster.

A Vatican statement simply said the pope had accepted Finn’s resignation without explaining why.

Barrett Doyle urged the pope to confirm that Finn was removed for failing to make children’s safety a top priority.

“That would be unprecedented, and it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun,” she said.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, head of a commission advising the pope on how to rid the Church of sexual abuse, told CBS television last year that the Vatican “needs to address urgently” the question of why Finn was still in office.

Francis has also come under pressure to remove Juan Barros as bishop of the Chilean city of Osorno. Parishioners, national legislators and abuse victims have accused Barros of having protected one of the nation’s most notorious pedophiles.

Editing by Crispian Balmer

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