This article from Catholic Culture, while noting the dismissal of a bishop who was convicted of criminal charges, reminds us that the situation regarding accountability for the sexual abuse in the Church has hardly changed and that is very sad.
Bishop Finn had to go. When he was convicted on criminal charges, he became the poster boy for the American bishops’ mishandling of the sex-abuse crisis. He was an irresistible target for critics of Catholicism: a walking, talking symbol of episcopal negligence.
The bishop’s defenders have said that he was not properly informed about the Ratigan case. That’s true, but it’s not an adequate defense. They say that his subordinates and counselors gave him bad advice. Also true, but irrelevant. We’ve heard those arguments too many times. The fact remains that when he was alerted to the fact that a troubled priest had engaged in inappropriate activities with young children, Bishop Finn did not take prompt and decisive action. He let the problem fester—as so many other bishops have let so many other problems fester—with disastrous results for everyone involved.
In Bishop Finn’s case this failure was particularly inexcusable because the results of negligence were so very well known. He could not get away with mumbling inanities about a “learning curve,” about not recognizing the severity of pedophilia, as other bishops had done a decade earlier. By 2011, every American bishop should have known that if there was one failure he absolutely must avoid, it was the failure to curb sexual abuse.
The announcement of Bishop Finn’s resignation comes, appropriately, on the same day as the news that the US bishops spent nearly $3 billion in the past decade to settle sex-abuse lawsuits. That reckoning understates the financial cost of the sex-abuse scandal, since it does not include the millions of dollars quietly paid out before 2004. And the financial cost, in turn, does not adequately summarize the staggering damage done to the Church. How many young lives were damaged? How many thousands were alienated from the faith? How many opportunities for evangelization were lost forever?
The truly remarkable thing about today’s announcement is not that Bishop Finn was forced to step down, but that he was the first American bishop forced to step down. (Cardinal Law left voluntarily in 2002; in fact when he originally submitted his resignation, it was declined.) Dozens of other bishops were as negligent, or worse. But they remained in office for years as the Church hierarchy came, ever so slowly, to the conclusion that even prelates must be held accountable….
Many questions remain to be answered. Will other prelates follow Bishop Finn out the chancery doors? Will the critics of Catholicism pick a new target of opportunity? Will retired bishops whose negligence has been demonstrated still be treated with deference, as if nothing happened? Will Pope Francis continue to defend his appointment of a Chilean bishop accused of ignoring abuse, even as lay members of his sex-abuse commission threaten to resign?
And in the future, will bishops be held responsible for proper handling of their duties in areas other than sexual abuse? Once accountability becomes the norm, all sorts of changes are possible.
Retrieved April 23, 2015 from http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=1085