Roman Catholics in the Kansas City area have joined a formal request to Pope Francis to discipline Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted of failing to report a priest involved in child pornography. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Tammy Ljungblad, Pool)
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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -
Roman Catholics in the Kansas City area have joined a formal request to Pope Francis to discipline Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted in 2012 of failing to report a priest involved in child pornography.
An online petition signed by more than 110,000 people worldwide asking for Finn's removal was also sent to the Vatican. The petition asks for Finn's resignation.
Others want Pope Francis to initiate a "canonical penal process" against the area's top bishop.
Finn, the head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, was placed on two years of court-supervised probation after pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge.
The case was related to Finn's handling of complaints against the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a priest who admitted taking lewd photographs of young parishioners. Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison and 21 years in state prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
"The priest's crime that Bishop Finn concealed from civil authorities was of great magnitude," said the Rev. James Connell, a priest and canon lawyer from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in a letter to the pope.
He said Finn's presence makes it difficult for the church to heal from sex crimes perpetuated by clergy.
"Thus, the harm done by Bishop Finn also was of great magnitude. Yet Catholic Church authorities have taken no action against Bishop Finn that would provide justice and repair scandal, and this lack of action adds to the ongoing scandal of the clergy sexual abuse crisis."
The diocese has received a copy of the materials that were sent to the Vatican's representative in Washington, DC, for forwarding to the pope, a spokesman for Finn's office said.
"Bishop Finn has his supporters and his detractors, and people are free to have their own opinion about what happens here," diocese spokesman Jack Smith said. "The diocese and Bishop Finn remain focused and committed to the strengthened reporting and training programs which are creating safer environments in our schools and parishes."
Kansas City resident Liz Donnelly, one of the parishioners who signed the letter, said the case has forced her to stop giving money to the church.
"I feel very sad about not contributing money to my parish because I love the staff and know their salaries and benefits are paid by our tithing, as are many good programs, but I could not in good conscience give money that would partially go to the Bishop who appears so removed from the people," she wrote.
Connell, who is part of a group of priests and nuns called the Catholic Whistleblowers, initiated the drive to discipline Finn. Sister Jeanne Christensen, formerly the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese's victims assistance coordinator, also signed the letters.
Connell said canon law requires a "just penalty" for a person who through "culpable negligence" harms someone by committing or omitting his "ecclesiastical power."
Calls for the pope to act against Finn are drawing national headlines.
Jeanne Christensen, a Kansas City nun, said the courts have done what they can and it is now up to the pope.
"He [Bishop Finn] continues as bishop as if nothing really ever happened. And what that has generated is a whole lot of anger concern, frustration among victims and the people of God in this diocese," she said. "The church has done nothing in terms of calling Bishop Finn to accountability."
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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