US bishop charged with failing to report abuse

The news is that … at last … a US Catholic bishop has been charged with failing to report abuse.

Bishop Robert Finn has been indicted on a charge of failing to protect children after he and his diocese waited five months to tell police about hundreds of images of child pornography discovered on a priest’s computer. One can only wonder what they could have been thinking, especially after all that has been in the media.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Finn and the diocese were required under state law to report the discovery to police because the images gave them reason to believe a child had been abused.

“Now that the grand jury investigation has resulted in this indictment, my office will pursue this case vigorously,” Baker said. “I want to ensure there are no future failures to report resulting in other unsuspecting victims.”

The indictment, handed down 6 October but sealed because Finn was out of the country, says the bishop failed to report suspicions against the priest from 16 December, 2010, when the photos were discovered, to 11 May, 2011, when the diocese turned them over to police.

Finn has denied any wrongdoing, so even when charged, he simply fails to grasp that the church is not above the law and is not a law unto itself.

I applaud the authorities for bringing this charge, it sends a very clear message regarding priorities here. Quite clearly the top priority needs to be the protection of children and no belief system, no matter how socially acceptable it is, can ever again be permitted to play belief as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

While he is himself not an abuser, what he did is still a serious obstruction of justice, so he faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted of the misdemeanour. The diocese also faces a $1,000 fine.


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