Robert Finn was the bishop of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri. I ate with Bishop Finn at a breakfast honoring Our Lady of America at a United States Catholic Bishops’ conference. He seemed to be interested and open to the devotion to Our Lady of America. He was a pleasant breakfast companion.
In 2012, Bishop Finn was convicted of the misdemeanor crime of failure to report in 2010 suspected child abuse to government authorities.
While this may sound like a very serious charge, the underlying facts seem to diminish its seriousness. The charges were based upon photographs of children found on a priest’s computer by a computer technician. One photograph was of a nude child and the others were of clothed genital areas. Faces were not visible in the photographs and there were no known victims. There was no evidence or allegation of child abuse and no complaint by anyone. Bishop Finn never saw the photographs. He relied on subordinates to handle the issue. The very next day, the diocese contacted a police officer and described the naked photograph. The officer said that it did not constitute child pornography as it did not contain sexual conduct or contact as defined by Missouri law. So the diocese did not contact the Independent Review Board. Bishop Finn placed the priest under restrictions. After he violated them, the Bishop reported him to the authorities. The Bishop did not have a jury trial. He stood mute, like Jesus, before the judge alone and presented no defense. The trial took less than two hours. It was a foregone conclusion that he would be found guilty. The crowds yelled for the Bishop’s crucifixion, the Church showed no mercy and a saintly Bishop was asked to resign. May we say of him, as they did of St. Joan of Arc, “We have killed a saint!” Mother Cecilia, the prioress for the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Missouri, came to the defense of Bishop Finn. She said:
It breaks my heart that so many people only know about him what they hear from the blaring voices of the media and news outlets which have carried a prejudice against him from the beginning.…
Ten years ago, Bishop Finn was thrown into the midst of a diocese known far and wide for being a hotbed of heterodoxy and dissent. He made necessary and important changes right from the start, and those who were displeased have never forgotten nor forgiven.…
During his time in the diocese, Bishop Finn has fostered explosive growth in vocations to the priesthood and diaconate, opened the cause for canonization of a religious sister, and overseen the building of two new churches, all of which is passed over in media coverage in favor of critics calling for his removal.
Our bishop has endured and suffered so much throughout these years…. I continue to be amazed and inspired by his humility, charity, and patient resignation amidst so many relentless attacks.…
Regarding the hostility and persecution shown toward our bishop, I must say with complete admiration, that he has never displayed or spoken in a manner showing any anger or hostility in retaliation of the heaps of it he has himself received. He has always accepted it meekly, and simply continued on faithfully and perseveringly with the commission the Church has given him to build up the mystical body of Christ in truth and charity.
He has been a tremendous source of inspiration to each of the sisters. His heroic witness to the faith of the Church, and his quiet determination to reform the diocese despite tremendous opposition is like having one of the saints you read about in history right before your eyes.
I guarantee you that Church history will be looking back and telling a different story about this man than the newspapers are at present. There have been many saints that have not been vindicated until long after their death. I have no doubt he will be one of them.