KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City’s Catholic bishop has become the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic official 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, officials said Friday.
Bishop Robert Finn, the first U.S. bishop criminally charged with sheltering an abusive clergyman, and the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese have pleaded not guilty on one count each of failing to report suspected child abuse.
Jackson County 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 says Finn failed to report suspicions against the priest from Dec. 16, 2010, when the photos were discovered, to May 11, 2011, when the diocese turned them over to police.
Finn denied any wrongdoing in a statement Friday and said he had begun work to overhaul the diocese’s reporting policies and act on key findings of a diocese-commissioned investigation into its practices.
“Today, the Jackson County prosecutor issued these charges against me personally and against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph,” said Finn, who officials said was not under arrest. “For our part, we will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”
Finn faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor.
Until Finn was indicted, no U.S. Catholic bishop had been criminally charged over how he responded to abuse claims, although some bishops had struck deals with local authorities to avoid prosecution against their dioceses.