A Roman Catholic bishop was found guilty yesterday in Kansas City of failing to report suspected child abuse, becoming what the New York Times says is the first American bishop in the decades-long sexual abuse scandal to be convicted of shielding a pedophile priest. Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence found Bishop Robert Finn guilty on one misdemeanor charge and not guilty on a second charge, for failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls. Finn was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation.
The verdict is a watershed moment in the priest sex abuse scandal that has plagued the church since the 1980s. Bishops have been eager to turn the page on this era and have put in place extensive abuse prevention policies, which include reporting suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities. The Kansas City case was a wake-up call to Catholics that the policies cannot be effective if the bishops do not follow them. The Finn case had threatened to turn into a sensational, first-ever trial of a sitting prelate.