Robert Finn (bishop)

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Robert William Finn
Personal details
Born (1953-04-02) April 2, 1953 (age 62)
St. Louis, Missouri

Latin: "Quaerite primum regnum dei"
English: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God"[1]

Coat of arms of Robert William Finn.svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency; Monsignor
Religious style Bishop

Robert William Finn (born April 2, 1953, St. Louis, Missouri) is the current bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, having succeeded Raymond James Boland on May 24, 2005. Finn is the first U.S. bishop to be convicted of the misdemeanor crime of failure to report a priest suspected of child sex abuse to government authorities.[2]

Early life and ordination[edit]

Finn is the second of five children of Theodore (Pat) and Betty Schneider Finn. His family includes three sisters—Mrs. Kathleen Fornwalt, Chesterfield, Missouri; Mrs. Patricia Bax, St. Charles, Missouri; and Mrs. Nancy Meyer, Maryland Heights, Missouri—and one brother, Richard Finn, of Keller, Texas. Bishop Finn completed his elementary education at All Souls Catholic School in Overland, Missouri.

Finn studied for the priesthood at archdiocesan seminaries and in Rome. He is a 1971 graduate of St. Louis Preparatory Seminary North, and received a B.A. in Philosophy at Cardinal Glennon College in 1975. While a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, he earned a Master's in Theology in 1979 from the Angelicum University. He served as a deacon in 1978-79 at Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, in the Archdiocese of Westminster. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis at All Souls Parish Church on July 7, 1979.

Pastoral work[edit]

Finn's first assignments were as associate pastor of two parishes in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. He later was appointed to the faculty of Saint Francis Borgia Regional High School in Washington, Missouri, where he taught from 1983 to 1989. During those years, he lived in residence and served as part-time pastoral associate in area parishes.

In 1989, Finn received a Master's in Education Administration from St. Louis University and was appointed administrator of St. Dominic High School in O'Fallon, Missouri. During his tenure at St. Dominic's, he assisted the pastors of area parishes. He served the St. Dominic High School community until 1996.

In 1996, he was appointed Director of Continuing Formation of Priests and, in 1999, while continuing as CFP Director, he was named editor of the St. Louis Review, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.

Finn was named by Pope John Paul II a chaplain to His Holiness in August 2003, upon the recommendation of the Archbishop of St. Louis, Justin Francis Rigali, who had named him to the posts he was then exercising (the honor was bestowed while he was still serving as CFP Director and editor of the St. Louis Review; Finn received the title of Reverend Monsignor). Finn served in several other capacities including chairman of the Archdiocesan Committee on the Diaconate.


Finn was named coadjutor bishop (with right of succession) of the diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph and was consecrated to the episcopate on May 3, 2004, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City. He is also now a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. On May 24, 2005, the Vatican accepted Bishop Boland's request for retirement. As Coadjutor, Bishop Finn automatically succeeded him as sixth bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Finn became a member of Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which is linked to the Catholic personal prelature Opus Dei. In an interview with the Catholic Key, Finn told of how Opus Dei had helped open his heart to the work of the Holy Spirit. Finn is not technically a member of the Opus Dei prelature, as he is a diocesan priest, but he is able to receive spiritual formation from the prelature in a similar way as its members do.[citation needed]

Upon his arrival in the diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph in 2005, Finn said that vocations to the priesthood and religious life would be seen as a 'super-priority' for his diocese. Under his guidance, the diocese has continued to pour considerable spiritual, human, and financial resources into efforts to encourage vocations. Before Finn's arrival, in the 2003/2004 seminary school year, the diocese reported to have nine seminarians. For 2007/2008, the diocese reported that there were 24 men studying for diocesan priesthood. In March 2006, Finn invited to his diocese a small order of Benedictine nuns, now titled Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. With a contemplative charism of praying and sacrificing for the sanctification of priests, in addition to operating a vestment design company called "House of Ephesus", these nuns have also seen their numbers rise very quickly in recent years.

Finn currently serves on the Administrative and the Priorities and Plans Committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is chairman of the Bishop's Task Force on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person.[citation needed]

Criminal conviction for failure to report suspected child abuse[edit]

In 2012, Finn was convicted for failing to report suspected child abuse in connection with the Fr. Shawn Ratigan child pornography case. The diocese waited five months to inform police that inappropriate pictures of children at a diocese school were found on Fr. Ratigan's computer.[3] During that time, the diocese did not inform the community of this discovery and Fr. Ratigan took more inappropriate pictures of children he knew through church contacts.[3]

The indictment charged Finn with failing to inform police about child pornography found on Fr. Shawn Ratigan's computer. According to the indictment, the diocese was made aware of the images on Ratigan's computer on December 16, 2010. However, rather than report it, Finn ordered him to undergo psychiatric evaluation and then sent him to a convent under orders to have no contact with children. Church officials reported, without Finn's approval, Ratigan's actions on May 11, 2011 after learning that he was still taking lewd pictures of children. Ratigan pleaded guilty to five counts of producing child pornography and was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison. All charges against the Diocese itself were dropped, Finn however was convicted on one charge in September 2012 and sentenced to two years of probation.[2][4]

On October 14, 2011, a county grand jury indicted both the Diocese and Finn personally for failure to report suspected child abuse, a criminal misdemeanor.[3] While other bishops have been charged with directly perpetrating abuse,[5] Finn is the first U.S. bishop to be criminally charged in his role as a supervisor of priests. The case is also the first criminal case against a sitting bishop in the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.[6]

Apology for lack of intervention[edit]

In May 2011, Finn apologized for his failure to act in a more timely manner in the case of a priest accused of engaging in inappropriate behavior with children. Finn told reporters that he failed to read a letter sent to the diocese a year earlier (May 2010) by a Catholic elementary school principal who was reporting numerous instances of inappropriate behavior. Finn's admission came five months after the diocese discovered questionable pictures of children on Ratigan's computer, and a week after the priest was arrested on child pornography charges.[7][8]

Independent investigation[edit]

On June 9, 2011, Finn appointed former U.S. Attorney Todd P. Graves to conduct an independent investigation of diocesan policies and procedures used to address sexual misconduct by church personnel including the case of Shawn Ratigan, a pastor who faces charges of possession of child pornography. Graves was the national co-chairman of the U.S. Justice Department's Child Exploitation Working Group. Finn also announced the appointment of an independent public liaison and ombudsman.[9]

In the report issued in September 2011, Graves said the key finding of the investigation was "that Diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures for responding to reports" of sexual abuse by clergy.[10]

Investigation by Vatican[edit]

In September, 2014, the Vatican initiated an investigation into Finn's tenure as bishop. Canadian archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa was investigating at the request of Pope Francis. The director of SNAP called the investigation "overdue".[11]

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the leader of a church commission on child abuse cases, made critical remarks regarding Bishop Finn's actions in regards to the case. In an interview with the television news program 60 Minutes, O'Malley noted that Bishop Finn's conviction for failing to report suspected child abuse would disqualify him from teaching Sunday school in the Boston diocese. "It's a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently," O'Malley said.[12]


Tridentine Mass[edit]

In August 2005, he encouraged use of the traditional Tridentine Mass in his diocese in accord with Indult provisions established during Pope John Paul II's tenure, and welcomed the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest to the diocese to celebrate Mass at St. Patrick's Oratory, the city's oldest church.[13][14]

Statements on the 2008 election[edit]

In the October 24, 2008 issue of the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Key, Finn wrote: "Our Catholic moral principles teach that a candidate’s promise of economic prosperity is insufficient to justify their constant support of abortion laws, including partial-birth abortion, and infanticide for born-alive infants. Promotion of the Freedom of Choice Act is a pledge to eliminate every single limit on abortions achieved over the last thirty-five years. The real freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ compels us, not to take life, but to defend it."[15]


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Raymond James Boland
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
2005 – present