The Vatican is investigating Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, two years after he was convicted of failing to report suspected abuse.
Finn was notified of the investigation by the papal ambassador in Washington and has "cooperated with the process," according to Jack Smith, the bishop's spokesman.
As part of the inquiry, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa visited the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph last week and spoke with several people, asking if they considered Finn fit for leadership, according to the National Catholic Reporter. A spokeswoman for Prendergast said Monday she could not comment because the archbishop's visit was private.
Finn is the highest-ranking U.S. church leader to be convicted for failing to take action in response to sex abuse allegations. He was charged in the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, whose computer contained hundreds of lewd photos of young girls taken in and around churches where he worked. Diocesan officials waited six months before they notified civil authorities of the photos. Ratigan pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison.
Finn was sentenced in 2012 to two years' probation for the misdemeanor, and ever since has faced pressure from local Roman Catholics to step down. Some parishioners petitioned Pope Francis to remove the bishop from the diocese.
Francis has promised he would hold bishops accountable for how they responded when confronted with cases of abusive priests. No U.S. bishop has been removed for covering up for guilty clergy.
The pope last week removed a conservative Paraguayan bishop who clashed with fellow bishops on ideological grounds and promoted a priest accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. In March, Francis ousted the bishop of Limburg, Germany, whose $43 million new residential complex angered the faithful.
The Finn investigation is being conducted under the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.
Chris Clark contributed to this report from Kansas City.