KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The leader of the Roman Catholic Church's new commission to fight child sex abuse said the Vatican needs to "address urgently" the position of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, the highest-ranking church official in the U.S. to be convicted of failing to take action in response to abuse allegations.
Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who leads the pope's global commission on the abuse problem, acknowledged that child protection policies in his own archdiocese would bar Finn from teaching Sunday school there.
"It's a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently," O'Malley said in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," set to air Sunday. "There's a recognition of that (from the pope)."
"One of the first things that came up is the importance of accountability," O'Malley said. "We're looking at how the church could have protocols on how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for the protection of children in his diocese."
Finn, who leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, waited six months before notifying police about the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, whose computer contained hundreds of lewd photos of young girls taken in and around churches where he worked. Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
Finn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse and was sentenced to two years' probation in 2012.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker issued a statement Friday saying she's "encouraged by comments from within the church urging stronger action to protect children" and that she hopes "this results in real benefits for our community and its children."
The Vatican this fall sent a Canadian archbishop to Finn's diocese as part of an investigation of his leadership. Finn's spokesman declined to comment Friday. The Boston archdiocese didn't immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.
O'Malley's comments, in a partial transcript released Friday by CBS, came days after new Vatican regulations took effect on how bishops can resign — or be encouraged to resign — because of scandal.
According to the new regulations, bishops should not be reluctant to step aside earlier than the mandatory retirement age of 75 for the good of the church. The rules stop short of saying the pope can forcibly remove a bishop, but the new rules say the Vatican may deem it necessary to initiate the process by asking a bishop to resign.
O'Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan, came to Boston in 2003, succeeding Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned after the clergy sex abuse crisis exploded in Boston in 2002. Just six weeks after he was installed in Boston, O'Malley settled hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits after becoming personally involved in the negotiations and spending hours with the victims' attorneys. O'Malley has been widely praised by church leaders and victims.