Kansas City swamped with unsubstantiated rumors of Finn's resignation

by Dennis Coday

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Update: As of 5:30 a.m. central time, this story is no longer valid: US Bishop Finn, symbol of church's failure on sexual abuse, resigns

Since late last week, rumors have been flying in Kansas City, Mo., that the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn is imminent. There is no hard evidence to support these rumors.

I did not plan to write about this, but I've been fielding phone calls and emails almost nonstop since the middle of last week. Much of what I am hearing is wrong, and for this reason, I decided I needed to write about it.

NCR learned last week that Finn was in Rome on April 14 after missing a previously scheduled confirmation service the day before. NCR did not report on this because that information by itself was not substantial enough to warrant a story. It is certainly not unusual for a bishop to visit Rome, and we did not have any hard evidence to suggest the meeting was tied to a resignation or removal.

Here's what we do know:

Finn was the subject an apostolic visitation in September that looked into his leadership of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese. About two dozen people -- supporters, critics and neutral people -- were interviewed and a report was filed with the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

Finn has been the subject of a couple of petitions started by laypeople in the diocese asking that he resign. Those petitions stem from Finn's 2012 conviction on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspected child abuse in a case involving the former priest of this diocese, Shawn Ratigan.

Finn attended the Divine Mercy Sunday services at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish at 3 p.m. April 12, in Kansas City.

Finn was to have presided at a confirmation ceremony at Presentation Parish in Lee's Summit, Mo., on April 13. The parish was informed that afternoon that Finn would not attend and that the vicar general, Fr. Charles Rowe, would preside instead.

About midday on April 14 in Rome, NCR Vatican correspondent Joshua J. McElwee, saw Finn outside St. Peter's Square near the Vatican Press Office. Finn and McElwee exchanged greetings and parted. Finn did not say what he was doing in Rome.

McElwee contacted the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese to ask why the bishop was in Rome and to place a formal request for an interview with Finn. The diocesan spokesman, Jack Smith, replied in an email that the bishop's trip to Rome was for a "private visit" and that an interview would not be possible because by 4:30 p.m. Rome time, "the bishop is already supposed to have left Rome," Smith told McElwee.

On April 15, Finn presided at a confirmation service at a Holy Spirit Parish in Lee's Summit. As far as we know, he has attended all his previously scheduled appointments since.

We do not know why Finn was in Rome, and he has declined to tell us.

In an email exchange this afternoon, the diocese spokesman said, "I can't comment on rumors."

"There has been no announcement," Smith wrote. "If there ever is an announcement of this nature, it is always made by the Holy See Press Office in the Daily Bulletin and not by me."

It is certainly not unusual for a bishop to visit Rome in a personal or official capacity. Until word comes from the Vatican or from the bishop himself, all we have is speculation.

I have asked our Web editor to not allow comments on this posting so that it does not become a source of more rumors. 

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