US & Canada

Pope accepts resignation of 'cover up' US bishop

Portrait of Bishop Robert Finn taken in November of 2011 Image copyright AP

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Kansas City bishop who failed to report a child abuse priest.

Bishop Robert Finn admitted in 2012 that he waited six months before reporting a priest who had lewd photos of young girls on his computer.

The offending priest was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

Since Mr Finn's guilty plea on failing his duty, the Vatican had been under pressure to remove him.

The 62-year-old's resignation means he is no longer head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph in northern and western Missouri.

Bishop Robert Finn offered his resignation under a part of canon law that allows bishops to resign if they are ill or because of a "grave" reason that makes them unfit to continue in their role.

The Vatican has not explicitly said why it took this decision.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pope Francis has pledged "zero tolerance" over child sex abuse

He is the highest-ranking church official in the US to be convicted of failing to take action in response to abuse allegations.

Cardinal Bernard Law resigned from his post in Boston in 2002 when widespread allegations of sex abuse in his archdiocese came to light.

The Vatican's unwillingness to act against Mr Finn for three years after he pleaded guilty had fuelled charges that priests continued to enjoy protection even after Pope Francis pledged "zero tolerance".

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, an online abuse resource, said the resignation was a welcome step, but she called on the pope to publicly state that Mr Finn was removed over his conduct in the case of his priest, Rev Shawn Ratigan.

"We urge Pope Francis to issue such a statement immediately. That would be unprecedented, and it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun," she said.

Mr Ratigan's computer had hundreds of lewd photos of young girls taken in or near churches were he worked.

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