Last week a Kansas City bishop was found guilty of shielding a priest who was taking pornographic pictures of young girls. The Roman Catholic bishop became the first bishop in America to be convicted of such a crime in the sexual abuse scandal that has been plaguing the Catholic Church for decades.
The bishop was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge and not guilty on an additional charge. Although he could have faced up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine, the bishop was only sentenced to two years of probation. Charges against the diocese were dropped by the judge. The bishop and the diocese still face multiple civil suits involving the sexual abuse.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) along with other groups advocating for victims were pleased with the unprecedented conviction of a Catholic bishop. In a statement, however, they said the sentence was too lenient and that the bishop should have to serve time in jail.
The case began in December 2010 when a priest, already known to have acted inappropriately with children, brought his laptop in for repairs. A repair technician alerted church officials to pornographic pictures of young girls found on the computer.
The bishop reassigned the priest to a convent and told him to avoid contact with children. The priest, however, continued to take lewd pictures of girls and attended church functions including presiding over a young girl’s First Communion. Eventually in May 2011, the priest was reported by church officials without the approval of the bishop. The priest is currently awaiting sentencing for federal child pornography charges.
Although over the past decades bishops have put many sexual abuse prevention polices in place which include notifying authorities of suspected abusers. Such policies will obviously not be effective if church leaders fail to follow them in practice.
Source: The New York Times, “Kansas City Bishop Convicted of Shielding Pedophile Priest,” John Eligon and Laurie Goodstein, September 6, 2012