SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Calls for Bishop Robert Finn's resignation intensified the day after he became the highest-ranking U.S. church official to be convicted of a crime related to a child sexual abuse scandal.
Soon after a Missouri judge found Bishop Finn guilty Thursday of one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse to the state, unhappy Roman Catholics began discussing ways to get the bishop out of office on a Facebook page titled “Bishop Finn Must Go.”
Among the posts was one that listed contact information for the Vatican and urged parishioners to voice their displeasure with Bishop Finn at the highest levels. Pope Benedict XVI alone has authority over bishops. Through the decades-long abuse scandal, only one U.S. bishop has stepped down over his failures to stop abusive clergy: Cardinal Bernard Law – who, in 2002, resigned as head of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Jackson County Judge John M. Torrence sentenced Bishop Finn to two years of supervised probation. If the bishop abides by a set of stipulations from the judge, the conviction will be wiped from his record in 2014.
“Now that our justice system says he's guilty, he has lost his ability to lead our diocese,” Patricia Rotert, a Catholic church member in Kansas City, said Friday. “He's lost his credibility. There is turmoil and angst around him and I don't think he can bring people together.”
Bishop Finn's attorneys would not comment on the bishop's future in the church, saying it was a legal matter.
However, Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph spokesman Jack Smith indicated that Bishop Finn wasn't going anywhere.
“The bishop looks forward to continuing to perform his duties, including carrying out the important obligations placed on him by the court,” Mr. Smith said in an emailed statement Friday.
Bishop Finn's conviction comes four years after the church paid $10 million to settle 47 pending sexual abuse claims against the diocese and 12 of its priests. When announcing that deal in 2008, Bishop Finn apologized for the abuse that occurred at the hands of current and former clergy members, and promised that steps were being taken to make sure such abuse never happened again.
The diocese posted an update about the 2008 settlement on its website in June 2011 stating that Bishop Finn had written 118 letters of apology to plaintiffs or their families. That same month, Bishop Finn apologized for not responding to warnings the diocese received a year earlier from a parish principal detailing suspicious behavior by the Reverand Shawn Ratigan around children.
Instead of reading the memo and looking into the claims, Bishop Finn left it up to subordinates to handle the matter. He later admitted it was a year before he finally read a five-page document that a parish elementary school principal wrote detailing suspicious activities by Rev. Ratigan around children.
Bishop Finn also was informed of nude photos of children found on Rev. Ratigan's laptop computer in December 2010, but instead of turning them over to police, Bishop Finn sent Rev. Ratigan to live at a convent in Independence, Mo.
Monsignor Robert Murphy turned the photos over to police in May 2011 — against Bishop Finn's wishes, according to court documents — after Rev. Ratigan continued to violate Bishop Finn's orders to stay away from children and not take any pictures of them.
Rev. Ratigan pleaded guilty last month to five child pornography counts, but hasn't been sentenced. Prosecutors have requested he spend the rest of his life in prison.
Bishop Finn apologized again Thursday in court for the pain caused by his failure to report Rev. Ratigan.
The bishop has avoided facing charges in Missouri's Clay County, where Rev. Ratigan was charged, after reaching a settlement in November 2011. For five years, Bishop Finn must report to the Clay County prosecutor directly each month about any suspected child abuse in the diocese's facilities in the county.
“I said for years that we wouldn't be in the mess we were in today if about 30 bishops had said `I made a mistake, I'm sorry, I take full responsibility and I resign,“’ said the Reverand Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “I think we're at a state in the life of the church when a bishop is convicted of a misdemeanor, found guilty of not doing what he was supposed to do, I think he should resign for the good of the diocese and the good of the church.”
Support for Bishop Finn's resignation is far from unanimous. Some say they agree he made a mistake, but it's not one that should force him out, especially with even more stringent safeguards in place to protect children.
“There's always been fights in the church, and there will continue to be fights in the church,” said Kansas City parishioner Bruce Burkhart, a member of the Serra Club, which supports and promotes priests.
“I think people may walk away, but that's their business,” he said. “If they think their children are any more safe in public schools, or in another church setting where people are working with youth, the data indicate they're not. The Catholic Church in America is probably now today the safest place for children.”
While Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged in the U.S. with shielding an abusive priest, Albany Law School professor Timothy Lytton said the June conviction of Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia broke the ice on criminal convictions against members of the Catholic hierarchy.
Monsignor Lynn, who supervised other clergy as an aide to the cardinal, was convicted of felony child endangerment and became the first U.S. church official sent to prison for his handling of abuse complaints. He is appealing his three- to six-year sentence.
Still, Bishop Finn's conviction is significant because it proves Monsignor Lynn's criminal prosecution was not an isolated event, but instead something that is likely to embolden prosecutors to go after church leaders who fail to protect children.
“Kansas City might mark a trend,” Mr. Lytton said. “It's no longer good enough to just file civil suits; criminal justice may be much quicker to get involved. Kansas City normalizes this kind of reaction to the scandal.”—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: The Globe and Mail
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Iranian Canadians who’ve had their bank accounts with one of Canada’s biggest banks closed, often without notice, say they feel they’re being treated as second-class citizens.
Members of the community say TD Canada Trust began notifying a number of Iranian-Canadian clients in May that it would no longer provide them with banking services.
Some of the letters sent out earlier this month indicated the bank was closing the accounts in order to comply with Ottawa’s economic sanctions against the Iran.
“I’ve been a Canadian citizen for 10 years and this is the first time I’m feeling that I’ve been treated differently than a Canadian citizen,” says Pooya Sadeghi, who moved to Toronto from Iran 14 years ago.
Sadeghi says the TD account he shared with his wife and her parents was closed two days before he received a letter from the bank on May 2.
“They went to the grocery store to do some shopping, it didn’t work and the next day we received the letter,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“There was no explanation in our letter about why TD was closing the account,” he said.
In the past few weeks he found out that many other Iranian Canadians had had their accounts closed in similar circumstances and that the letters sent to them mentioned Canada’s economic sanctions.
Kaveh Shahrooz, vice-president of the Iranian Canadian Congress, says there is worry in the community that the bank’s decision may signal “an erosion” of their rights as Canadians.
Shahrooz says the letters TD sent out to clients did not indicate how that particular individual had violated the sanctions.
In a statement released Thursday, TD said it is required to comply with Canadian bank laws and regulations, “including economic sanctions, which prohibit U.S. from providing financial services to or for the benefit of certain countries, or any person in those countries.”
The emailed statement said decisions to end customer relationships are not taken lightly.
“Where we had a concern, we reached out to customers in advance to confirm or correct information in their accounts, via phone and registered mail,” said the statement from Barbara Timmins, manager of corporate communications. “In many cases, we did not hear back from them and based on the information on file, we had to apply the regulations and close the accounts.”
TD said it could not comment on “specific customer situations.”
Senior bank officials have promised to meet with community leaders on July 22 to discuss the matter.
The bank has not publicly revealed how many accounts belonging to Iranian Canadians have been closed, but Shahrooz says they have received complaints from British Columbia to the Maritimes, indicating that this is a country-wide issue.
Rachel Swiednicki, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Bankers Association, says a number of international sanctions prohibiting some financial and business activities with Iranian individuals, banks, companies and government institutions were strengthened in January.
“Each bank develops its own policies and procedures and takes the steps that it feels necessary to ensure that the bank is in compliance with these regulations,” she said in an email.
The CBA has no information on what banks are doing to comply with the regulations, she said.
A Bank of Montreal spokesman says the bank has closed or frozen accounts “but only in a very few instances where required.”
“BMO carefully assesses the regulations as well as the sanctions that the office of the superintendent of financial institutions publishes on this topic to ensure that our dealings with Iranian Canadians are compliant,” said Ralph Marranca.
Sadeghi says that he stays in contact with family members in Iran but has had no financial transactions with them.
He says it took TD representatives one month to reply to his request for an explanation for the account closure. The reply he received said they could not provide an explanation.
Sadeghi has since opened a new bank account with CIBC. He has also created a Facebook group called “Condemn TD Bank in their Treatment of clients with Iranian Background” and says he has received a lot of support.
On the Facebook group, there are a number of posts from people who say they are considering cancelling their TD bank accounts in protest.
“No Canadians should be subject to this. A discrimination and charter challenge should be in place,” said one post.
There is also a petition circulating online. — www.shafaqna.com/english/