The headline in the Kansas City Star is a bit misleading. BISHOP FINN AVOIDS INDICTMENT BY ENTERING INTO DIVERSION PROGRAM. This is true, but only for Clay County, Missouri. Bishop Finn has already been indicted in Jackson County, Missouri and has pled not guilty in that case. Unless a deal is struck there, he will face a trial.
In the Clay County case, the prosecutor has agreed not to seek an indictment if Bishop Finn participates in a monthly program that in effect allows the county government to have a certain degree of hands-on involvement in running or monitoring the sexual abuse response programs of the diocese.
Reaction to this deal, as reported by the Star, runs from satisfaction to outrage. I think the most telling quote is this:
" ... For the church to put itself in a position where the only way out of its legal difficulties is to submit to the oversight of governmental authorities, just that is really a tragic day for the church," said Nicholas Cafardi, a law professor at Duquesne University and former chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth.
I, for one, am pleased that Bishop Finn agreed to use “all reasonable resources” to identify any child whose photograph or video emerges during a child abuse investigation, which is precisely what they did not do in the Fr. Ratigan case, which I explain in detail here and here.
But I still say, all legal questions aside, that the way to deal with this thing is with the use of one of the most powerful spiritual weapons at our disposal as Catholics - public penance by Bishop Finn.
Bishop Finn, we know you are not a monster. We know you are a follower of Christ; we know you are a shepherd in the Church, one of our leaders. Please do not lead by example when your example is merely worldly. Show us the power of the sacraments and of the grace of God for which you have dedicated your life. Cutting a deal for worldly reasons is one thing; doing public penance in sackcloth and ashes is quite another - not only would that act carry tremendous supernatural weight and set the devil scurrying, it would be the most powerful witness to Christians and agnostics alike - the witness to how we all should acknowledge and repent of our sins.
It may be the very act God has ordained you to; it may be the great good He looks for out of this sorry shambles of evil and cowardice He has allowed. Do not let this opportunity pass you by.