Billboard calls for KC Bishop Robert Finn to resign

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The Kansas City Star

23 October 2012

JILL TOYOSHIBA


 One of the rotating messages on an electronic billboard at the Armour Road exit of southbound I-35 calls for Bishop Robert Finn’s resignation.

A billboard on south Interstate 35 just past Armour Road spells out a blunt message:

“For the good of the people Bishop Finn must RESIGN!”

The sign also highlights an online petition that has been circulating for a month, calling for Bishop Robert Finn’s resignation.

The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese declined to comment on the billboard or the petition. And the man who organized the petition drive said he had nothing to do with the sign.

“I was really surprised, but I have no idea who paid for it,” Jeff Weis said of the message, which is among a series of ads displayed in cycles on the electronic billboard.

And the chairwoman of a national group that held a news conference in Kansas City last month to call for Finn’s resignation said Thursday that “we as an organization did not put it up.”

However, said Kristine Ward, of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition, “We have been talking with supporters there about billboards.”

Weis started the petition last month after Finn was found guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan. The priest was convicted in August of producing or attempting to produce child pornography.

Weis, who was born and raised Catholic in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, said he organized the petition because he believes Finn no longer has the credibility to lead local Catholics.

“My moral compass just says this is wrong in so many ways,” he said.

As of Thursday, the petition had more than 106,000 signatures, with comments posted by about 6,000 participants.

Weis said, however, that only 1,100 of those signing the petitions are from the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, and he would like to increase that number.

The petition, at www.bishopfinnpetition.com, is sponsored by the website www.change.org. It is addressed to Bishop Finn; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, vice president of the bishops’ conference; and Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

It asks that the bishops’ conference support Finn’s resignation, noting that “he is currently the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic cleric to be convicted in a decades-long child sexual abuse scandal” and that now, “many members of the community feel he is unfit to lead and should resign.”

Weis said the petition will eventually be printed and delivered to Catholic leaders. But they’re already aware of it, he said — it’s programmed to send email notices to the local diocesan headquarters, U.S. bishops and Vatican officials every time someone signs it.

To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to jthomas@kcstar.com

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