KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The charge is only a misdemeanor. But if prosecutors win a conviction against Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City, they could open a new front in the national priest abuse crisis.

Finn is accused of violating Missouri’s mandatory reporter law by failing to tell state officials about hundreds of images of suspected child pornography found on the computer of a priest in his diocese.

Finn is the highest-ranking church official charged with shielding an abusive priest. Experts say a criminal conviction against him could embolden prosecutors elsewhere to more aggressively pursue members of the church hierarchy who try to protect offending clergy.

Finn has acknowledged knowing about the images for months before they were turned over to police. Finn’s attorneys say the law is unconstitutionally vague.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  1. j says:

    Abusing children is an awful thin, and so is covering up for the abuser, or moving him to another church o abuse again. This type of behavior is rampant churches all over the world and needs to be stopped. I hope the prosecution wins this case and the pedophile priest enablers are held accountable as they should be. Churches act like they are above the law, and that needs to stop, and this is a good place to start.

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