A bishop who was accused of putting himself and the reputation of the Catholic Church ahead of “truth and compassion” for victims has retired.
Outgoing Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop and former Ballarat vicar-general and secretary to Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, Brian Finnigan, officially resigned from his senior leadership position in the Catholic Church late Wednesday evening.
The Pope accepted Brisbane auxiliary bishop Brian Finnigan's resignation upon his reaching the retirement age of 75, the Vatican's press office has announced.
The Courier understands the Vatican formally announced his resignation at 10pm Australian time on Wednesday. Bishop Finnigan, 77, formally submitted his resignation to the Vatican in 2013 when he turned 75. He was told it by the pope there would be no formal announcement until 2015. In a letter to all Catholic clergy across Australia Bishop Finnigan admitted there had been “disappointments and challenges” in his pastoral career spanning more than 40 years.
“From those whom I may have disappointed, I seek forgiveness,” he said.
Bishop Finnigan came under intense scrutiny at the royal commission into child sex abuse by clergy earlier this month. He was accused by counsel assisting the royal commission, Angus Stewart, SC, of lacking compassion and not being candid, in an attempt to protect himself and the church, when he gave evidence.
In the wake of the inquiry, calls were made for him to be immediately sacked for his failure to report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities. Clergy sexual abuse survivor Paul Levey started an online petition calling for Bishop Finnigan to sacked for failing to intervene while he was living with convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale in Mortalke in 1982. In his petition, Mr Levey called for Bishop Finnigan to be immediately defrocked and “removed from any pastoral and clergy duties”.
Mr Levey who was just 14 at the time, told the sex abuse inquiry he’d been forced to sleep in Ridsdale’s bed and sexually abuse daily. In his private hearing, Bishop Finnigan said he knew there was a boy living with Ridsdale at Mortlake in Victoria. But in the public hearing, the bishop said he only made the discovery years later through commission transcripts. Mr Levey’s petition had almost 5200 signatures before it was announced Bishop Finnigan had retired.