A Catholic bishop was charged Friday

Here is another insight into reluctance among some church leaders. Change is never easy. When our worldview is long standing as was the Catholic (and other) Church’s, just exactly how we need to change, and how rapidly, is always unclear.  Certitude is hard to come by, especially when there is no clear model to adopt. 

It appears this particular bishop was too slow to uinderstand the differences between pastoral concern for his clergy, and pastoral concern for his entire diocese. Every bishop has to balance his administrative duties with his pastoral role. It is not a slap at Catholicism, any more than is a moral failure of a Protestant or Anglo-Catholic leader is a slap at their church bodies.  Don’t get down on Church or Christianity, remain constant in your personal holiness.


October 14, 2011

A Catholic bishop was charged Friday with not telling police about child
pornography found on a priest’s computer, making him the highest-ranking U.S.
Catholic official indicted on a charge of failing to protect children.

Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert Finn, the first U.S.
bishop criminally charged with sheltering an abusive clergyman, pleaded not
guilty to one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Finn and his diocese, which
also was charged with one count, had “reasonable cause” to suspect a child had
been abused after learning of the images.

“Now that the grand jury investigation has resulted in this indictment, my
office will pursue this case vigorously because it is about protecting
children,” Baker said. “I want to ensure there are no future failures to report
resulting in other unsuspecting victims.”

This May 3, 2004, file photo provided by the Archdiocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph, Mo., shows the Rev. Monsignor Robert Finn, who is facing a criminal charge for not telling police about child pornography that was found on a priest's computer.

 AP   This May 3, 2004, file photo provided by the Archdiocese of Kansas City and
St. Joseph, Mo., shows the Rev. Monsignor Robert Finn, who is facing a criminal
charge for not telling police about child pornography that was found on a
priest’s computer.

Finn has acknowledged that he and other diocese officials knew for months
about hundreds of “disturbing” images of children that were discovered on a
priest’s computer but did not report the matter to authorities or turn over the

In a statement issued through the diocese, Finn denied any wrongdoing and
said he had begun work to overhaul the diocese’s reporting policies and act on
key findings of a diocese-commissioned investigation into its handling of
Ratigan’s case.

“Today, the Jackson County Prosecutor issued these charges against me
personally and against the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph,” said Finn, who
officials said was not under arrest. “For our part, we will meet these
announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

After the Catholic sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002, grand juries in several
regions reviewed how bishops handled claims against priests. However, most of
the allegations were decades old and far beyond the statute of limitations.
Until Finn was indicted Friday, no U.S. Catholic bishop had been criminally
charged over how he responded to abuse claims, although some bishops had struck
deals with local authorities to avoid prosecution against their dioceses.

Terry McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org, which manages a public database
of records on clergy abuse cases, called Friday’s indictment especially
important because it involved a recent case. He said the charge being a
misdemeanor makes it no less significant.

“The taboo against acknowledging that bishops are responsible in these
matters has been challenged,” McKiernan said.

Finn acknowledged earlier this year that St. Patrick’s School Principal Julie
Hess had more than a year ago raised concerns that a priest was behaving
inappropriately around children, but that he didn’t read her written report
until after the Rev. Shawn Ratigan was charged with child pornography counts
this spring. Ratigan has pleaded not guilty.

In a memo dated May 19, 2010, Hess wrote that several people had complained
Ratigan was taking compromising pictures of young children and that he allowed
them to sit on his lap and reach into his pocket for candy.

Hess at the time gave the report to Monsignor Robert Murphy, the diocese’s
vicar general, who spoke with Ratigan about setting boundaries with children and
then gave Finn a verbal summary of the letter and his meeting with the

Seven months later, a computer technician working on Ratigan’s laptop found
hundreds of what he called “disturbing” images of children, most of them fully
clothed with the focus on their crotch areas, and a series of pictures of a 2-
to 3-year-old girl with her genitals exposed.

The computer was turned over to the diocese, where officials examined the
photos and reported them to Murphy. Instead of reporting them to authorities, as
required by Missouri’s mandatory reporting law, Murphy called a police captain
who is a member of the diocese’s independent review board and described a single
photo of a nude child that was not sexual in nature.
Without viewing the
photo, Capt. Rick Smith said he was advised that although such a picture might
meet the definition of child pornography, it probably wouldn’t be investigated
or prosecuted.

A diocese computer technician downloaded materials from Ratigan’s computer
onto a flash drive and Finn eventually returned the laptop to Ratigan’s brother,
who destroyed it.

Smith said he was shocked in May when Murphy told him there had been hundreds
of photos on Ratigan’s laptop, rather than a single image. Smith demanded the
computer be turned over to police, but since the computer had been turned over
to Ratigan’s family, it handed over the flash drive, instead.


About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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