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American bishop convicted of failing to report child abuse

By on Friday, 7 September 2012

Bishop Robert Finn appears in court (AP)

Bishop Robert Finn appears in court (AP)

An American bishop was convicted yesterday for failing to report child abuse.

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph was convicted of one count of failing to report suspected abuse and acquitted on another count in a brief trial.

Judge John Torrence issued the verdict and quickly set and suspended a sentence of two years’ probation. The charges carried a possible maximum sentence of a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 (£627, €788).

In a courtroom statement following the verdict, Bishop Finn said he was sorry for the hurt the events had caused.

Bishop Finn was indicted last October on the misdemeanor charges of failing to report suspected child abuse to state authorities.

The case began in December 2010, after a computer technician discovered child pornography on a computer used by Fr Shawn Ratigan and turned it over to the diocese.

The authorities were not notified until six months later, when a search of the priest’s family home turned up images of child pornography. Fr Ratigan pleaded guilty in August to five counts of producing child pornography.

The Jackson County Circuit Court announced on Wednesday that a bench, or non-jury, trial would be held the next day, rather than the scheduled jury trial on September 24.

The Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph faced similar charges, but the judge severed the cases as Bishop Finn’s trial began.

  • JabbaPapa

    There’s no excuse whatsoever for this, not in 2010 !!! The Bishop cannot blame anyone but himself for ignoring both the Civil Law and the Canon Law requiring him to report this crime to the authorities — but has that computer technician also been charged or convicted of failing to report this crime ?

  • Nat_ons

    We must reap what we sow. How the failure was allowed to happen, let alone why, is what needs to be addressed by his brother bishops, the bishop involved, and the bishop’s own aides. When a medical doctor fails in the performance of his duty – if not premeditated or malicious or mass murder – his ignorance and weakness are corrected by attending a suitable course; the cure of souls, however, needs so much more than corrective courses – if it is to be effective.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    I have changed my opinion as this terrible scandal has unfolded over the years. 

    If the Church in centuries past sent a guilty cleric (after an Ecclesiastical Court process) to the civil authority for punishment, then She must do the same now, even if the civil authority, as in so many countries now, is innately hostile to the Church. 

    This Bishop is very, very lucky to get away with a suspended sentence. 

  • Basil Loftus

    Its strange that priests have a record for providing pastoral care for criminals but are often quite unhelpful to fathers estranged from their children and trying to maintain contact despite difficult the opposition that fathers so often experience.

  • teigitur

    I really do despair. Will these men ever learn. They cannot cover up for or move around child-abusing Priests. He should be removed from office fortwith, as, by the way, most of the Hierarchy of Ireland should have been too.

  • teigitur

    What on earth has that to do with this posting?

  • Jeannine

    Bishop Finn is generally a good shepard to his people. I was very surprised to read about his very bad lapse in judgement last yr, given all the documents & civil laws out there about notifying the police about such incidents, that have been “on the books” for years.

    The American judges have to weigh the pros & cons about sending a convicted person to jail. Many American jails are overcrowded & they generally house violent criminals or white collar criminals who intensely abuse the “system.”——like Bernie Madoff.

    The judge is probably waging that this bishop will have learned his lesson & will be more vigiliant in obeying the laws, thus the suspended sentence. I suspect if this judge sees Finn in his court again for similar offenses, the “good” bishop will then spend time in jail & rightfully so.

  • JabbaPapa

    It *will* be interesting to see what sort of sanctions are handed down to him by his hierarchy now that he is demonstrated to have broken Canon Law.

  • JabbaPapa

    The judge is probably waging that this bishop will have learned his
    lesson & will be more vigiliant in obeying the laws, thus the
    suspended sentence.

    The apparently extensive cooperation after the fact probably helped in this respect, too…

  • BulgarianMan

    Bulgaria is the oldest nation and country in Europe.

  • JabbaPapa

    Bulgaria as a nation has existed since 1908.

  • 2_Armpits_4_Sister_Sarah

    I am confused by this case. Why did the technician not report his findings to the police or his own superiors if he was not a privately employed contractor? Secondly, the diocese should have never have accepted into their possession what amounted to criminal evidence.

  • JabbaPapa

    Exactly — the computer technician broke the Law by not taking his evidence straight to the Police in the first place.

    If I were to be repairing somebody’s rig and uncover such criminal evidence, it would be 1) Police 2) Bishop — not 1) Bishop 2) nobody else.

  • 2_Armpits_4_Sister_Sarah

    I’m enjoying the satire!

  • andHarry

     It is not a question of ‘learning’. Richard Sipe was present at the installation of a number of new cardinals over 10 years ago, and he stated that they took a solemn vow to conceal all those things which might bring dishonour to the Church. Can we be surprised if this kind of behaviour results and is indeed abetted by the hierarchy?

  • scary goat

    Good.  One down…….how many more to go?  The Holy Spirit at work. If the heirarchy cannot/will not clean house from the inside, someone else will do it from the outside.  I hope this is giving a few bishops and others a few sleepless nights.

  • teigitur

    I do not know who Richard Snipe is, and I find that a bit hard to believe.

  • TheBlueWarrior

    The following news release from the Catholic League provides some context for this case.

  • JabbaPapa

    Ah !!

    Thank you for this information !!!

  • Jonathan West

    It looks as if the Catholic League is engaging in a bit of spin. The New York Times has an article of some length, reporting the stipulated testimony (i.e. testimony accepted both both prosecution and defence as being factual.) I’ll quote the relevant parts.

    “The case began when the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest who had previously attracted attention for inappropriate behavior with children, took his laptop computer in for repairs in December 2010. A technician immediately told church officials that the laptop contained what appeared to be pornographic photographs of young girls’ genitals, naked and clothed.

    Father Ratigan attempted suicide, survived and was sent for treatment. Bishop Finn reassigned him to live in a convent and ordered him stay away from children. But Father Ratigan continued to attend church events and take lewd pictures of girls for five more months, until church officials reported him in May 2011, without Bishop Finn’s approval. The bishop was found guilty on the charge relating only to that time period.

    Father Ratigan pleaded guilty in August to federal child pornography charges, and is awaiting sentencing.

    Ms. Peters Baker told the judge in opening arguments that Bishop Finn had been given ample warning that Father Ratigan was a danger to children. She said that the priest had even admitted to Bishop Finn that he had “a pornography problem.”

    The prosecutor said: “Defendant Finn is the ultimate authority. The buck does stop with him.”

    In May 2010, the principal of the Catholic elementary school where Father Ratigan was working sent a memo to the diocese raising alarm about the priest. The letter said that he had put a girl on his lap on a bus ride and encouraged children to reach into his pockets for candy, and that parents discovered girl’s underwear in a planter outside his house. Bishop Finn has said he did not read the letter until a year later.

    The prosecutor said the photographs discovered on Father Ratigan’s laptop in December 2010 were “alarming photos,” among them a series taken on a playground in which the photographer moves in closer until the final shots show girls’ genitalia through their clothing. Confronted with the photographs, Father Ratigan tried to commit suicide, but survived and was briefly hospitalized.

    Bishop Finn sent Father Ratigan for a psychological examination, then assigned him to live in a convent and told him not to have contact with children. But despite the restrictions, Father Ratigan presided at a girl’s First Communion and attended an Easter egg hunt and a child’s birthday party.”

    I think you’ll agree that is quite a different story from the heavily spun version put out by the Catholic League. 

    Later, the NYT article states that “Bishop Finn and the diocese still face 27 civil suits, 4 of them involving Father Ratigan.”, which suggests very strongly that complaints concerning Ratigan are about more than child pornography.

  • JabbaPapa

    I think you’ll agree that is quite a different story from the heavily spun version

    I think that most reasonable people would conclude that “heavily spun” more accurately describes this internet post of yours than the simple and semantically straightforward Catholic League story.

  • 2_Armpits_4_Sister_Sarah

    Does anyone know if Rod Strange reported the serious assault which took place at the Beda during the last academic year? My understanding is that it was so violent as to constitute GBH. It involved a drunken Australian seminarian assaulting a religious from South-East Asia.

  • 2_Armpits_4_Sister_Sarah

    Sipe like Thomas Doyle is a fraud.

  • Sean

    Pedophilia is present in our society and the Bishop failed in his duty to protect any child. There needs to be zero tolerance for pedophilia. I doubt the Bishop has lost his post because there has been a culture of silence in the church over this issue. May be we need a married clergy because we seem to be attracting too many deviants?

  • TheBlueWarrior

    If you want to talk spin, the NYT can hardly be called even-handed when covering anything to do with the Catholic Church.  And there’s plenty out on the internet to prove the point.

  • Guest234

    Reply to tegitur and “sister” Sarah, What Spie is alluding to is the doctrine of “mental reservation”. It is a 700 year old doctrine and it is part of the moral theology subject. All clerics and religious orders can invoke this! It is not restricted to cardinals.
    Please be charitable. Spie is not a fraud as some of you people describe. He was on the inside. he was a Benedictine monk for 18years. He should know what goes on inside, rather than you plastic chair internet cafe critics 

  • Jonathan West

    Well if “simple and semantically straightforward” is your criterion, you would accept The Lord of the Rings as being true.

    I’ll repeat that the NYT was reporting stipulated testimony, i.e. accepted by the defence as being true.

  • JabbaPapa

    I’ll repeat that the NYT was reporting stipulated testimony, i.e. accepted by the defence as being true

    There are multiple reasons why the Defense might choose not to contest this or that statement of the Prosecution, in the frankly bizarre US Legal system, as you are well aware.

    And you *seriously* think The Lord of the Rings is “simple and semantically straightforward” ??????

  • Jonathan West

    You know perfectly well that something can be simple and semantically straightforward without having any connection at all to the facts. I found it rather amusing that this was the best reason you could come up with for believing the Catholic League statement. If that is your criterion for believing things, you can be gulled into believing anything.

    As for the US legal system, it’s not as bizarre as all that, and I find it far more believable that the church would accept a true statement in court and then try to spin it afterwards to mitigate the bad publicity.

    I find that far more believable because I know that it has happened before many times. For instance in 2006, when Ealing Abbey lost the civil action brought by “C” concerning the child sex abuse committed by Father David Pearce, the word was put out among the congregation that the case had been settled out of court out of consideration for C’s welfare, so he would not have to testify. This was a complete lie, the case had been fully contested in court, C had testified, and the judge decided in C’s favour. Moreover, when Pearce was placed on restricted ministry, the reason given was “to protect Father David from unfounded allegations” when the Abbot knew that the allegations were very well founded, as subsequent investigations have shown.

    The child abuse crisis in the Catholic Church will have no end while people like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League distort events and people like you are all too ready to accept those distortions as truth.

  • JabbaPapa

    bla-bla-bla …

    If that is your criterion for believing things, you can be gulled into believing anything.

    — meanwhile, some people fail to understand the simple and straightforward fact that your internet posts here above are forcible and that they pander to the author’s prejudice and a priori, rather than attempting any sort of straightforwardness or objectivity.

    The child abuse crisis in the Catholic Church will have no end while
    people like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League distort events and
    people like you are all too ready to accept those distortions as truth.

    In fact, it’s people ike you who are not just willing, but frankly eager to both believe and to publicise the worst interpretations only, to the exclusion of any kind of restraint or doubt, who are the main causes for the grossly exaggerated attacks in the media against Catholic clergy in general.

  • 12Maria34

    Actually, Bishop Finn is one of the good bishop.  All the liberal Catholics wants him out, I want him as he is a good bishop.  He made a mistake.  He is ultimately answerable to God alone.  Out of the goodness of his heart as a pastor of his flock, he gave a second chance that turned out to be the bishop’s terrible mistake. 

  • Jonathan West

    When abuse is so routinely covered up, only to be uncovered years later with a lot of work, you can only expect  people to assume that more coverups are happening.

    A classic example is Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School, which I have taken an especial interest in as my son attended the school for a time. 

    At his prizegiving day address to the school and parents in September 2010, Headmaster Christopher Cleugh said:

    Recent media and blog coverage seems hell-bent on trying to discredit the School and, at the same time, destroy the excellent relationship between School and Monastery. Is this part of an anti-Catholic movement linked to the papal visit? I do not know, but it feels very much as if we are being targeted.

    Move forward a year, and the publication of the Carlile report, and you find a very different tone from him.

    Past abuses at the School have left a terrible legacy for those affected and have tarnished the reputation of St Benedict’s. On behalf of all at the School, I offer my heartfelt apology for past failures. The School could have, and should have, done more.

    Moreover, the school accepted Lord Carlile’s conclusion that “the excellent relationship between School and Monastery” as implemented in the school’s governance arrangements was “wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable”.

    With examples like this, you can only expect that non-Catholics will tend to believe no more than about one word in ten of any Catholic statement on the abuse crisis.

  • scary goat

     Sorry, Jabba, but on this subject only, I’m afraid I actually agree with Jonathan West. 

  • JabbaPapa

    you can only expect that non-Catholics will tend to believe no more than
    about one word in ten of any Catholic statement on the abuse crisis

    Thank you for admitting in so many words that I am correct in describing your attitude towards this story as being “prejudiced”.

  • Jonathan West

    I’m anti-abuse, not anti-catholic. If being anti-abuse is being prejudiced, then I am proud to be so.

  • Cafeteria R.C.

    No one is above civil law. The policy of silence the truth to protect the image is wrong and the root cause of so many RCs today to lose faith in their church. Just look at Ireland.

  • Cafeteria R.C.

    The law is in need to be without time limits and a fixed penalty. The sexual abuse of a child and or the cover up of the crime is so wrong. If it was your child, how would you feel?