Judge drops charge against Bishop Finn, forcing settlement

Kansas City, Mo., May 16, 2013 / 04:38 pm (CNA).- A Missouri judge has dropped a charge that Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph aided and abetted a priest who possessed child pornography, though another charge remains and the diocese has settled a $600,000 lawsuit in the case.

U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner dismissed the charge on the grounds that the law concerns accusations of aiding and abetting a perpetrator before or during the commission of the crime.

He said the diocese and the bishop did not know about the hundreds of lewd photos on Kansas City priest Father Shawn Ratigan’s laptop until after he committed the crime, the Associated Press reports.

Lawyers tentatively settled a lawsuit filed against the bishop and his diocese on behalf of a girl who was two years old when the priest took lewd photos of her in 2006.

The settlement was tentatively settled for $600,000, Gregg Meyers of the Minnesota law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates told the Associated Press before the deal was officially announced.

Judge Fenner retained one count accusing Bishop Finn and the diocese of receiving, possessing or distributing pornographic images of the girl, which Fr. Ratigan took in May 2006 at a church.

In December 2010, a computer technician found numerous images of children – primarily focused on the genitals or buttocks of prepubescent girls – on Fr. Ratigan’s laptop. He informed a deacon who reported the find to diocesan officials. The priest was then removed from ministry, but he attempted suicide after diocesan officials told them of the discovery of the images.

After Fr. Ratigan’s recovery from the near-fatal suicide attempt, Bishop Finn sent the priest to the Vincentian Mission House in Independence, Missouri.

Bishop Finn delegated the investigation of sex abuse claims against the priest to the diocese’s vicar general, who did not contact law enforcement about the images until May 2011, after which the priest was arrested.

In August 2012 Fr. Ratigan pled guilty to taking pornographic pictures of the lawsuit’s plaintiff. He still awaits sentencing.

The diocese’s vicar general told Bishop Finn about the pictures but the bishop never saw them himself.

In September 2012 Bishop Finn was convicted on a misdemeanor account of failure to report suspected child abuse. He was sentenced to two years of probation with a suspended sentence.

An independent investigation of the case found a failure to follow diocesan policy in a timely manner and faulted diocesan officials for not taking the case to the diocese’s independent review board.

Diocese spokesman Jack Smith told the Associated Press that the settlement will be covered by insurance. The deal addresses two lawsuits, including one that the girl’s parents had planned to file in state court this week.

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