How does a diocese deal with having its bishop indicted? The New York Times visited a parish in Kansas City — the former parish of Fr. Shawn Rattigan, the priest at the center of the scandal — to find out.
The Rev. Justin Hoye was struggling to figure out what, if anything, to say on Sunday to his parishioners at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church about the new turmoil facing the local Roman Catholic diocese.
Days before, news had broken that Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese had been indicted on criminal charges for failing to report a priest found to have pornographic photos of children, including children of his congregants. The priest is accused of having taken more such photographs in the months before church leaders turned them over to law enforcement.
Father Hoye, after reaching out to priests in neighboring parishes — all of whom expressed the same uncertainty — decided not to address the matter directly from the pulpit but to offer a homily on man and God that emphasized forgiveness.
“Most people are savvy enough to understand what I’m saying without having to actually say it,” he explained between morning services at St. Patrick’s. “It’s a polarizing subject and not everyone is in the same place.”
The announcement on Friday that Bishop Finn, of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, had become the highest ranking member of the clergy to be charged with a crime stemming from the sex abuse scandals that have engulfed the church has caused disappointment and anger in the Catholic community here.
Nowhere is that more true than at St. Patrick’s, where the former pastor, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, was once well-regarded for his easy manner, fondness for children and the camera that he always brought to events at the church and the parish elementary school.
As parishioners streamed into the brightly lighted sanctuary for morning Mass — elderly couples and young families, a diverse group that included white, black, Asian and Hispanic — they mostly avoided mention of the latest development in what has been a long, painful story.
They were here to worship God, several said, not to lament the failings of the humans who served him, and as far as they were concerned this Sunday was like any other. Father Hoye said not a single parishioner had brought up the subject with him.
But after the readings and the hymns, the silent prayers and the words of wisdom from Father Hoye, some privately expressed their dismay at the church leadership.
“Obviously we’re not O.K. with this and we don’t like the way it was handled,” said Jason Krysl, standing with his wife, a teacher at a Catholic school, who was holding their 7-month-old son. “But it’s frustrating because there’s not much you can do about it. It’s not like you can vote for bishop.”