KC update: Bishop Finn not planning to resign

Details:

Calls for Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn to resign started even before last week, when he became the highest-ranking church leader in the sex abuse scandal criminally charged with sheltering an accused priest.

The bishop of Kansas City, Mo., had acknowledged in May that he waited five months to tell police about the hundreds of images of alleged child pornography found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s computer. Ratigan had taken some of the photos of girls months ago at an Easter party he hosted, investigators said. More than 700 people have joined a Facebook page called “Bishop Finn Must Go.”

However, no such demands have come from within the church hierarchy. Finn, who has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected child abuse, is expected to stay on.

Finn has “a full schedule of pastoral activities,” his spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said. “That will continue and he has no plans to change it.”

In the 25 years since the clergy abuse problem became public, only one American bishop — Cardinal Bernard Law, former archbishop of Boston — has resigned over keeping guilty clerics in church jobs without notifying parents or police. Law had to ask Pope John Paul II twice before receiving permission to step down.

Grand juries in several regions investigated how bishops handled claims against priests. However, most of the cases were decades old and far beyond the statute of limitations. Some bishops, including those in New Hampshire and Phoenix, negotiated deals with local authorities to avoid prosecution of their dioceses.

The case closest to Finn’s was that of Bishop Daniel Walsh, formerly of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif.

Walsh continued to lead the diocese for about five years after he was threatened with criminal charges in 2006 for waiting five days after a priest admitted wrongdoing to report him. The priest fled to Mexico before he could be arrested. Walsh agreed to participate in a four-month counseling program and was not charged with violating state law requiring clergy to immediately report suspicion of child abuse. Walsh stepped down as Santa Rosa bishop earlier this year, one year ahead of the mandatory age, 75, at which bishops must submit their resignations to the pope.

In Finn’s case, the Holy See is not expected to intervene. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he would not discuss the situation “because there’s a civil process under way.” Al Notzen, chairman of the National Review Board, a lay panel formed by bishops to help monitor child safety, said the board doesn’t comment on individual cases. No other American prelates have remarked publicly on the Kansas City case.

Read more.

  • Good Catholic

    I don’t know much about this story or the facts surrounding the events … but when does the good-of-the-many take priority over the interests-of-the-individual ? Bishops should bring people together and closer to Christ … not drive them away.

    Just my uninformed opinion.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    Preserve the sinstitution at all costs.

  • Klaire

    Dcn Greg I hope you don’t take this personally, as I remain one of your biggest fans, but…

    I really get turned off with the various “public trials” of our clergy. For starters, sinners, innocent, or falsely acused, none us on the Deacon’s Bench are EVER going to have all of the facts.

    These threads always turn into occassions of sin, for all of us.

    I could understand if you want to simply put out the story, and perhaps a follow up when the “verdict” comes down, but the discussion (s) in between, honestly, don’t think they are ours to discuss.

    I know it’s your blog, but I suggest you give us the news, comments closed, and suggest we keep all involved in our prayers.

    Innocent or guilty, our priests deserve better, I think.

    Thanks!

  • daisy

    I imagine parish visits and confirmations are going to be very awkward.

  • DWiss

    I read every word of the school principal’s letter to Bishop Finn regarding Fr. Ratigan’s behavior. Had I been the Bishop, I would have taken Fr. Ratigan out of that parish the very day that I received the letter, and let the legal process move on from there.

    It may not be fair to take administrative action against a priest merely accused, but these days we have to assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. (Fr. Corapi comes to mind.) How can we do otherwise? We have a ravaged reputation to rebuild.

    I’m 100% behind the Catholic church because of her teaching, but not because of the performance of her administrators in these abuse matters. Frankly, I’m sick to death of explaining my support of the church in light of them. And the explaining will never stop if we keep making mistakes like this. I believe that those 700 names on the Facebook page are saying exactly what I’m saying: that the patience of the rank-and-file Catholic is stretched beyond the limit. We have to be PERFECT in responding to the kind of accusations presented to Bishop Finn.

  • kenneth

    I wonder if he’ll have a “full schedule of pastoral activities” when he’s wearing orange overalls and spotting guys on the bench press in the exercise yard.

  • George

    1) Public trials are the American way.

    2) You can use the opposite argument that enablers of men who commit sin are just as guilty when they tried to shield the sinner from justice.

    3) The Bishop did damage both financially and spiritually to his flock, staff, and employees by his actions. If that is not a reason to step aside and reflect ones actions, I don’t know what is.

    What is the greater good? Maintaining a prestige position with luxurious vacations, homes, drivers and assistants or seeking to heal wounds?

    I maintain that the flock deserves better from its leaders.

    Again, not a word for the abused children by the defenders.

  • Will

    “The bishop of Kansas City, Mo., had acknowledged in May that he waited five months to tell police about the hundreds of images of alleged child pornography found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s computer.”

    The article speaks for itself.

  • HMS

    Klaire #3:

    I understand your point but do not agree completely.

    I believe that I have an OBLIGATION (Sorry to shout, but I have not other way of being emphatic.) to be informed about issues that concern the Church. However, I have the responsibility to

    - fact- check my sources and opinions
    - read not only blogs, newspapers, and internet sources, etc., that I know will reinforce and confirm my opinions and
    - respect, not demonize, those with whom I do not agree.

    In my little sphere of influence I am a part of the Body of Christ in this time and place. I can’t know everything about a subject but I can try to be informed to the best of my ability. I am often driven by feelings and prejudices, some of which I may not even be aware, but I can try to rise above them.

  • Diakonos09

    If he doesn’t step down – voluntarily or otherwise – can he honestly expect to be taken seiorusly by his flock and the public at large? And how in the world could he discipline a cleric or layperson in his diocese that may be accused? Certainly he cannot fault them if they failed to report something in the (legal) timely manner. If he remains in office then, of course, offical ecclesial teachings and disciplines he speaks must be obeyed but beyond that…an empty sound blowing in the breeze.

  • friscoeddie

    Those who want bishop Finn not to resign and keep on defending him, reminds me of the people on the overpasses cheering on OJ as he fled in the white Ford Bronco.
    Are they just Finn fans and not Catholics?

  • Greta

    Seems like the legal court has a process in place and the Catholic Church has the Dallas agreement and canon law in place. I think letting this play out as these things call for makes a great deal of sense.

    In 1993, Cardinal Bernardin was accused of not only abuse himself, but also of covering up for many other abusers. On the day he was hit with the lawsuit, the USCCB took time from their meeting to praise and stand behind Cook urging everyone to allow this to play out with due process. By the posts today, he should have resigned from office. Many today saw he was never cleared of the crime and in fact we often hear of those who surrounded Bernardin during his career as “Bernardins boys” who later were found guilty of abuse. The Cardinal died and is widely praised today, mostly by the liberals of the Church.

    Around that time, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was accused of abuse as well. He did not resign.

    The Cincinnati archdiocese pleaded guilty in 2003 for failing to report abuse and was fined $10,000. The diocese in Manchester, New Hampshire, cut a deal with prosecutors in the previous year to avoid charges. The Kansas City diocese paid $10 million in 2008 to settle a civil lawsuit over priest abuse. In other words, like all cases, they are often settled out of court and or fines are paid. In none of these cases were the bishops forced to resign nor personally found guilty.

    There are many other accusations that have beel leveled and some here have good reason for calling for those at the head of the church if guilty, to pay a price. If he is convicted of the crime, the Bishop will probably at a minimum pay a fine or could do some jail time but I doubt it. Frankly, I think he will be found innocent. If so, not sure what he would be called to leave office, but that would be up to those in authority per canon law.

    That is not making excuses, but seeking to see the right methods used which is the same thing I think should happen in other cases such as Father Pavone. I hope he gets his day in the docket to his petition to the Vatican as well and believe he will indeed get that opportunity.

  • David Blake

    Bishop Finn had FOUR highly paid attorneys that got the charges lessened. Why are Catholics willing to pay to protect someone who hid a known pedophile for a year? Why is an “apology” enough punishment for leaving a known pedophile with children? Why are Catholics following a bishop who broke God’s laws instead of following God’s laws?

    Here is what we know:

    1) Bishop Finn hid a known pedophile for over a year after he got a memo from a school principal about Ratigan

    2) Bishop Finn refused to report a computer full of child porn to the actual police (although he told a police friend of his about one porn picture over the phone)

    3) Bishop Finn concealed evidence in a felony case. Finn gave a computer full of Ratigan’s porn back to Ratigan’s family instead of giving the evidence to the police.

    4) Bishop Finn allowed the pedophile around children for months, even after he sent Ratigan to a Catholic pedophile specialist for counseling

    However, four high priced attorneys, paid for by Kansas City parishioners, had the charges dropped to a misdemeanor. Why don’t Catholics mind paying for someone who hid a known pedophile?

  • http://bob.yerhot.org Deacon Bob Yerhot

    I went to school with Bishop Finn at the North American College back in the 70s. He was a good man then, and I believe he is a good man now.

  • friscoeddie

    Deacon Bob Y,
    I worked with 25 creditably accused priests. some were creepy some, were ok, some were like the best you ever saw. go figure…

  • naturgesetz

    David Blake,

    Your language is very imprecise. What does “pedophile” mean? Someone who finds prepubescent children attractive but manages to refrain from sexual activity with them? Someone who finds prepubescent children attractive and rapes them?

    If the former, there is nothing to report, and the person should be commended for his self-control. If the latter, the man should be reported at once.

    Bishop Finn had something less that evidence of rape.

  • kenneth

    Whether Finn had evidence of actual rape is not relevant to the level of charge he is facing. The evidence, as charged, shows that he knew Ratigan was in possession of LARGE amounts of child pornography. Whether he had personal contact with any of the depicted children is not the only issue. Possession of this stuff is big-time illegal because it actively underwrites the direct abuse of real children.

    Whether or not Ratigan ever did or ever would have acted directly on these fantasies is immaterial. The law presumes that someone involved in child pornography is a danger to minors. That has been borne out by long experience. People convicted of this stuff have to register with the cops and often public databases for the rest of their lives. They are not allowed to live near schools or to have any unsupervised contact with kids.

    Unless he is an idiot, which I very much doubt, Finn knew full well that his priest was involved in heavy crime and displayed tendencies that clearly put children at serious risk. There is simply no plausible way that a bishop of this church in this day and age can claim to be unaware of the law or moral obligation or the church’s many policies which acknowledge his duty and the potential harm to children from inaction. None whatsoever.

    He chose to ignore his duties under the law. He created a loophole in his own mind by telling himself there was no real crime which needed reporting. Fortunately the prosecutors aren’t buying that malarkey, and neither will any jury. The crime he is charged with is proportionate to his actions and if anything, is lenient considering the circumstances. He deserves the same presumption of innocence and the same chance to make a defense as any other criminal suspect. He does not deserve to skate because people think he’s a “good guy” or because of his rank or because some people think the secular media or liberals have it in for him.

  • Vocatio

    And people wonder why I left the seminary to distrust clergy for nearly 30 years. Everyone thought I was exaggerating the truth. I could tell they were judging me and not the priest, who admitted to his crime 22 years after the fact. But the Diocese to this day has yet to apologize or offer real help. And you wonder why I need anger management classes. It’s a wonder I never sought legal action against them… Clock is still ticking. This is why much of the world has lost faith in self-proclaiming righteousness. Righteousness is dictated by one’s actions as seen from the outside, not the inside. Rid the world of these frauds, Lord. Save us from their wicked ways. Don’t even try to reply to me over my feelings. It’s just a miracle that I came back home to the Catholic Church.

  • George

    @ naturgesetz

    “Bishop Finn had something less that evidence of rape.”

    That is false.

    Rattigan is accused of actually taking the child porn photos of little girls not merely possessing it.

    “The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of a minor girl by her parents, identified as Mother Doe 186 and Father Doe 186, alleges that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan used the child to produce pornographic pictures, then distributed them over the Internet. ”

    “Authorities found pictures of the girl, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe 186, and numerous other girls on a computer at St. Mary Parish in St. Joseph and on compact discs found during a search of Ratigan family members’ homes after his arrest in May, the lawsuit says.

    The lawsuit alleges that instead of notifying police about disturbing photographs found on Ratigan’s laptop computer in December, the diocese “aided and abetted” Ratigan by covering up his behavior, copying and distributing the photos he created and collaborating to destroy the evidence.”

    No matter how the Bishop’s supporter try to cover for him, the truth will come out in trial.

  • George

    @ Deacon Bob Yerhot

    Good men don’t cover for child abusers and pedophiles. Good men should be the first ones to report them to authorties.

    Bishop Flinn not only did not report to police the school’s reports of Rattigan’s behavior, child’s panties in his garden, nor the child porn, but continued to allow him to have contact with children.

  • Melody

    I don’t know how many have watched the old Star Trek episodes. They were always talking about the “Prime Directive”. In some ways I think these instances of bishops protecting or even enabling criminal behavior relate to them fundamentally misunderstanding their Prime Directive. Somehow it became protecting the Church from scandal. Which is sick and wrong; but in their mind they were doing the right thing by doing the wrong thing, because the ultimate wrong was for the Church to look bad. Which of course happened anyway, an order of magnitude worse than would have been the case if the truth had been told in the first place. Some of our leaders are having to re-learn what the Prime Directive should be (hint: Jesus talked about it a lot).

  • Greta

    More on Bishop Finn from Father Z blog…

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/10/the-catholic-league-supports-bp-finn-of-kansas-city-st-joseph/

    Strong support from Catholic League with a far different account of the events.

    As I said above, the legal courts and the Catholic canon law and Dallas agreement seem to be able to handle this and it looks like it will with Bishop Finn looking like he did everything that was called for and correct. However, it would be important to have all sides shown on this issue.

  • Mac

    there is an entire section in hell for the arrogant————-full of clergy————

  • naturgesetz

    George #19

    If you don’t understand the difference between taking a picture and rape, it’s useless trying to have an intelligent discussion with you.

  • HMS

    I think it would be wise for Fr. Z and Bill Donahue to refrain from being giving too much support to Bishop Finn, unless, of course, they say that one is innocent until proven guilty. It is very likely to blow up in their faces.

    Here are the facts that I find particularly disturbing:
    Bishop Finn wrote a pastoral letter entitled “Blessed Are the Pure In Heart: A Pastoral Letter on the Dignity of the Human Person and the Dangers of Pornography” (February 27, 2007). Granted it dealt with the dangers of viewing and being addicted to pornography, not posting it. But, here is relevant quote:

    “Traffickers in Child Pornography may end up in prison. It has often been associated with and has contributed to, acts of sexual violence and abuse.”

    One would think that Bishop Finn would be alert to any red flags about a priest about whom a Catholic elementary school principal had written in a letter a year before the arrest of Fr. Ratigan to Msgr. Murphy, the vicar general. It warned of odd behavior of Fr. Ratigan with children in the parish as reported by parents and teachers.

    Another relevant quote from the pastoral letter is addressed to teachers, administrators and parish staff:

    “Each of you in a unique way are valued members of the Church’s team and the Church needs your help in fighting this evil.”

    Apparently, the bishop had been given a summary. He said in a press conference:

    “Hindsight makes it clear that I should have requested from Monsignor Murphy an actual copy of the report.”

    As to Donahue’s comment that Fr. Ratigan was depressed and suicidal – not surprising – he was caught. I am more concerned about the parents and their children, who were posed in Fr. Ratigan’s pictures. Their pictures will be part of any trial.

  • naturgesetz

    George,

    Let me try to explain in a bit more depth what my problem is with your post and David Blake’s.

    Basically, I think you’re exaggerating.

    David said, “Bishop Finn hid a known pedophile for over a year after he got a memo from a school principal about Ratigan.”
    But the memo did not claim that Fr. Ratigan was engaging in pedophilia. So to call him “a known pedophile” is to “embellish” — that is distort — the facts. And in fact, as originally reported, after hearing of the memo, he had the vicar general talk to Fr. Ratigan and tell him to amend his behavior.

    David said, “Bishop Finn refused to report a computer full of child porn to the actual police (although he told a police friend of his about one porn picture over the phone)” But I am unaware that he was ever asked to turn over the computer, so he can’t have “refused” to do so. He failed to do so, but to say he refused is to exaggerate.

    David said, “Bishop Finn concealed evidence in a felony case. Finn gave a computer full of Ratigan’s porn back to Ratigan’s family instead of giving the evidence to the police.” But what I’ve read says that he gave a copy of the pictures to the police — which is why the actual pictures could be seen by the authorities. While it is true that he gave the actual computer to the family, that is a half truth in light of his giving the copy to the authorities. Saying he concealed evidence is an exaggeration.

    (To be continued. The filter thinks my full comment is “spammy,” so I’m splitting it up.”

  • naturgesetz

    George,

    continued from #26

    You quoted me and responded, “‘Bishop Finn had something less that evidence of rape.’

    That is false.

    Rattigan is accused of actually taking the child porn photos of little girls not merely possessing it.” But nothing you mention constitutes rape. To say that it does is a gross exaggeration.

    You go on to quote a source you don’t identify concerning a lawsuit — not the indictment — ““The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of a minor girl by her parents, identified as Mother Doe 186 and Father Doe 186, alleges that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan used the child to produce pornographic pictures, then distributed them over the Internet. ”

    “Authorities found pictures of the girl, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe 186, and numerous other girls on a computer at St. Mary Parish in St. Joseph and on compact discs found during a search of Ratigan family members’ homes after his arrest in May, the lawsuit says.

    The lawsuit alleges that instead of notifying police about disturbing photographs found on Ratigan’s laptop computer in December, the diocese “aided and abetted” Ratigan by covering up his behavior, copying and distributing the photos he created and collaborating to destroy the evidence.”

    This does not even allege that Bishop Finn knew that Fr. Ratigan had taken the pictures, as opposed to downloading them from the internet.

    I’m not making excuses for what Fr. Ratigan did, but with respect to Bishop Finn, I think there is a real question of what did he know, and when did he know it, and to suggest that he knew everything about Fr. Ratigan from the moment he heard of the memo is to exaggerate badly. To suggest that he knew that Fr. Ratigan was the one who took the pictures goes beyond what I have heard of the case.

    Whatever Bishop Finn’s mistakes and failures, criminal or not, it is unjust to make them out to be worse than the available evidence shows.

  • cathyf

    (This is going to be in several parts, since the patheos spam filter is designed to reject anything long enough to be thoughtful.)

    To expand a bit on naturgesetz comments…

    If it is your purpose to find scapegoats and heap abuse upon them, then exaggerations and outright falsehoods are great tools. If, on the other hand, you are interested in finding out what actually went right and wrong in a particular actual case with the motivation of learning how to do better in the future, then indulging in exaggerations and falsehoods makes you an accessory to future crimes.

  • cathyf

    (…continuing 28)

    I read the report put out by the law firm that laid out the sequence of events. I see a fairly clear pattern.

    The list of behaviors which was collected by the school principal consisted of things where any one or two, by themselves, could very well have been innocent. In fact, it’s possible that one or two things on the list were in fact innocent. But the whole mass of things — no, the whole mass of them told the principal that Ratigan had a problem.

    When the files on Ratigan’s computer were searched, there was also a strong element of crossing over into the realm of pornography because of the sheer mass of pictures, and the context that some of them were in. A single picture of a fully-clothed child taken in public pretty much by definition can’t be pornography by itself. Even a single picture of a naked child is rarely pornographic — think of how many pictures of cute toddlers in bathtubs have been sent to loving grandparents.

    In both cases this was about “connecting the dots” — any one particular thing without context could have had an innocent explanation, but the grand total, no.

  • cathyf

    (continuing 29…)

    The people who observed and collected observations about Ratigan’s behavior were the school principal, parish secretary and parish bookkeeper — all women. When Ratigan’s computer was first discovered to have some “disturbing” images on it, it was discovered by a computer repair guy who went to the deacon in the parish and brought him the computer. The deacon conferred with the parish secretary and bookkeeper and got in the car and took the computer to the chancery office right away. The diocesan staff person who searched through Ratigan’s computer cataloging the pictures was the diocese’s IT person, a woman. Her supervisor was the director of development (fundraising) for the diocese. (Apparently most computer work in the diocese is managing contributor mailings and databases and the like.) When the seriousness of the photos unfolded, the IT manager went to her boss and they went through some of it together. The director of development is also a woman.

    So, there you go, lots of dots, and the connections were obvious and ominous to anyone who was in possession of any significant fraction of it. They went to the vicar, and he passed along some tiny bit of information to the bishop. The picture that most upset everyone was of the 2-3 yr-old girl, and it was at the end of a series of photos which were obviously staged. That one picture — by itself — could have been innocent if it were in some innocent context, but it was not in an innocent context. It was the context that made it pornographic.

  • cathyf

    (continuing 30…)

    The vicar told called a police officer who was on the diocesan review board and described the one picture without the context of it being in the file and obviously staged. The police officer opined that just the one picture itself wasn’t pornographic. Then the vicar told the bishop about the one picture, and that the police officer had given his opinion that it didn’t make it to the level of pornography. Somehow the bishop got the impression that the police officer had actually seen the picture rather than having it described over the phone. A similar thing had happened with the school principal’s letter — the vicar had described it has complaining about some creepy stuff, and gave a few examples, and also gave Ratigan’s side which was that the principal was “out to get him.” Again, the point of the letter was the whole pattern of behaviors, where any couple of them could have been innocent, so in this case “a couple of examples” was an utterly false misrepresentation of the list.

    That the bishop didn’t know how serious Ratigan’s behavior was is not at all implausible. I would maintain that he didn’t know because he chose not to know. Given other reports of Finn’s treatment of people in the diocese, I think that it’s significant that the people who had specific information about Ratigan’s behavior were five women and a deacon, and I think that it is not too far a stretch to explain Finn’s ignorance as the natural result of believing that any knowledge that was in the possession of lowly women and a lowly deacon couldn’t possibly be of any value or interest to so exalted a personage as a bishop.

    In Catholic moral theology we have this concept of “vincible” vs “invincible” ignorance. Invincible ignorance which results in evil can’t be helped, but vincible ignorance puts the full weight of culpability on the person who chose ignorance. As described by Finn and his supporters, Finn was vincibly ignorant of Ratigan’s problems, and is morally culpable for the result of that ignorance.

    But, you know, vincible ignorance is still ignorance. When you go accusing Finn of knowing the full extent of what other people know, you are accusing him of things which are not true. And giving his defenders ammunition (you are lying about him, after all.) And making a pretty big mess of the process of everyone learning from this case so that we can do better in future cases.

  • Vocatio

    My, the blood on the hands thickens. It seems that far too many Catholics continue to feel it is acceptable to shower clergy with freedoms unintended by their status. The reason this sin has taken such deep roots in the Church for so long is the lack of desire to keep Christ centered. Allowing a cleric to continue after complaints have been made and admitted in some cases, e.g. mine, is outrageous. Instead of Christ being centered, our clergy seem to have been made centered. Such distortions will not prevail in the end. This idolatry is leading souls away from God. Clergy ought not to be untouchable when they stoop to such treachery. If a man commits a crime, then call it what it is and stop making excuses for him. As long as Catholics continue to handle things like this, Protestantism will surely continue to flourish. Who wants to follow people that set bad examples?

  • George

    @ naturgesetz

    “This does not even allege that Bishop Finn knew that Fr. Ratigan had taken the pictures, as opposed to downloading them from the internet.”

    Either your are uninformed or just trying to protect Bishop Finn.

    The police, prosecutor, and Grand Jury obviously believe Finn knew what was going on, protected Rattigan, and hid the evidence according to published reports.

    “The prosecution alleges that Finn “had reasonable cause to suspect a child may be subjected to abuse” by Father Shawn Ratigan, a priest from Independence, Missouri, who was indicted in August on 13 counts related to child pornography. Finn “had reasonable cause to suspect a child may be subjected to abuse due to previous knowledge of concerns about Father Ratigan and children,” Peters-Baker told reporters.”

    So get it straight. Finn is alleged to have know about the abuse by Rattigan (not merely downloading porn, but producing it) and did nothing.

    Men and women who protect enablers of pedophiles are actively committing sin in my book.

    Why not take the side of standing up for the weak and defenseless, the children in this case, instead of the powerful?

  • Oregon Catholic

    1. As to what Finn knew or should have known, consider this: A priest nearly succeeds in killing himself the day after he is notified that his pics were discovered. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that Finn would suspect Ratigan was acting out of guilt or shame or fear of a serious crime being discovered? Would a priest commit suicide over innocent pics? Is it reasonable for Finn to assume that there was nothing more to Ratigan’s behavior than what they thought they knew from the one computer and nothing needed further investigation?

    2. Some people excuse Finn for not taking the evidence to police because he thought Ratigan would die making the problem moot. But that just proves that Finn’s concern was not for any children. If it had been, he would have wanted an investigation to proceed to make sure if any were harmed they got help. He made the judgment that no harm had been done worth pursuing at the expense of the reputation of Ratigan and the Church. This is what the Dallas Charter told bishops NOT to do – not to take matters of investigating possible pedophilia into their own hands since they are not experts.

    3. Finn would do well to meditate on the parable from yesterday’s Gospel of Luke:

    “If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
    make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
    otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge,
    and the judge hand you over to the constable,
    and the constable throw you into prison.
    I say to you, you will not be released
    until you have paid the last penny.”

    If this case is “vigorously defended” by trying to parse the law or mislead in any way (as defense strategies so often attempt to do these days) and Finn is found guilty he will have only brought more shame on the Church and on those with authority over him who left him in office. I think he needs to plead guilty or no contest and trust in God to guide the court on his sentence. At best, he made a terrible mistake in judgment and he needs to be accountable for the consequences. We hold drunk drivers to account even when they make an impaired decision to drive drunk and they believe 100% they are safe to be on the road and not doing anything wrong. Same thing with Finn.

  • Greta

    Oregon Catholic. ” Doesn’t it seem reasonable that Finn would suspect Ratigan was acting out of guilt or shame or fear of a serious crime being discovered? Would a priest commit suicide over innocent pics?”

    I had a good friend a number of years ago who tried to commit suicide. The reason this woman made the attempt was that she thought she was going to be accused of doing something very evil and she could not stand what those accusations would bring to her family. Her crime was that she was trying to help a very troubled younger person who accused her of improper activity in a suicide note. My good friend was actually guilty of caring so much for this young person who had been beaten most of their life by a sadistic father that she stayed in contact with her after being ordered to stay away. It later came out that the father had convinced the prosecuter and court that this woman was guilty of the abuse, not him, and so as a precaution they ordered this woman to stay clear. This left the child exposed to full control of the father and resulted in her death and the accusation that was left behind. By the time my friend recovered from the suicide attempt, everything had finally come out in the open and she was fully cleared. The father went on the run and was never seen again.

    Once again, we have the courts and the Church law to go on and not sure why so many want to pass sentence before there has even been a trial. Never forget that an indictment does not in any way mean guilt. Sad that we have come to this type of justice and that some want to keep running out information without all the facts and dispense justice without a trial. Never forget that for every priest accused and guilty of anything, there are about 100 who have led celebate and chaste lives often working with kids in a very positive mannere. The ratio is much worse in our public schools.

  • George

    Irish Priests face five years in jail if they fail to report child abuse

    “Irish priests will be jailed for up to five years if they fail to report child abuse to police – even if they are told of it in the confessional box.”

    “The latest report highlights a major cover-up in the Cork diocese which found the bishop of Cloyne ignored church guidelines that all suspected cases be referred to police.”

    Sound familiar? Citizens are fed up and now the leadership will be held accountable just like in Ireland.

    The new guidelines have already failed in Philadelphia and now Kansas City, how many other dioceses have an multi-million dollar time bomb ticking?

    It’s a sad day when we need laity and police step in and do the supervision because we can’t trust our own Bishops.

  • RomCath

    ““Irish priests will be jailed for up to five years if they fail to report child abuse to police – even if they are told of it in the confessional box.”

    If a person confesses anonymously, how can the priest even know who the person was? Ridiculous.
    Not to mention that no priest is going to break the seal of confession–nor should they.

  • Oregon Catholic

    Greta, there are a great deal of facts already known in this case. Finn himself admitted to making mistakes and many are outlined in the report commissioned by Finn and which he has publicly agreed with. I read the entire report and it shows that Finn did not follow his own diocesan procedures and employees that saw the pictures and advised reporting the discovery to police were ignored by their diocesan superiors. The buck stops with Finn and he needs to accept full responsibility.

    I really don’t think it matters what Finn’s motivations were, or why he did or didn’t do things. He screwed up and children were left at risk. Even if he did the wrong things for reasons he thought were right at the time, our Catholic moral teaching, and the law of the land, says it’s still wrong. His punishment may be mitigated by his explanation, but one doesn’t need a trial for that – trials are for establishing if someone is guilty or not. That he is guilty of breaking the law that required him to report is a question that I think the facts have already shown to be true.

    Finn may have a legal right to pursue a trial, but it doesn’t make it a moral choice if he knows he was wrong. There is the needless financial cost of a trial and the further cost to the Church’s reputation if he fights a battle he deserves to lose. He is always free to plead to the facts without a trial and he has a lawyer to make sure his legal rights are protected. If he would admit to guilt and humbly accept whatever punishment the court and the pope deems appropriate it would go a long way to restoring some respect. Let’s hope he decides to take the high road and think more about others than himself.

  • Greta

    Deacong Greg, I saw this which is another Archbishop who has known Bishop Finn for a long time and who had this to say…

    http://theleaven.com/columnist/archbishop_column.html

    It raises some very interesting points and asks some very good questions such as why a grand jury to go after a misdomenor?? It talks about the media constant drum beat making it hard for a prosecutor who will be running for office to do nothing thus forcing this grand jury and indictment.

    Also, mistakes made are not an admission of guilt of crime. I make mistakes all the time, but that does not call on me to go into a court and plead guilty to a crime.

    Hopefully this an others coming to the support of Bishop Finn will find a way onto this blog and others to show greater balance. I wonder why there is not more defense in the Catholic blogesphere for the priests and bishops. It is almost as if there is a rush to judgement so as to appear to be against abuse, even if some innocent are made to pay a price. I do not know, and others can speculate, but also are not aware so why not have solid proof and let the system take its course?

  • Pingback: Bishop Finn strikes deal, avoids indictment « The Deacon's Bench


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