Bishop Finn strikes deal, avoids indictment

Details from the Kansas City Star:

Bishop Robert Finn on Tuesday avoided a possible criminal misdemeanor indictment in his handling of a priest facing child pornography charges by agreeing to enter into a diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor.

Authorities have pledged not to prosecute Finn, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, if he lives up to the terms of a five-year diversion agreement.

Clay County Prosecutor Daniel L. White also announced that a grand jury had indicted the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan on three counts of possessing child pornography. The new indictment supersedes a state criminal complaint that charged Ratigan on May 19. Ratigan, 46, also faces a 13-count federal indictment of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography. He remains in federal custody.

The Clay County indictment alleges that Ratigan possessed three images of child pornography on a computer on May 13. White said each of those counts is a Class C felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Finn also is facing a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse suspicions in Jackson County. He has pleaded not guilty. Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the country to be held criminally accountable for the alleged misconduct of a priest in his diocese.

His agreement with Clay County requires him to meet face-to-face with White or his successor each month for the next five years to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse levied against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese’s Clay County facilities. Finn also is to describe what steps the diocese has taken to address the allegations. White would then decide whether to encourage police to investigate any allegations.

Finn also agreed to visit all nine Clay County parishes to outline new programs the diocese is implementing to protect children. In those meetings, Finn will be accompanied by the diocesan ombudsman and a new director of child and youth protection.

“This will be a learning experience for the Bishop,” White said in a statement. “The diocese and the bishop acknowledge past reporting systems have flaws.” He said having an outsider in the mix who can trigger a criminal investigation “gives parents and children in our community confidence that if anything were to happen it will be promptly and effectively addressed.”

Finn, who was in Baltimore on Tuesday attending the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly, issued a statement saying he was “grateful for this opportunity to resolve this matter and to further strengthen our diocesan commitment to the protection of children.”

“The children of our community must be our first priority,” Finn said. “Each deserves no more and no less. I stand ready to do all within my power not only to satisfy this agreement but also to ensure the welfare and safety of all children under our care.”

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Comments

  1. It is one thing that Bishop Finn is facing being charged with two separate child-safety crimes, in Jackson county for refusing to report suspected abuse and in Clay county for endangering the welfare of a child.

    But the KC-St Joe diocese it still operating in a cultural of secrecy and self-preservation that is more important than the protection of innocent children.

    The full truth needs to be exposed in a court of law. “ALL” who enable, empower, and protect predator priests need to be held accountable. This includes Msgr. Robert Murphy, Rebecca Summers, Jon Haden (diocesan lawyer), Julie Creech (Diocesan Director of Information Management Systems) anyone who knew about Ratigan’s disturbing behavior and photos of naked children, yet they did not report it to the police.

    Children will never be safe within this system until all are held accountable for crimes against kids. Hopefully anyone who has knowledge, witnessed or been harmed by Ratigan, or anyone within this diocese will have the courage to speak up and contact the police.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA 636-433-2511
    snapjudy@gmail.com
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.
    http://www.snapnetwork.org/

  2. If only the prosecutors would investigate and charge those responsible in the Clay County public school system for child sexual abuse just as zealously.

  3. What happened to Bishop Flinn publicly stating he did nothing wrong?

    Now he cops a plea to avoid possible jail, what a hypocrite and liar. Finn faced a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor. The diocese also faces a $1,000 fine.

  4. I believe the indictment still stands in Jackson County. This agreement seems to avoid indictment in Clay County only. Fr Ratigan also served in St Joseph, Missouri–yet another county.

    Still, this is a humiliation in some ways. A number of counties make up the diocese–imagine if Bishop Finn had some agreement with all of them.

    I don’t know that justice is served by catering to the anger of those who would relish sending a bishop to jail. Interesting the talk from bishops the past few years about going to jail for a just cause, like abortion. Not so much willingness to serve prison time for something of personal fault.

  5. Oregon Catholic says:

    At the same time Finn is in Md discussing the loss of religious liberty, he is handing over tremendous authority to secular officials in order to save his own hide. Oh, the irony. My little respect for him just got even lower.

  6. moritmerzilch says:

    “protect children”… from priests? right? The place of the priest is WITH the people…this “protect the children” crusade is taking the direction of isolating the priest FROM the community. that is not good. Healthy community is found in being together with one another, not isolated from one another. If children really need protected FROM priests, it is really one screwed up church. What priests need is social interactions which are normal, and assert the correct role of the priest WITHIN the community. Let’s have picnics in God’s honor on Sunday afternoons and we can all get together in the park and enjoy Christian community! Yeah!

  7. Fiergenholt says:

    Mort. . .”Healthy community is found in being together with one another, not isolated from one another. ” On the face of it, I could not agree more. The real issue here is that there is a generation of priests and bishops in our church — many of them getting older and retiring — who never understood that.

    Frankly, I agree with George that Bishop Finn “copped the plea.” That is an act of desperation. A genuinely wise bishop would never have let it reach that far.

  8. Seems to me that if the prosecutor had something really hard and fast on Bishop Finn, he would have gone after him. But, seems to me that his case may have been shakey and may not have actually won a conviction. Bishop Finn probably realized that even if found not guilty, the anti-Catholic bigots, the SNAP folks, etc. would have had a field day dragging him and the Church through the mud as the case progressed.

    SNAP has been discredited a long time ago. The only reason they still exist is to keep paying themselves a salary and bash the Catholic Chruch at the same time. Once you have found the goose that lays the golden egg, you don’t want to let it go.

  9. SNAP is not the one discredited. That is just silly.

    SNAP is not the one who had to spend more than $1 billion in child rape claims, SNAP is not the one who has been convicted in court multiple times for child rape. Our church leaders are the ones responsible for the mess and the enablers who protect priests who victimize children.

  10. If we were to follow washingtoncatholic way of thinking, nothing has ever happened and this is all a media scheme.

    I guess everything will be alright if we bury our head in the sand.

  11. From the Catholic League…read it and weep…

    David Clohessy, the director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is now calling for Paterno to be investigated. Yet when Clohessy learned in the 1990s that his brother Kevin, a priest, was a child molester, he covered it up.

    The Kansas City Star is working with SNAP, and its lawyers, against Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn. Only once, in a brief story in 2003, did it ever mention that the SNAP director’s brother was charged with molestation; even then it never reported that David Clohessy refused to call the cops. And in a big puff piece on the SNAP director in September, it never mentioned this juicy story. The cover up—and that is exactly what it is—is sickening.

  12. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Here’s an interesting look at Clohessy and his brother, from 2002:

    “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”

    Dcn. G.

  13. Oregon Catholic says:

    A terrible family tragedy. Two brothers abused by a priest. One turns to anger and hate to cope, the other becomes a priest abuser himself, and the family is in denial and torn apart. I wouldn’t want to point fingers at anyone’s reaction in that family – they’ve all suffered plenty.

  14. From the Catholic League’s Aug. 22, 2001 Press Release…

    SNAP bills itself as “the largest, oldest and most active support group for women and men wounded by religious authority figures (priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns and others).” In fact, it rarely deals with ministers, and there are few “others.” Almost all of its work is directed at the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, it has succeeded in getting others to believe its propaganda. To wit: the recent John Jay College report on the “Causes and Context” of priestly sexual abuse said that “SNAP has developed into a national movement of support for victims of sexual abuse by any church leader and, more recently, all victims of sexual abuse by any person in a position of authority.” Not true. As if more evidence were needed, the entire SNAP conference was focused exclusively on priests and the Catholic Church.

  15. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    AWDCC:

    Lest we forget: “SNAP” stands for “Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.”

    Dcn. G.

  16. http://www.catholicleague.org/snap-exposed-unmasking-the-survivors-network-of-those-abused-by-priests/

    When are people going to realize that SNAP is out to destroy the Church. It is not about the victims at all. Read the above article concerning their conference last August. Geez.

  17. SNAP was not sued and paid out over $2,000,000,000 (yea 2 Billion). It was the dioceses which had abusive priests.

  18. And what exactly is your point? Why would anyone sue SNAP? Because they weren’t sued they are a noble group out for a noble cause? Baloney. Follow the link and read the article and see how noble they are.

  19. Jack B. Nimble says:

    As an attorney I’m interested in the constitutional and legal issues here (Full disclosure–Not an R.C.). A public official is given an oversight role inside your church, with at least the implied power to order changes in child protection protocols. He can order disclosure of records I presume if a credible allegation is made in the future. If this is not so, than Clay County’s D.A. is buying a pig in the poke here. Meanwhile the USCCB and the self-declared “orthodox” in your church are on a First Amendment tear.
    Yet, to keep a hierarch out of handcuffs, your church voluntarily gives a public official unprecedented power over internal matters. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but there are discordant notes here. If churches are not subject to civil agencies and their regulations, how is a civil agent allowed to dictate when, how often, and to whom, an RC bishop will report?

  20. Because this is no longer the 14th Century and bishops are no longer above the law. Nobody forced anything on Finn. His own misconduct and irresponsibility rose to the level of a crime, albeit a relatively minor one. The bishop certainly didn’t want the embarrassment and risk of even short term incarceration of being found guilty at a trial. Prosecutors, for their part, didn’t want a conviction so much as a formal and public acknowledgement of accountability to the law in the future. I don’t think prosecutors or any civil servants really want oversight roles or to be part of the organizational chart of any religious group. Unfortunately, they will have to do so from time to time unless and until the religious authorities decide to voluntarily obey the law.

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