I haven’t been following the Bp. Finn thing

…till now. After reading Kevin O’Brien’s account, I’m persuaded he must go. At this late date, for a bishop to be this much of a criminally negligent fool is, I think, shockingly inexcusable. What on earth was he thinking? How, after the horrors revealed over the past ten years could he have possibly done such stunningly idiotic things?

Bp. Finn: Resign.

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  • Jack

    Dear Mark

    I’m afraid that I must respectfully disagree with you.

    Bishop Finn is guilty of nothing more than an error of judgement and perhaps erring on the side of caution, not wanting to cast one of his Priests to the wolves without conclusive proof of wrongdoing (from what I understand the intial picture was sufficient to go to yellow rather than red alert). Personally I see this case as point in favour of re-establishing (here in England)/establishing (in the USA) Ecclesiastical Courts as I believe that the only people with the authority to judge the clergy are the clergy themselves, the secular authorities have no business poking their noses in the Churches affairs, let us also remember that if we cast Bishops aside for making bad judgement calls then Our Lord would have had to laicise Peter, Simon, Jude, Mathew, Luke, James, Barthomolew, James, Andrew and Phillp.

    • Friend

      Jack, this is not “a Church affair”. Father didn’t forget to have the altar servers wear white gloves. Nor is it “a bad judgement call”. This is a civil crime, and the equally criminal cover-up thereof. It should be handled as such.

    • Joseph


      I really want to give Bp. Finn the benefit of the doubt, but perhaps I’m blinded by emotion and am not thinking prudently. You see, I have two sons under 5 and when I wear my “empathy” shoes for those families whose children and trust were violated, I find it too difficult. Pornographic images on a laptop of children within his diocese should have been enough for Bp. Finn to pursue this. It is disingenuous for him to feign ignorance.

      I have to admit, reading that post made me angry and depressed. I used to share Bp. Finn’s columns with my Evangelical Protestant family members to prove that the Church is not a liberal bastion as they presume. Since they base their view of Catholics so heavily on how Catholics act, this can only damage their view of Catholicism even worse than it is already. That is one reason why this is so upsetting… but don’t get me wrong, the human toll on these poor families and their children is, by far, the major factor in my disappointment and anger.

      I keep telling myself to reflect on the Early Church during the peak of the Arian heresy where a majority of Church leaders were infected by it. It did not reflect on the Church’s teaching or purity, but it did create schism and deface the view of the Church. This is quite painful.

  • Katy Radcliffe

    That was evidence from the diocese-commissioned Graves report. There can be no other conclusion to draw from it.

    And, of course Catholic clergy are not above the law. This is not Saudi Arabia (where clergy must completely break the law in order to even operate as priests.) We live in a relatively fair and just society. And, this is not a matter of the Seal of Confession (which, of course, cannot be violated by any civil law.) This is a matter of flawed men and their administrators and the victims who should have legal redress for justice.

  • Did you read Bishop Naumann’s letter about the matter?


    • Dan C

      This editorial seems to reflect someone who seems “put upon” rather than truly offering a defense. The author also conflates unrelated matters and then, instead of laying blame to Finn or the prosecutor, blames the press. I think “blame the press” is easy since the Archbishop gets to avoid naming individuals, just a faceless collection.

      I think this letter is a mistake for having been written and offers no defense except bleats attempting to hit the chords of “Catholic victimhood.”

  • What’s going to become of Fr Murphy, the gatekeeper, who showed only one of the pictures to his cop friend instead of immediately making an official report to the police? Bishop Finn isn’t the only one who messed up.

    • Rosemarie


      Good question. Msgr Murphy played a major role in the coverup so he should be punished at least as severely as the bishop. Such behavior from any clergyman should not be tolerated!

  • Tim

    I can’t believe the computer with all the pictures on it was turned over to the priests’ brother (who then, of course, destroyed the computer). At best, that is extreme incompetence.

    • kenneth

      At worst, it’s obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

    • Dale Price

      It’s not incompetent–it is willful misconduct. Finn’s an accessory to the destruction of evidence. He’d have to be brain-damaged to think anything else would happen.

  • Andy

    The responses to Mr. O’Brein’s article remind so much of the responses to the BSD, Father Pavone – the list is growing longer – as Mark calls them “Real Catholics” seem driven to protect the clergy, they agree with, regardless of possible errors. They find all matter of excuses instead of saying this person screwed up, and the consequence for the screw up is. The media is to blame, the secular culture is to blame, anyone or anything but the clergy – this perpetual Catholic Victimhood is wearing thin and lends itself to the rest of the world wondering about the Catholic Church – is it dedicated to God and helping people find their way to God, or is it dedicated to maintaining a clerical lifestyle? Bishop Finn’s behaviors along with the behaviors of others in positions of power indeed make this question possible.

    • Dale Price

      It’s the same circle-the-wagons, clericalist mindset that let them get away with the child rapist shuffle for so long. Someone of episcopal dignity needs to go to jail pour encourager les autres.

      Frank Keating’s comparison to mafia omerta remains dead on.

      • ds

        Omerta – exactly. When I read this I thought of the Godfather: “Never tell anybody outside the Family what you’re thinking again.”

  • Mitch

    I for one stand with Thomas Becket on this issue. Snarkiness aside, they put this before a grand jury and the best the grand jury could come up with is a misdemeanor… if it is only a misdemeanor then this all seems rather overblown and a political stunt. If Bp. Finn was as negligent as claimed and they could prove it they would be going for felony charges. Hell, I would if I were a prosecutor, which means they have next to nothing on the Bishop.

    • Tim

      It isn’t the indictment that reflects poorly on Bishop Finn, but his inaction cited in the article linked to.

    • Mitch

      I just finished reading Mr. O’Brien’s piece and his response seems far better. Yes, the Bishop should publicly repent for his mistakes, glaring mistakes. Calling for his resignation seems premature, perhaps he might want to consider such an action but we should not presume to suggest to him what to do, especially if we are not even in his diocese. I wonder if there is such an ecclesiastical tribunal that could bring him to court over this issues, with his fellow bishops as judges in the case. (That sort of medieval way of going about things would actually be hugely beneficial both for the Church to deal with these things, and for public relations)

    • kenneth

      Misdemeanors aren’t “political stunts”. They’re real crimes. Finn is charged with an offense that could, in theory, land him a year in prison. A fine and probation and orders to do community service or some sort of abuse reporting training are far more likely outcomes, but this ain’t a traffic ticket. He was charged with the crime for which there was good evidence, as it should be. Failing to report suspected child abuse is a big deal as “minor” crimes go. In many states, you not only get the misdemeanor charge, but the state will go after your license if you’re a doctor, teacher etc.

      To the extent this is a “political stunt”, it’s a very valuable one. It’s a reminder to bishops that they are not, in fact beyond the law, even if society has granted them a pass for too long. This is 2011, not 1311, and from now on, criminal irresponsibility on the part of bishops isn’t going to be lost in the shuffle with a “mistakes were made” excuse.

  • Ellen

    I’m with Peony. I am puzzled how the Vicar General is getting a pass – both from public opinion and the law. He was the gatekeeper here. It seems blindingly obvious to me that he was protecting Ratigan.

  • Brian

    I’m conflicted about this. I agree that Bp Finn has failed, as a bishop, to oversee his priests properly and protect his flock in this matter. I agree that, as I read the report, what stuck out for me was the actions of Msgr. Murphy. This guy, it seems to me, is the one who was most interested in covering things up.

    Two main things, however, speak out against His Excellency. First…the laptop. That was either first-rate criminal cover-up, or the most boneheaded move I’ve ever heard of. Either one would indicate, for me, a certain amount of unfitness to head a diocese. I haven’t dug deep enough to see if he has a legitimate excuse better than “good idea at the time.”

    Second, in terms of ecclesiastical governance, the buck stops with the bishop. If there was even a hint of something inappropriate going on with one of his priests, he should have been on it like a wildcat.

    I don’t know if he should resign or not. I’m on board for penance though. A good start would probably be a plea of no contest to the charges, if possible. (My limited understanding is that a guilty plea acknowledges not merely wrongdoing but some form of criminal intent, which doesn’t seem accurate.) If it were me, I’d offer to resign to the Holy See and then let Rome take it from there, saying that I failed in my duties and did not feel competent to hold the position any longer.

  • If Bp. Finn knew about the full extent of the pictures found on Fr. Ratigan’s computer, then I agree that he should resign. If Msgr. Murphy was protecting him, and Bp. Finn didn’t know all of the details, then the Msgr. should go.

    In any case, since there is doubt in the public’s mind about this, I think it would be best for the Church if Bp. Finn stepped down.

    Fr. Ratigan shouldn’t have been assigned anywhere after those pictures were found except the county jail and/or mental health facility.

    • Rosemarie


      Too bad no one took Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald’s advice fifty years ago. Then we would have an island to send these predators to where they could never molest a child again.

  • I did find this in the independent report, however:

    “Although Bishop Finn was unaware of some important  facts  learned  by  Msgr. 
    Murphy or that the police had never actually seen the pictures, the Bishop erred in trusting Fr.  Ratigan  to  abide  by  restrictions  the  Bishop  had  placed  on  his interaction with children after the discovery of the laptop and Fr. Ratigan’s attempted suicide.”

    So, I am willing to back off of my assertion that Bp. Finn should resign, until more information about what Bp. Finn knew is available.  

    • Rosemarie


      That’s what I was wondering while reading Kevin’s account. How much did the bishop know about the contents of the hard drive and could it be that Msgr. Murphy had not fully informed him about that. If so, it might mitigate his guilt somewhat. However, he still should not have handed that computer over to the priest’s brother. What on earth was he thinking? It definitely smells like a cover-up and even if it somehow wasn’t, good luck trying to convince a judge or grand jury of that.

      • Well, they still had the pictures on a flash drive. They had originally copied off the pictures because his laptop wasn’t working very well to begin with. So, it’s probably just stupidity in turning over the original evidence since they already had copies of everything.

  • After reading the full report, I can’t agree with Kevin that Bp. Finn should resign. It was Msgr. Murphy who made the egregious mistakes, and Bp. Finn was under the impression that the situation was less grave than it was, because of Msgr. Murphy’s misleading statements.

    In the eyes of the press, the people of Kansas City, etc., Bp. Finn probably looks bad because the situation cannot be explained in detail. However, the paragraph above is a basic summary in my opinion.

    Bp. Finn still made mistakes in the situation, but Msgr. Murphy is the “villain” in this story.

  • poetcomic1

    Even if I were indirectly responsible for further exposing this SPECTACULARLY sick individual to more young children I don’t know how my conscience would endure it – and I’m not the shepherd of a flock. When I cannot recognize in a Bishop the most natural actions of conscience and concern that even I in my weak and fallen and badly-catechized state would take reflexively as a human being, something is VERY wrong.

  • Will

    When I worked for the state human services department, I had a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse. So does anyone in the bishop’s position.

  • Ellen

    I continue to await impassioned blog posts and articles exploring why Vicar General Murphy did what he did – and failed to do.

    “The diocese failed to act” – why? Because through most of this “the diocese” was MURPHY.

  • Peggy R

    I am with others here who find that Msgr. Murphy seems to be the person of primary culpability in not reporting and adequately addressing Fr. Ratigan’s pornography. Does the bishop automatically bear the charge personally if the diocese fails? Is this what is implied by the charges? Msgr. Murphy must called out on this.

  • Gary Keith Chesterton

    My real name is James Therry.

    Bishop Finn needs to resign, now.

  • Charlotte

    This is a clear case of failure at the top. Somewhere along the line, Msgr. Murphy got the impression that he could get away with a cover-up. Looks like he was right.

    • You have to read the report. I don’t believe it was a coverup per se. It was a case of very poor communication, and gross incompetence, by Msgr. Murphy, and a reluctance to take actions recommended by others . I suppose one could come to a conclusion different than mine after reading the report, but to me, it sounds like Msgr. Murphy was incompetent rather than attempting a cover-up.

      Msgr. Murphy later suddenly reversed course and contacted the police. Bp. Finn was shocked by this, as he was under the impression (as were all of the other diocesan higher-ups) that Msgr. Murphy had already showed all of the pictures to the police, and was told that it did not qualify as child pornography. In fact, the Msgr. had not shown any pictures to the police, and had just described to them, as a theoretical question, ONE picture of a nude young girl, and asked if that would constitute child pornography.

      I’m not really sure, if Kevin read the report, why he imputes so much blame to Bp. Finn, unless it’s a “the guy at the top gets all the blame” type of thing. If anything, maybe the Bishop’s big mistake (although he did make some in this matter) was trusting Msgr. Murphy with the position that he held.

  • Charlotte

    I just read Bp. Naumann’s column. I’m deeply disheartened that so many years after the Long Lent, we could still have bishops who are so utterly myopic.

  • Wilbon

    Monsignor Murphy is probably cooperating with the prosecution. A Catholic friend in Philadelphia says that it is widely understood that Msgr William Lynn, Murphy’s counterpart in that Archdiocese, is taking the bullet for Cardinals Bevilacqua and Rigali. Lynn reassigned molester priests, and is under indictment at the present time for that. My friend, who is a player in the archdiocese, tells me that Lynn is not guilt-free, but that most people understand that he did what he did with the knowledge and consent of his bosses. I suspect that is what is going on in Kansas City. Murphy might have seen what was happening to Lynn and didn’t want to risk jail to cover for Finn.

    If you read the diocese of KC’s own report, it is not possible to believe that Finn was in the dark about all this. I did read the report, and Finn could not possibly not have known. Wake up, people.

    • Which report are you talking about? Because that’s not the impression I got from the Graves Report at all.

      Bp. Finn wasn’t in the dark about “all of this”, but he was in the dark about the full extent of the gravity of the collection of photographs, to the point where his actions were at least semi-reasonable, and at any rate not criminal. It was Msgr. Murphy’s actions that are hard to understand.

      Is it possible that Bp. Finn and Msgr. Murphy both gave false testimony in the report. Sure. But you can’t just ASSUME that’s what happened.

  • Michaelus

    Right – Msgr. Murphy was confused because he did not realize that the photos were evidence of possible child abuse. Mr. Kes, Deacon Lewis, Mrs. Creech, Mrs. Moss and Lawyer Haden all saw the photos and none of them called the police either. Dr. Fitzgibbons also saw the photos. Mrs Creech made a copy of the photos – if they are child porn she should be charged with a Federal crime.

    Msgr. Murphy was the one to finally actually call the police after Ratigan continued his disobedience and appeared to be a real risk.

    It is very odd that so many people – lawyers, IT specialists, a psychiatrist and one policeman – would not know child porn when they see it. It is even odder that the DA would indict the Bishop and the entire Diocese for failing to report a crime that is apparently so hard to spot that no one knew it had been committed even though they were looking right at it (I realize the policeman is backpedaling furiously – but one child porn photo is still a crime).

  • Joseph

    I think there are a lot of good points in this combox. And I think that illustrates one thing, at least: we don’t have all of the information and we don’t know everything. If that’s the case, I think Mark Shea suffered from a knee-jerk reaction by calling for a Bp. Finn’s resignation. That doesn’t mean that I think he’s completely innocent, but it does mean that I just don’t know enough to bother with this story until all of the facts are out.

  • “Mrs Creech made a copy of the photos – if they are child porn she should be charged with a Federal crime.”

    I think that statement borders on “crazy.” Mrs. Creech made copies of the photos because the laptop was locking up, and she wanted to ensure that they could be examined without fighting Windows/viruses every step of the way.

    To say that she should be charged with a Federal crime for that….well, I don’t even know what to say.

    • Charlotte

      M. isn’t saying she should be charged. He proposing something like this: If the pictures were child porn, then she would have been charged. She was not charged, therefore the pictures are not child porn. He’s implying that the charge of child porn is inflated. (I don’t agree, just explaining the argument.)

      • It could be inflated. I am beginning to think that could be a reasonable explanation why a wide variety of people from different walks of life consistently seemed to treat the problem more lightly than seems to make sense.

        It’s not the only explanation. It’s not even the most likely explanation, in my view. But it is a reasonable explanation.

  • Michaelus

    Thanks Charlotte – you are correct. I do think the charges against Bp. Finn are without merit : many people saw the photos and none of them felt it was illegal child porn and none of them concluded their was a reason to believe any actual child had been abused.

    • Charlotte

      The question of whether or not the pictures meet the statutory definition of child pornography is obviously important for the legal case, but as a Catholic I’m more concerned that a laptop with a collection of photographs of little girls’ crotches wasn’t enough to raise an *effective* alarm. Even if the photographs don’t rise to the level of child pornography, they would have been a sign to any rational person that this man has no business around children.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I’m rather at a loss to understand why the secular authorities are going after the bishop, who apparently never actually saw the pictures, rather than after all the people who did actually see them and were either tardy in reporting or didn’t report at all. But that will finally be settled in court. The bishop does not seem to have handled this spectacularly well and maybe he should resign.

    But I’d like to take this discussion beyond bishop-bashing to address a question which any of us might encounter. What is our moral obligation to report to the authorities suspected or even known crimes which may or are likely to result in someone else being sent to prison? What if we find that one of our kids has been accessing child porn on a computer? Or one of our friends? Or what if it is possession of narcotics or stolen goods rather than child porn? What if we have not seen the evidence ourselves, but simply been told of it, thus creating suspicion? Do we have a moral obligation to report our suspicions to the authorities thus putting in jeapardy of prison not only the possessors of contraband but whoever told us and failed to tell the authorities?

    In short, what is our moral obligation to act as police informers? There is an incident in my own life of more than a decade ago where I could have probably had a friend sent to prison had I reported her. I did not do so, did not even consider it. I had completely forgotten about this incident until the Bishop Finn matter came up.

  • Jason

    There is an article posted by the Catholic League on this: http://www.catholicleague.org/taking-aim-at-bishop-finn/