Bishop Finn: Epic Fail and Fallout

By all accounts, Bishop Robert Finn is a very good man, but it seems he is a very good man who made a very big — huge; astounding — mistake:

Creepy is one thing. The question remained: was [Father Shawn] Ratigan’s behavior criminal? Based on the evidence available at the time, nobody could have said in good conscience that it was.
[. . .]
Julie Hess, St. Patrick’s principal, was able to fuse a mosaic of apparent non-events into a coherent picture of pathology. In May of 2010, she reproduced this picture in a 28-paragraph report (pdf), which she sent off to the diocese.

[Finn] sat on a summary given him by Msgr. Robert Murphy, his Vicar General, until several months later, when he learned that Ratigan possessed pornographic images of children. Even then, he declined to inform police for several more months until Ratigan violated his orders by consorting with minors. By pre-2002 standards, it was a B+ performance; by today’s, a D.

Bishop Finn — who says he was never given the actual report and had based his earlier decisions on a summary report that did not reflect the urgency of the issue — has made an apology — actually he has made several, now — for his foolish error, and the Catholic Key focuses on one key nugget that may prevent Finn from getting an outright “F” but it’s a near thing — the photographic images on Ratigan’s computer could not, at first, be construed as “porn”, as such:

Diocesan Vicar General Monsignor Robert Murphy then called a ranking Kansas City police officer and described this photo. In addition, the photos were provided to diocesan legal counsel. Both the police officer and legal counsel opined that the photos did not constitute child pornography as they did not contain sexual conduct or contact as defined by Missouri law. . .On the same day, Fr. Ratigan was called [by the Bishop's office and] told to appear the next day at the chancery. Fr. Ratigan did not arrive at the chancery. Instead, the next morning he was found unconscious in his garage with his motorcycle running.

When Fr. Ratigan regained consciousness several days after this suicide attempt, he was placed in a psychiatric unit to minimize the chances of a further suicide attempt. According to a May 20 statement by Bishop Finn, Ratigan was then sent for further psychiatric evaluation out of state.

Although physically recovered, Fr. Ratigan was not allowed to return to St. Patrick and he was removed from pastoral duties there. After various evaluations and a stay at his mother’s house, in mid-February Fr. Ratigan was allowed live and pay rent at a Vincentian priest residence. According to Bishop Finn, Fr. Ratigan was allowed to say Mass at the adjacent Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist community, but was otherwise restricted in his activities. He was not allowed a camera or computer and he was not allowed to attend events where children were present.

On May 12, after repeated reports that Fr. Ratigan had violated these restrictions, Msgr. Murphy again contacted the police officer he had originally contacted in December. When Msgr. Murphy relayed ongoing concerns about Fr. Ratigan’s violation of the restrictions placed upon him, the officer facilitated a report to the Cyber Crimes Against Children Unit.

According to a “Probable Cause Statement” prepared by Detective Maggie McGuire of the Cyber Crimes unit, Fr. Ratigan was taken into custody on May 18 and kept on an investigative hold.

The next day, detectives obtained a search warrant for items belonging to Fr. Ratigan which had been held at his family’s home following Ratigan’s suicide attempt. In those items, detectives found an optical disk with 14 different images of child pornography and a Rocketfish hard drive with four images of child pornography. That same day, Ratigan was charged with three counts of possession of child pornography in Clay County.

On May 20, at a forum with St. Patrick parishioners and in a public statement, Bishop Finn said, “I deeply regret that we didn’t ask the police earlier to conduct a full investigation.”

Bishop Finn certainly has his defenders; he may indeed be a very good man, but any bishop who is not exquisitely sensitive to this issue, at this point, is betraying an astounding lack of understanding. If he doesn’t get it by now, when will he?

The church needs to do a great deal of penance for its sins, but all of it will prove meaningless if our bishops can’t pull themselves together. No one wants to see an innocent priest falsely accused, but if there is a whiff — and in Ratigan’s case there was more than a whiff — of suspicion, you don’t rely on summaries; you say, “show me the whole report.”

At least that’s what I would do, and I’m not that smart.

The fallout from all of this will land on Finn, as it should. One one wonders if there is any way he can effectively shepherd the people of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, any longer. He has been apologizing continuously for that mistake — here is his latest, but even as he is speaking the words, a man preparing for ordination to the permanent diaconate in his diocese has decided his conscience won’t let him promise obedience to a Bishop whose judgment he cannot trust

No every good person is a good leader. I don’t see how Finn, if he loves his flock, does not take the hit in order to protect them.

A May 27th report:

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • jh

    Well I don’t agree he should resign. Catholic better get used to in this strange dark world of sexual child abuse that there are going to be judgment calls and mistakes.

    Already I am seeing a Catholic Diocese abuse boards with experts and in fact lay people on them now have their integrity called into question without having a full picture. What lay person in their right mind would want to seat on such a thing

    Errors and missteps are still common. I have seen it with police, I have seen in DA’s offices, I have seen it in sentence of Judges, I have seen in dealing with “expert” as to people that provide counseling in these matters, I have seen it in probation hearings. I have seen it on other faith communities.

    I actually have some disagreement over how Flynn is handling the second Priest case because I think it might be going against some Protocal on Due Process. But that is another story.

    His leadership in the Diocese has been pretty good. There is a tendency to go off with their heads in a situation like this. I am not sure that will be productive. If that is the case then we are either going to have more Dracodian measures or we shall have More coverup because people are afraid their errors will get out.

    He is a Bishop that seems to have provided very good leadership on the whole. I don’t think we can so easily just discount that

    [The problem, however, is that if his priests and deacons don't feel they can trust his judgment, that's a serious issue -admin]

  • jh

    “The problem, however, is that if his priests and deacons don’t feel they can trust his judgment, that’s a serious issue -admin”

    We shall see on that. Again we have one case of one Deacon that was to be ordained.

    As to Priest and Deacons I am wondering how they view how he is handling this second case of a Priest that had some decades old allegations against him. In his statement he seems to say he is as guilty as the Guy that the police have evidence as to child porn. Though as to the second Priest it is still very early in the process to deem if those allegations are true. No doubt perhaps that was done under the stress of the media frenzy right now. All this seems to go against elements of the Dallas Charter and indeed Canon law as to some presumption of Innocence

    I agree this is serious. However without us being on the ground there I am not sure that we can take the example of one almost Deacon and project that on the clergy, Seminarians or in fact the majority of lay people at this point. In fact for all we know they might be rallying to his defense.

    Still very early in the process.

  • Ironic

    A friend of mine moved his family there to work for this bishop some years ago. I am saddened and feel a bit queasy to know this. One real irony is, B Finn was so excellent at writing against porn and, even had great things going in his diocese to help those addicted to it. Perhaps this case will help to wake up and sharpen other bishops who may get that paralysis of analysis and be unable to make the hard decisions leaders must make.

    Veni Sancte Spiritus!

  • Mary Flora

    All diocesan employees and volunteers within arms reach of a child are required to participate in the program Protecting God’s Children. It leaves no doubt about what inappropriate interaction with a child looks like, how it is hidden, and what to do if you see or suspect it. Bishop Finn did not follow his own program. People have been tried and jailed for having pornography. He is no longer a moral leader. He resides in a penthouse atop a diocesan owned downtown building – purchased at great cost to his “flock”. I have been a Catholic for 67 years. He reflects what we see in the church today – hierarchy positioning themselves above the rest of us. He has dismantled programs to involve the laity in the life of the Church. I have no doubt Rome is keeping a seat warm for him.

  • bostonpadre

    you talk about “mistakes happen” — when I was in seminary someone ripped the felt top on a pool table in the recreaton room. the pool room was CLOSED indefinitely and it was explained to us that “mistakes happen” — BUT — “Mistakes can be PREVENTED.” Finn has had nearly NINE YEARS to be familiar with the Dallas Charter — and HE FAILED. I would argue the author’s statement that even pre-200e he would get a B+ — I owuld bnot be that generous. A preist with “up the skirt” shots of a child is inappropriate and is CLEARLY a sign that the preist needs psychological help.

    I am a bit disappinted that only one deacon (candidtate) has had the moral fortitude to declare his inability to pledge to the bishop. In Boston there were 58 priests who signed a letter to card. law urging him to r esign. Had I not been on active duty as a Chaplain there would have been one more signature to add to that letter.

    In conscience I had to “step aside” from active ministry due to the immoral actions of the hierarchy in handling the sexual abuse crisis. I would LOVE to be in active ministry — but I cannot be an “apostle” to bishops and cardinals who “cover up” and “fight tooth and nail in courts” to keep themselves from having to testify what they kknew at the time. the settlements offered to avoid court are misnamed — they are not “settlements” they are, in fact, “bribery payments” to keep from having nto tell lthe truth UNDER OATH.

    We expect as lot from priests — we expect a LOT more from bishops and cardinals. In the case of Finn, we lose.

  • Melody Faith

    The idea that these men, priests and deacons, who are willing to serve the church would not trust someone who made such a mistake is a red herring. These priests and deacons aren’t familiar with the Church and her history. All men are imperfect. It is the supernatural grace of the Church that keeps the ship aright, not the talent of the sailors.

  • Patrick O’Malley

    Bishop Finn should go to jail, and a Grand Jury should be assemble to investigate the rest of the diocese. Society is not as tolerant of pedophiles as Catholics and “jh” above.

    Imagine if this happened at a Chucky Cheese Restaurant. Employees rape children. The management finds out about it and moves the employees to other restaurants. They hide the truth and they lie about it.

    Customers would boycott Chucky Cheese and have every manager thrown in jail, all the way up to the CEO.

    We can’t expect the Catholic church to rise to the standards of Chucky Cheese, but we should prosecute their new crime so that we can protect children in the future and get justice for victims of the past.

  • grieving

    Clearly, Bishop Finn is guilty of naievete, but not much more.

    Of course he would have acted more decisively if he thought there was anything more than perhaps a visual obsession, but that had not yet even been proven.

    Fact is, he was advised it was not porn. Further, this tragedy is made more tragic by personal attacks on Bishop Finn. He is clearly grieving and horrified and clearly he believed the priest’s claim of innocence, as would have anyone who knows his very convincing and charming personality.

    Please do not attack Bishop Finn for what is a satanic attack on the church. You just help satan by piling on. The man is in jail and we still do not know all of the facts, so enough hysteria and enough with the attacks on a good and noble Bishop.

  • Jack B

    A strange facet of the Finn situation is that it appears that at no time did Bishop Finn or his Vicar General ever summon Julie Hess in for an hour to discuss her very solidly written letter which stated serious concerns about one of the bishop’s pastors. She had been tested and found responsible enough to be principal of a Church school in the diocese. She surely would have come in if asked. She might have substantially affected local notions of right and wrong and the course of events to follow rather than getting sidetracked in legalistic nit-picking. I believe principals are experienced in that.
    The bishop’s Sunday message called for giving thanks to the lay faithful; perhaps he should extend that to giving attention to them as well.

  • Fred

    Bishop Finn IS a very good man, and he IS an outstanding Bishop. To whatever degree his decisions were lacking in hindsight do NOT warrant the vicious excoriation of him. That hatred and rage is coming from elsewhere, from those who deeply oppose the best bisop that diocese has ever seen.

  • jh

    “Bishop Finn should go to jail, and a Grand Jury should be assemble to investigate the rest of the diocese. Society is not as tolerant of pedophiles as Catholics and “jh” above.”

    Mr O’Malley

    I know we do not know each other. But I have had some experience on both the investigative side of sex criminals as to investigation, later defense work, and have some particular insight how the Louisiana Penal System has tried various ways of getting control of the problem.

    I also had some involvement how this worked “or more to the point not worked” as to other Faith communities. So I am not tolerant of pedophiles.

    That being said I am saying we need to take a step back. I actually think the Bishop needed to read that full report.

    I actually think he handled the porn thing correctly. The Police at appears could not make any arrest on the information had. The Bishop removed the Priest from Public Ministry he went off some place after his suicide attempt and then was placed on huge restrictions when he came back.

    It appears within these months time the DIOCESE was very much monitoring him. In fact that monitoring it appears (seeing he was breaking restrictions and we are not sure what those were) were relayed to the police department in which it appears gave the police the needed probable cause to get a search warrent to get his computer and a hold. I suspect whatever information the Diocese gave them allowed them to get some further piece of info to get the hold and warrent.

    This interplay between the police and the Diocese seems to get overlooked in all the outrage.

    I do think there was smoke and the Bishop should have read that full report. But I do warn people about jumping too quick to judgement when what we think are the facts are and looking at them in hindsight.

    We are still very much in the early stages of how we deal with these problems. As I commented to an attorney the other day my biggest fear is that the Church (all of us) are too cleric focused. I have huge concerns if the Laity that works for the Church when these accusations comes up against them are perhaps quiety let go and they resurface elsewhere. But if we the Laity are to be held to the same standard is a discussion for another day.

    I suppose it is because I came from another Faith tradition where this stuff happens very much under the radar but never gets the light of the day. But some measure of calm and evaulation of what went right and what went wrong needs to be done.

    This seems more like a lynch mob to me which while gives us all emotional release rarely helps the problem

  • diakonos09

    Almost everything that was in need of attention and repair in the US Catholic Church re: the sex abuse scandal seems ot have been fixed or is “being fixed” EXCEPT the removal of bishops. Mentally ill clergy abused. Innocent children suffered. Bishops hid, procrastinated and continued to REIGN (yes, not shepherd but reign..a shepherd would give his life for the sheep while a monarch reigns). Bishop Finn and others who knew or would have known had they not neglected things should be removed from ministry like the clergy they easily remove as an allegation. And I do NOT mean “remove” as in assignment to a church in Rome (uggh) but out of ministry and back to the laicized state.

  • jh


    If my reading of the facts are correct after the first photos were found the Bishop did what he was suppose to do. Besides calling the authorities he recogonized he need “help”. When he came back he was placed on restrictions which public duty was giving Communion to some nuns.

    Whats not being discussed here is something that is often in the background. Many Catholic Victim groups and other are conflicted about this too and thus their dueling press releases. Ine one shock that a Accused Priest is kept on the payroll or on Diocese property. The other cases that are about as numerous is shock and outrage that the Diocese “washes” their hands of the accused Priest and does not monitor him.

    Well we can’t have it both ways.

    I do think it is a tad early with tons of hearsay going around when we are barely weeks into this for Priests and Deacons to sign letters. There is no any indication that this is a “Cardinal Law ” situation and since you went throught that tragic episode that should be apparent I hope

  • bill bannon

    Jack B….very astute observation. Why didn’t the Bishop trip over himself to seek a meeting with and listen to such a concerned principal?
    The details of the priest’s home with kitchen towels that resembled doll’s clothes and stuffed animals and a child’s panties in a planter (as I remember) are horrifying and prayer inducing for Fr. Ratigan himself but it was as though he was hoping to get caught. How did he pass a screening test prior to seminary? I thought that was one of the improvements from before Dallas. And he is young and no product of the 60′s…pace John Jay.

  • BL

    It is unquestionable the +Finn made a huge error in how he handled this. However, isn’t hindsight always 20/20? According to all reports, he did follow the existing norms: did he do enough? Probably not, but we should be careful not to throw stones from our glass houses, all-seeing though we may be.

    However, I believe +Finn was trying to handle this (without clear evidence of physical attempts to commit an act according to that photo and even an expert opinion) in a way that was not throwing one of his priests (who he is supposed to be a “father” to) to the sharks. Was it the wrong judgment call? Yes. But these days it seems that everyone is in a hurry to laicize priests, etc., when anything remotely credible comes up. How does this sit with the Catholic teaching that Holy Orders leaves an indelible mark on the recipient’s soul? Wouldn’t this be a little unsettling to you if you were a priest/prospective priest? So, I don’t understand why Finn’s priests and deacons wouldn’t trust him.

    And seriously, everyone, isn’t the elephant in the room the fact that National Catholic Reporter is in the same diocese as +Finn, and that they have not enjoyed the favor that they one have? Isn’t it interesting that many of the stories coming out are from people associated with said news organization?

    Also, when will people seriously question Cardinal Mahony’s handling of the much-more-numerous abuse cases in LA? Or, does he get off the hook since he has been the banner carrying progressive bishop of the past thirty years?

    [You won't find any praise for Mahony from me; -admin]

  • david clohessy

    “Fact is, he was advised it was not porn.”
    Wrong. Fact is, Finn claims he was told it was not porn. There’s a huge difference.

    David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,

  • WaitHere


    I must demur. Many who defend the bishop seem to be saying that because he had no further evidence of child abuse than the pictures, that Fin was prudent in delaying a report.

    In fact, taking the pictures was in itself in fact a sex crime, and should have been immediately reported and the laptop turned over to the police. Instead, he let Ratigan’s family destroy the laptop and the evidence.

    In December Finn did not “call the police,” and there was no official decision not to investigate in December. Instead, in an informal conversation, a diocesan employee only described verbally one of the pictures to an off-duty officer who was a member of the review board. If the police detectives had seen those pictures in December, they would have immediately started the investigation that waited until Finn finally showed them some of the same pictures in May.

    Some have said that Finn committed a crime in copying the pictures–they DO seem to be child porn. Why did he do so? I suspect he did it to hold them over Ratigan’s head, to compel obedience. That would seem to me to playing God.

    He put Ratigan in a sisters’ house, one that I’ve read is a home to YOUTH RETREATS. There was little supervision. Ratigan was forbidden a computer, but kept posting to Facebook with his cellphone. We don’t know what other contact he might have had with children during that time.

    No, it was Finn who finally turned Ratigan in on May 12. It is not against the law merely to disobey your bishop; that wouldn’t have interested the police. The probable cause was the pictures, and the police could have had them in December, and the laptop itself with much additional evidence.

    If Finn was naive, he was even more arrogant to believe he could control the situation and “avoid scandal.”

  • alter Dan S.

    How does this blog post help anyone or anything?

  • Boanerges

    The sanctimonious blather from the “hang ‘em high” crowd is just that: blather. Step into his shoes and have the evil one start his attacks and soon enough you’d be whimpering in the corner sucking your thumb and crying for mama.

    So get off your high horse before someone declares open season on your past “mistakes”.

  • Lisa


    I enjoy your tireless blogging but sometimes your need to Comment Authoritatively on Every Issue comes back and bites you in the tail.

    You are making a huge assumption in this post.

    You are assuming that the Vicar General – Murphy – was honest with Finn.


    I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that if Murphy had said to Finn:

    “Bishop. We have serious problems with Shawn Ratigan. The principal has sent us a 28-page pdf filled with evidence that the man has inappropriate – at the very least – attitudes towards children.”

    Finn would have had Ratigan in his office immediately.

    Look at how he reacted when the photos came up. He called the authorites and got the guy away from the situation.

    Do you REALLY think that if Murphy had honestly shared with him the contents of the principal’s letter he would have just said “Hey – talk to him. Okay?”


    I have no idea why the commentary on this issue has not focussed like a laser beam on the content of what Murphy told Finn – of how he “summarized” the report.

    It could have been as simple as “The principal has reported that Fr. Ratigan crosses boundaries with children. I know Shawn. He’s exuberant and affectionate. I’m sure he just doesn’t really understand how careful he has to be not to give the wrong impression. I’ll talk to him Bishop.”

    Who knows?

    No one knows.

    All I know is that – to repeat myself- given Finn’s very strong and immediate action once the pictures were uncovered I find it impossible to believe that he would try to hide or bury the principal’s concerns.

    [I don't comment authoritatively, and I have not said -- authoritatively or otherwise -- that Finn "must resign." Or at least I don't think I have -- I was supertired yesterday, so I'll have to re-read what I wrote. I have questioned whether he can lead. Ultimately, no matter what scenario you can compose in your head, I don't know if it is ever appropriate for a Bishop to be satisfied with a summary report when one of his priests is suspected, and I say that for the good of both the possible victims and also of the priest. If I were a bishop and thought either children were at risk OR one of my priests was in danger of being accused, I'd want to know everything, as soon as possible. I have no animus toward Finn; seems a good man. I just don't think he was a vigilant as a shepherd needs to be, and that might have consequences. -admin]

  • HV Observer

    For a completely different look at this, you might want to have a look at The Lynching of Bishop Finn.


    “That said, it was obvious that many of those in attendance were relying on news reports and hearsay with which to form their opinions. There were many calls for Bishop Finn’s resignation. There was a woman who pridefully proclaimed how happy she was that her kids no longer practiced the faith. Yes, a mom essentially proud of how she had failed in one of her primary charges as a mother. There were a few remarkably uneducated comments along the lines of, “WE are the Church”, “This is OUR parish not yours”, “We don’t need you.” There were some who seemed to just wanted a platform to vent about some of the various unrelated traditional reforms of Bishop Finn that they disagree with. It seemed that to them, this is a convenient way to get rid of a bishop they disagree with. There were also those who spoke in support of Bishop Finn. These comments ranged from offering basic Christian forgiveness to simply saying that the bishop should be considered innocent until proven guilty rather than the current prevailing attitude that clergy are guilty until proven innocent.”

  • momor

    I read in one of the Kansas City newspapers or news blogs after this priest was arraigned that the police authority that was contacted about the photos found on the computer was a parishioner. I think that calls into question whether the ‘authorities’ were contacted in Dec. or if the bishop was asking a ‘friend of the Church’ for informal advice.

    Perhaps between the parishioner policeman and the diocesan lawyer it was more a matter of assessing whether the bishop HAD to report Ratigan to the police to avoid being an accomplice. Perhaps they all figured there was a loophole they could crawl through since it wasn’t technically porn.

    BTW, when did the definition of pornography (of a minor) become one that had to show a sex act? Isn’t any nude photography of a minor, who can’t possibly consent, illegal ?

    [If that were true than probably every parent in America would be in trouble, for taking pictures of their babies, naked. A photo of a naked child is not "porn." -admin]

  • rick

    I’m a social worker, a mandated reporter and the supervisor of counseling staff. I read the Principal’s letter. There’s nothing there that’s reportable to Child Protection or the police. If I was given that information about a client I would be digging for more information. I’d be concerned and encourage the adults surrounding the child to be vigilant and to make sure that their child avoids further contact with the adult.

    As a supervisor, I would fire a counselor engaging in those kinds of boundary violations. What the Principal describes is poor boundaries, but not abuse. No laws were broken, but his conduct was reprehensible.

    I would consider a counselor acting in this way with children as guilty of unprofessional behavior, MAYBE an ethical violation, but there is no clear indication abuse or clear illegal behavior.

  • bostonpadre

    I do believe that this is a situation where you and I (and probably others) are going to have to agree to disagree.

    Finn has had PLENTY of opportunity to “bone up” on the Dallas Charter — and he obviously is a slow learner if he did not learn from Boston, Philadelphia (2 grand juries) etc. As Bishop he had the RESPONSIBILITY to know about the concerns of the school principal etc. Being given a “summary” should not have been enough for him — he should have asked for the full picture. He failed miserably, and while he may have enjoyed a “good reputation” in the diocese over the past few years, be totally blew it with this event. Had he been a manager of some sort in a “civilian” business, he’d be out on his butt. That hasn’t happened — and I think it should!!!

    priest AND victim of clergy sexual abuse

  • Yabachi Snitzel

    The BOSTON 58 who signed the letter requesting the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law were all a bunch of heretics and apostates. Look at the names on the BOSTON 58 (59?) list, and you will see that each one of them is opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church on everything (abortion, gay marriage, contraception, priesthood, celibacy, the divinity of Christ, etc). The reason they wrote against Cardinal Law was because they didn’t like his orthodoxy. These lilly-livered BOSTON 58 priests used the scandal as a cover for their real problem with Cardinal Law.

    Those BOSTON 58 are a bunch of nuts and should be laicized and excommunicated for their obstinate heresy and apostosay.

  • bill bannon

    There are other issues in the lawsuit. The law firm used a Kansas City Star article at their website for a summary. Two other issues are a 2006 warning to the diocese and the 5 or 6 month delay in giving police new photos found by a computer repairman in Dec. 2010:

  • Lisa


    a warning to “the diocese.”

    What does this mean?

    I am not saying that Finn must be innocent. All I’m saying is that a bishop only knows what he has been told. A bishop is inundated with information and meetings and requests for action 24/7. That’s why he has Vicar Generals and Chancellors and such and in larger sees auxiliary bishops. Bishops *never* see information first. It is *always* filtered before it gets to them.


    And with these cases one of two things happens:

    1) The bishop knows and does nothing. Shuffles and so on.

    2) The bishop does not know the full story because it is being kept from him.

    *This happens all the time.*

  • Lynn

    Thank you for this post, Elizabeth. I am appalled at how this has been handled. Bishop Finn surely should have known better!

  • bill bannon

    But this area should stand out with alarm bells as different than all other areas by now within each Bishop when a Vicar General mentions it. It shouldn’t be on par with complaints on liturgy, complaints on parish spending etc.
    If a daughter ran to you with complaints about her brother each day, you would treat the complaints equally….until one day she mentioned he’d been playing with matches near the drapes. I think you’d separate that out….as nonpariel….way out there among topics. It’s possible he was paying no attention at all to Murphy….none…but was preoccupied with something else. But from those who are given much, much will be required. Tomato pickers never get fired because their responsibility is low…CEO’s get fired all the time.
    If you paid no attention to your daughter on the one day she reported the “playing with matches”, you’d hold yourself responsible if disaster followed. It’s sad all around in this one.

  • Jack B

    Lisa -
    You postulate a possibility for the conversation in May 2010 (#15). Since it is unknown and open to imagination, try this equally plausible variant:

    Vicar General: Shawn is at it again.
    Bishop F.: Oh, ******. Call him in and really give it to him this time. I’m sick and tired of hearing this stuff from every parish we’ve put him in in the 6 years since he arrived. And, did you ever find out what went on in his 16 years between finishing Seminary High School and starting Mundelein?
    Vicar General: Not yet, but as soon as I get a chance.
    Bishop F.: Next?

    It’s difficult to believe that Ratigan’s totally unacceptable behavior around children, as observed by principal, parents, and teachers of St. Patrick’s, suddenly popped up in 2010 (or 2006 as he entered his 40s). What have Church authorities known about him for the last 10 years of seminary and ordained time? The bishop’s direct responsibilities have, in principle, been much clearer since Dallas, as bill b. suggests.

  • Greta

    It would be a shame to lose this bishop over this issue. He has done some great things to tighten up the dioceses which in the long run will do more to fight abuse if it gets closer to the full Catholic teaching. From the little I have seen thus far, it looks like a priest defintely has some issues, but unless i missed it, there has been no abuse to date. I hate the fact that we are forcing a relationship between priests and the kids that has complete seperation of signs of love and affection. I understand why, becuase of the 1% perverts we allowed into the priesthood and our failure to get them out, but it is a very high price to pay. Parents abuse their kids every day in far higher numbers and it would be like passing a law saying not more signs of affection by a parent or grandparent because we have to protect the kids.

    Growing up, we were blessed with a priest in our parish who was loved by all the kids and from whom many vocations resulted to be both priest and nun. I agree that some of the actions listed seem kind of creepy, but we have not heard the other side of any of this.

  • elleblue

    My comment has nothing to do with Bishop Finn personally. I still believe that any suspicious behaviour that involves children should be reported to the police and they can then investigate. That is what they are trained to do. The church however well meaning it is in its intent has no one trained to do this.

    I have worked with sexually abused teens for years and the police have never failed to investigate properly and follow through when the evidence warranted it.

    Now is not the time to second guess the civil authorities. Children need to be protected at all cost.

  • elleblue

    My comment has nothing to do with Bishop Finn personally. I still believe that any suspicious behaviour that involves children should be reported to the police and they can then investigate. That is what they are trained to do. The church however well meaning it is in its intent has no one trained to do this.

    I have worked with sexually abused teens for years and the police have never failed to investigate properly and follow through when the evidence warranted it.

    Now is not the time to second guess the civil authorities. Children need to be protected at all cost.

  • Nathan

    Bishop Finn is a good Bishop and should not, and will not, resign. Did he make some mistakes? Sure. And he has accepted them. He is learning from them and will make things better.
    Many people who don’t like Bishop Finn now are the same people who didn’t like him before anything happened with Fr. Shawn. There are “Catholics” and parishes and priests here that don’t agree with the teachings of the Church.
    Bishop Finn loved Fr. Shawn and tried to help him and heal his priesthood. Fr. Shawn disobeyed. Bishop Finn did not endanger children. He removed Fr. Shawn and tried to help him. A lot of noise is being made here by a few folks who have had a bone to pick for quite awhile.
    Elizabeth, the Bishop doesn’t need to resign (and I’m surprised that you say he should). He can and will make things better. He is an able Shepherd. Bishops aren’t perfect, but Bishop Finn, despite his mistakes, has done much good. How can people say Finn should resign when there is so much information that we don’t know? A lot of this has to do with faithful Catholics vs. unfaithful Catholics.
    By the way, the man who backed out of being a Deacon goes to a parish that is overall not supportive of the Bishop and that has gone against the teachings of the Church. I don’t think there was much honor in saying that you can’t and won’t respect and obey the Bishop and so your not going to follow the call of God.
    For those who love Pope John Paul II, St. Josemaria, the Catechism, who make weekly Holy Hours, and pray the daily Rosary, etc., Bishop Finn is a role model and hero of Catholic orthodoxy. Perfect, by no means. But he is being critisized by many mainly because of how Catholic he is.
    By the way, I worked with Fr. Shawn for two years and know him more than most. He did a lot of good for the Church despite his sinful side. It isn’t always so easy to know a man’s hidden sinful life. Bishop Finn was not pulling a fast one on the people of the diocese. He was being a father to a priest who was really ill. Bishop Finn, I got your back!

  • Bender

    the police have never failed to investigate properly and follow through when the evidence warranted it

    Follow through when the evidence warranted it?? Huh?

    You mean that a mere allegation isn’t sufficient to convict? That mere suspicion does not suffice to condemn and expel the accused from our sight?

    The police only follow through “when the evidence warrants it”?

    Well that sounds like they make a judgment call regarding the weight and sufficiency of the evidence. Sometimes they determine that there is sufficient evidence to proceed, sometimes after considering the evidence, they decide that there is not sufficient evidence to proceed.

    But we know from experience that there are countless cases where the police had some suspicion, some evidence of a crime, but because they judged that there was not enough, they did not proceed, even though later evidence, or later developments, showed that the accused had committed a crime after all. Should we not then demand that the police everywhere resign? After all, we can’t trust their judgment.

    Obviously we need to start presuming guilt, rather than maintain this presumption of innocence. Better safe than sorry, you know. Better to condemn on flimsy evidence than require an actual reasonable degree of certainty. Meanwhile, we can inflame and rouse up the mob to go after good men and women.

  • Patrick O’Malley


    I’ll be honest – I just don’t trust you or believe you. You don’t use a real name and have suspicious credentials.

    There are millions of Catholics that care about Bishops more than children that were raped. Most denigrate victims. They always have.

    If there had never been rampant child abuse in the Catholic church, we could give Finn some leeway. There have now been thousands and thousands in the United States alone in the last 60+ years, and the Catholic church has consistently hidden the truth, as Bishop Finn clearly did here.

    Your bishops can’t stop it, won’t stop it, and still don’t care.

    When they investigated in Philly, they found details that would make a normal Christian puke. Read the first 6 pages of the Philadelphia Grand Jury report to find out how horrifying it STILL is.

    Fr Cudemo raped a 12 year old girl and got her pregnant, then took her for an abortion. The parish knew about it, and they moved him around. He raped a total of 17 children that they know about.

    Kansas City will be investigated next, and then hopefully every other city in the United States will be.

    God wants us to rise up, get the truth, prosecute the guilty, and give support to God’s children that were raped.

    We get it. And if we have to, we’ll fight everyone we have to to get the truth.

  • Jack B

    Two entirely separate critieria for judgment and decision keep getting intertwined and confuse the discussion. rick (#23) nicely sketched the difference and ways to handle it.

    In dealing with children, long experience shows that some behaviors are acceptable, some are undesirable but tolerable, and some are absolutely, totally unacceptable because of the nature and vulnerability of young ones. That is what the principal, teachers, and parents addressed in the Hess letter, and many deal with every day. Legalistic technicalities and preponderance of trial-worthy evidence are rarely explicit in such decisions. Proximity and access to children are the issues, and observed behaviors are the grounds for judgment. (e.g., consider picking a baby-sitter.)

    In dealing with adults, some behaviors may violate the law of the land. That is what the police and law enforcement establishment address every day. Criminality is the issue, and evidence provides grounds for judgment. Failure by Bishop Finn and the Vicar General to recognize immediately both these decision processes in a diocese responsible for the education of 12,000 students indicates their unsuitability for the offices they hold. Claims that Bishop Finn removed Ratigan as a threat because he sent him off somewhere to do as he pleased ring hollow as Ratigan’s unsurprising behavior showed.

  • Lisa

    Jack B:

    Knowing what you know about Finn – do you think that conversation is plausible? Really?

    Bil bannon:

    “When the vicar general mentions it” alarms should go off.


    But what I keep saying is…*do we know how the Vicar General mentioned it?*

    What did he say?

    Do you not understand that it is possible for someone running defense to totally undersell the problem? To satisfy his own spare sense of the truth by saying “Bishop there’s a problem with Ratigan – but I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding. I’ll take care of it.”

    Again. I find it *impossible* to believe that Bishop Finn would leave a priest who is accused of deep and serious boundary violations with children in place with nary a blink.

    Murphy – let us all note – has been absolutely silent during this.

    I find it astonishing that no one – not any member of the press – has gone after him with those very specific questions. He needs to answer them.

    [That is certainly a good point. -admin]

  • Brad

    Everyone attacking a shepherd = satan’s plan realized.

    Our Lady of Akita. How many of us know her words?

  • Jonah

    My God, Lord rid us of blogs.

    This post is a prime example of the narcissism of the first world. I cannot be the only person who senses this when reading this post. We have idealogues everywhere!

    Our opinions, even if they echo what may be truth, do not have to be vented on a national/global platform. We are no different, then, from the middle east, who is using the media to blackmail government officials in their effort to refashion them after thier own liking.

    God’s ways are not man’s ways. Even in this tragedy, God could be doing things that man cannot fathom. The height of man’s wisdom, mind you, is foolishness in comparison to God’s. PRAY FOR THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN YOUR LIFE, AND IN BISHOP FINN’S LIFE, AND STOP TEARING THE CHURCH DOWN.

    Anchoress, ponder Mary. Mary, when she was pregnant before Joseph knew, let God come to her defense and explain things. She remained discreet/silent, even when the world no doubt had stones in their hand. And God did come to her defense. God will always come to his Church’s defense.

    Man/blogs doesn’t bring justice in the end. God does.

  • Bill Bannon

    No one is tearing down the church when they criticize humans within it who moved too slow in scandal matters which Bishop Finn has admitted. Should he withdraw the apology? Was John the Baptist tearing down Judaism when he yelled to the pharisees…”brood of vipers, who hath shown you how to escape the wrath to come?” Check your nationality’s concept of privacy…they all differ…Lorca did a drama about the Spanish one. If yours would correct John the Baptist, it’s off key.

    Don’t denounce blogs and then pay monthly internet access to read them if even Rome approves them and just held a conference on them.

    You are one of millions who take the phrase “the Church is Holy” to mean the wrong thing. The Church is Holy in her de
    fide dogmas, in Her sacraments, in Her approved liturgies, in
    the treasury of graces, in Her saints in Heaven….not in Her
    clergy or laity in all cases and at all moments. You therefore
    end up hoping for silence on scandals which works right into the
    hands of priest offenders who demanded silence from their
    victims…some for as much as 15 years. Had the Church
    followed your advice, we’d still be back pre 2002. The Church
    will not be perfect til the end of time according to Lumen
    Gentium….until then conflict is part of growth and hence Paul in Galatians…”withstood Peter to his face because he was deserving of blame”. Later Augustine wrote “Rebuke and Grace” whose point was that there is growth only if there is both rebuke and grace….not just grace working without conflict. Later still St. Catherine of Siena wrote rebuking letters to two Popes…..she was laity.

  • Larry

    Elizabeth, I commend you for what may be the most balanced reflection on this whole business that I’ve read so far. Nicely done.

    Whatever moral failings he may or may not have (I’m not competent to judge), Bishop Finn certainly made a huge mistake by not turning everything over to law enforcement right away. And, no, cautiously describing one photo to one carefully selected, diocese-friendly police office does not count.

    The authorities might well have come to the same conclusion as the diocese that the evidence did not constiutute child porn, but at the very least Finn would have shifted that responsibility from himself.

  • Jonah

    Yes, saints are the best interpreters of the gospel. I agree.
    Faith in God’s personal initiative is the sitz em lebem of the Church. That sitz em lebem resides in the heart of the Mary, and as mother, and bride, she gives birth to countless saints.

    Have faith in the Holy Spirit. Turn to Mary right now in simplicity. She is the morning star in this dark time.

    I beg you: Pray, pray, pray for the Holy Spirit; particularly the gift of charity, in our life, and in the Church of KC. It is charity that will heal and unite the Church. Without charity we are no longer church. Do you believe in charity? Or have we become missionary of ideas?

    Give the Lord one small prayer or deed done out of charity over all the blogs of the world done without charity. That prayer will accomplish more in God’s eyes. You can do more in your backyard, in your simple home, than on the web.

    It is precisely the wisdom of the world that is driving the Church into the ground. Our ideas often impatiently go before our charity. That is what happens on blogs. There is very little discernment on what is posted. You need to very soberly discern before each post.

    As do I.

    Let us pray for each other.

  • Bill Bannon

    You assume I don’t pray to the Holy Spirit, don’t turn to Mary, don’t do charity, don’t think before posting. Try to alter this assumption process. It’s a secret pride.

    Aquinas suggested the opposite. He cited a mysterious scripture:
    Phl 2:3 …”… in humility count others better than yourselves.”

    That’s the opposite of what you’re doing when you assume.
    Asked how this was possible to do, Aquinas noted that each person you meet is better than you or I in some respect. Find that aspect in those around you. Your brother does not study religion like you but he may be quicker to shop for your parents than you….or you are quicker to shop for your parents but he is quicker to help them with the onerous like cleaning behind the refrigerator. There is some aspect in which you can find joy
    in discovering the superior grace in each person near you.
    ” God has glory in what He hides; kings have glory in what they fathom.” Proverbs 25:2.

    peace and prayers to you….

  • Boanerges

    “[I don’t comment authoritatively, and I have not said — authoritatively or otherwise — that Finn “must resign.” Or at least I don’t think I have — I was supertired yesterday, so I’ll have to re-read what I wrote.”

    Then perhaps getting some rest before opining is in order. Like a gunshot, once fired you can’t call it back.

  • WaitHere


    “From the little I have seen thus far, it looks like a priest defintely has some issues, but unless i missed it, there has been no abuse to date. ”

    Taking pornographic pictures of children is, in and of itself, sexual abuse under the law. That is why the police are investigating.

    Legally speaking, the most culpable thing Finn might have done was to copy those pictures.

  • Dan

    Ok…I am on the record as saying its a leadership thing. And I think Finn is a conservative idealogue who annoys me. But really? Drama about the oath of loyalty from a deacon-to-be? What kind of a idealogue is this dude?

    There is NO priest-who-will-be-bishop-soon or bishop and above in the Church who isn’t tainted and who isn’t of the clericalistic mindset that would make this error still. Any priest/deacon/etc who thinks otherwise is naive.

    The culture didn’t change. The leadership didn’t change. There was no purge.

    Seriously, the dude-to-be-deacon should get over himself and take the vow. There will be no better and likely never has been.

    Second, likely this man has “learned” and although it has cost humans, it is unlikely he will make the same mistake again. He should stick around, but stop apologizing by now and plan for preventng this error. The continual apology means he has no plan for preventing this in the future, including removing his own leadership ( leadership who often is put in place because these folks are of the bishop’s own like mind).

    He should learn, shut up, clean his staff, ask why he distrusts that WOMAN principal (one of his famed difficulties) so much he couldn’t listen to the obvious report of problems of this priest, and then dare to talk again. Telling what he has learned of his own prejudices and how things will change.