Coping in Kansas City: "Obviously, we're not O.K. with this…"

Coping in Kansas City: "Obviously, we're not O.K. with this…" October 17, 2011

How does a diocese deal with having its bishop indicted?  The New York Times visited a parish in Kansas City — the former parish of Fr. Shawn Rattigan, the priest at the center of the scandal — to find out.

The Rev. Justin Hoye was struggling to figure out what, if anything, to say on Sunday to his parishioners at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church about the new turmoil facing the local Roman Catholic diocese.

Days before, news had broken that Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese had been indicted on criminal charges for failing to report a priest found to have pornographic photos of children, including children of his congregants. The priest is accused of having taken more such photographs in the months before church leaders turned them over to law enforcement.

Father Hoye, after reaching out to priests in neighboring parishes — all of whom expressed the same uncertainty — decided not to address the matter directly from the pulpit but to offer a homily on man and God that emphasized forgiveness.

“Most people are savvy enough to understand what I’m saying without having to actually say it,” he explained between morning services at St. Patrick’s. “It’s a polarizing subject and not everyone is in the same place.”

The announcement on Friday that Bishop Finn, of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, had become the highest ranking member of the clergy to be charged with a crime stemming from the sex abuse scandals that have engulfed the church has caused disappointment and anger in the Catholic community here.

Nowhere is that more true than at St. Patrick’s, where the former pastor, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, was once well-regarded for his easy manner, fondness for children and the camera that he always brought to events at the church and the parish elementary school.

As parishioners streamed into the brightly lighted sanctuary for morning Mass — elderly couples and young families, a diverse group that included white, black, Asian and Hispanic — they mostly avoided mention of the latest development in what has been a long, painful story.

They were here to worship God, several said, not to lament the failings of the humans who served him, and as far as they were concerned this Sunday was like any other. Father Hoye said not a single parishioner had brought up the subject with him.

But after the readings and the hymns, the silent prayers and the words of wisdom from Father Hoye, some privately expressed their dismay at the church leadership.

“Obviously we’re not O.K. with this and we don’t like the way it was handled,” said Jason Krysl, standing with his wife, a teacher at a Catholic school, who was holding their 7-month-old son. “But it’s frustrating because there’s not much you can do about it. It’s not like you can vote for bishop.”

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41 responses to “Coping in Kansas City: "Obviously, we're not O.K. with this…"”

  1. There are several legal issues that arise seperate from the issue with the priest involved in this case. It will take the courts to sort this out.

    I am inclined to reserve judgement. The big questions are: “What did Bishop Finn know, and when did he know it?” and “Did he delegate duties to someone else, and did they follow through as needed?”

    Time will tell.

    All types of personal agendas are evident in the commentaries that are coming out and that’s a shame. People will use this as fodder.

  2. There’s an interesting — and essential — discussion of forgiveness in this NYT article. I’m struck, though, that some of the quotes from the article come close to suggesting that people should just forgive the bishop, and that the legal system should not try to hold him accountable. Don’t we preach forgiveness along with trying to make restitution for wrongdoing, especially when a crime is involved? The bishop might strike a good example if he actually went ahead and pled guilty to the charge of failing to report suspected child abuse. No, it wouldn’t look good, and yes, people would probably also expect him to resign as bishop. But didn’t he essentially admit in front of parishioners (in his visit last spring) that he had failed to carry out his duties with regard to Shawn Ratigan’s behavior? Didn’t he admit that he should have done much more than he did — for instance, turning the suspected child molestor into police, rather than just running a second-hand description of suspect photos by a police officer friend in a conversation?

    It would take great humility — and frankness — for Bishop Finn to admit his wrongdoing before a court of law and take accept his punishment under civil law. Yes, I realize, he has his constitutional rights and is entitled to due process. But I’m contemplating this from the standpoint of the morally right thing to do, not what his lawyer might advise. Doesn’t the morally right option matter anymore?

  3. In order to be forgiven, the Bishop would have to admit he was wrong in covering up a crime. So far, that has not happened.

    You can’t just give blanket forgiveness is the sinner refuses to ask for it. (If it applies in this case).

    “Finn denied any wrongdoing in a statement Friday”

    Even the Vatican, is avoiding support for the Bishop.

    “There is a legal procedure under way. We have no intention of intervening in that procedure,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP.

    In cases like this, public good will is gone.

    Prosecutions will occur now when previously the benefit of doubt would be given to clergy.

    Unfortunately, the parishioners will be the ones to pay in the end with more churches/parochial schools closing to fund abuse lawsuits.

  4. To the extent that parishioners ignore the issue and just cast their eyes toward heaven, they are no longer innocent bystanders. They are complicit in evil. They may not be able to vote for bishop, but they can, and must demand accountability.

    There is ample evidence the bishop was covering up a crime. More precisely, he was deliberately choosing not to do his duty under the law, which is to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse. Finn was fully aware of a mountain of evidence that told him children were at risk. A computer owned by his subordinate priest was found to contain hundreds of lewd photos of children. Some of the images would, on their own merits, be considered criminal pornography. Others may not, but any reasonable person would know that the sum of it all was the collection of a man with a sick and predatory interest in children. These were not cartoon images.

    Whether those photos were taken locally by the offending priest or some dingy apartment in Belarus, real children were being harmed, and Finn had a duty under the law to report it. He chose not to, for five months. The fact that he made a (poor) attempt to restrict the priest’s interactions with children demonstrates that he knew full well children were at risk. There is no wiggle room, no ambiguity, no blaming the bad advice of psychologists on this one. He chose to violate the law, and then made some half-hearted attempt to satisfy a reporting requirement that he made up in his own head, not what the law called for. For five months, whoever was exploiting those children in the images was free to continue. The priest, who has clear predatory instincts, was at liberty in the community.

    I take heart that prosecutors have finally gotten up the courage to hold the high-ranking to account. This is 2011, not 1311, and a bishop’s miter doesn’t put one above the law.

  5. Question: Innocent or guilty – why is the bishop still in active ministry? Isn’t it the policy of the USCCB that a cleric accused is put on “leave” while the accusation is being investigated? Or does this apply only to priests and deacons?

  6. Diakonos09

    It’s one thing to abuse children. Failure to report suspected abuse really is not the same thing. It is when there is an accusation that the person in question abused a child that there is a suspension during investigation.

  7. Diakonos09…

    Those mandates of the Dallas Charter apply to clergy accused of sexual abuse of a minor. The bishop has not been charged with anything like that.

    From the charter:

    When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon is received, a preliminary investigation in accordance with canon law will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively (CIC, c. 1717; CCEO, c. 1468). During the investigation the accused enjoys the presumption of innocence, and all appropriate steps shall be taken to protect his reputation. The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be promptly notified of the results of the investigation. When there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a minor has occurred, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified. The bishop/eparch shall then apply the precautionary measures mentioned in CIC, canon 1722, or CCEO, canon 1473—i.e., withdraw the accused from exercising the sacred ministry or any ecclesiastical office or function, impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, and prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist pending the outcome of the process.

  8. There may be no canonical requirement for the bishop to be removed from ministry, but if he had a shred of decency and humility or concern about the moral credibility of his Church, he would remove himself at least temporarily and go someplace for some serious prayer and reflection. (I won’t hold my breath).

    I also don’t think anyone ought to be giving Finn refuge in the Dallas Charter right about now. He stands accused of a crime which spits in the eye of one of the charter’s key requirements: to report suspected abuse to authorities.

    This was not some brand new convoluted policy being road-tested for the first time. This charter has been in place for nine years and was crafted and accepted by a council of Finn’s fellow bishops. Somehow the “shall report” provision keeps getting read as “conceal at all costs.” Maybe there’s some nuance in there that got lost in the back and forth translation between Vatican Latin and English…..

  9. Seems like there are two issues, one what the Catholic Church will do about this in regard to the Bishop, and secondly what can be done in court in this country regarding failure to notify in cases where a person is found to have picutres of nude children. I think it will be interesting to see how this breaks out between the left who have in many cases sided with protecting the rights of porn and protecting free speech. I think they would be appaled at someone convicted in of not reporting someone else for having pictures of nude kids. Should it result in conviction, which I doubt, it will set a president where we will be able to legally go after those who operate a porn site who know who downloads child porn if they do not report those who download. There are certainly a lot of legal hurdles that will have to be blown away to convict this bishop.

    Having said that, I hope the Catholic Church takes a position that anything of this nature will not be tolerated with any of its clergy. This would mean that any priest or bishop who become aware of anothers perversion and does not report it shoud be thrown out. Would this mean that the Dallas agreement needs to be modified to make sure we have all the computers for all priests, deacons, bishops, and religious inspected for porn by their superiors and if there is anything found, to turn them over to the autorities even if there has been no accusations of physcial abuse? Just curious how this will play out in courts and legal precedents goinf forward and how it will play out inside the Church. Lets hope this is not just an attack on Catholic priests or bishops, but translates to all perverions in those who are close to children. After all, it is just about protecting all children, right?

  10. As a parishioner in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, I humbly ask for your prayers for healing for our entire diocese.

    These events have greatly wounded our diocese in very far-reaching ways.

    Please pray for the victims, for our laity, for our priests, for Bishop Finn, and everyone affected by the situation. We all need healing and God’s grace to help us move past this situation.

    Thank you.

  11. There is no conflict between the rights of adults to own and view most types of pornography and the crime of child pornography. The bright line in the free speech issue is that children cannot give proper consent. Authorities already vigorously prosecute purveyors and consumers of child porn, and most of the offenders are not clergy of any kind.

    There are already reporting requirements for many professions besides priests. I believe computer IT people are among them in many jurisdictions. Many arrests and prosecutions have been made because someone with child porn had their computer taken in for work etc. I’m not sure the Dallas Charter needs any special amendments. It already requires bishops to report suspected abuse and to cooperate with civil authorities. What is needed is bishops who don’t hold the spirit of their own agreements in contempt.

  12. Kenneth, I wish it were true that there was vigorous enforcement of child porn. It is a billion dollar industry and you can count on one hand how many have been put away. And I am no aware laws specific to computer IT people to report or face fines and jail time. Many who have found it have reported it resulting in some prosecutions, but they are far from a regular event.

    As i said, I hope that if this results in conviction of the bishop on the basis of not reporting, I hope it sets a legal prcedent that becomes something that is used extensively. I would not bet money on that happening.

    What is needed is for everyone to be concerned about child abuse of any kind by anyone and it would seem like our schools system would be a good place to start since teachers are around our kids all the time. If anyone in the school knows and does not report, they should be prosecuted. Agree Kenneth? Lets not make this a Catholic issue, but one about the kids.

    As to the bishops and the “spirit” of their agreements, I would hope that in reading the Dallas document, that if there are holes, they be filled and not leave it to the “spirit” which will be determined by things other than justice and fair treatment of all.

  13. @ deacongregkandra

    “Is there evidence that the bishop was, in fact, “covering up a crime”?”

    I will let the prosecutor and state law answer that question.

    Count 1: Failure to report suspected child abuse as a mandated reporter.

    Video of Prosecutor Discussing Case:

    Real media professionals are calling it a ‘cover-up’ in print.

    “First Catholic bishop charged with sex abuse cover-up”

    “U.S. Catholic bishop charged in alleged porn cover-up”

  14. I bet if anyone of us failed to report susected and credible abuse of a child (though innocent ourselves of abuse) our bishops would have us out of ministry before our cars left the chancery garage. This smells like the lawgiver above the (at least spirit) of the law to me.

  15. Enforcement seems pretty vigorous. The news is full of arrests every day of people for possession/trading of child porn or solicitation of underage people. It’s a challenge because much of the crime occurs across international borders and takes place in the enormity of cyberspace, but most law enforcement agencies take it quite seriously and do rather well within the limits of their resources.

    This should not be a Catholic issue. Public school teachers, and essentially everyone involved in the school system, are now mandatory reporters, at least here in Illinois. So are clergy and essentially everyone else in the medical, child care and mental health care industries. The penalties for ignoring the law is a Class A misdemeanor – the same level of offense the Bishop now faces. Additionally, health care professionals can face licensing actions.

    The laws concerning IT workers as mandatory reporters are less clear. Most of what I know comes from friends who are in the business and say they’re bound by law to report child porn if they find it. Here’s an interesting link:

    Maybe the Dallas document needs some work, but I think the problem lies with the culture of leadership among bishops, not in text of a document. For a decade or more, they’ve agreed on paper that this is a serious problem and that they need to report suspected offenses.

    Yet, when the rubber hits the road, they fail to do so 100% of the time. Like Finn, they look for the loophole. The reason why the situation might not meet “subsection such and such” to report. That’s what Finn did. He sought some back-channel advice and misrepresented the facts to talk himself into believing that there was no real crime that needed reporting. So long as that’s the attitude among bishops, no amount of flowery progressive language in charters will amount to a hill of beans. It’s a shame it takes criminal prosecution to get a shepherd of the church to do the right thing, but if that’s what it takes, so be it.


    This blog is very thoughtful and presents the best picture I’ve seen on the matter.

    As for forgiveness in this matter, the same blogger addresses that here:

    He starts with this quote from Dietrich Bonheoffer:

    “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

    Time for Catholics – laity and clergy – to go cold turkey and get off this virtual version of ‘crack’ and face reality.

  17. Anyone who wonders if Bishop Finn helped cover up a crime might want to look at this passage from the report written by the diocese’s own law firm; the report is available on the diocese’s website (and is available as a link in a comment someone left at The Anchoress’s blog).

    This passage (from p. 107 of the report) discusses what happened when the diocese finally had a face-to-face meeting with a police officer, a FULL FIVE MONTHS after several diocesan officials reviewed the contents of the laptop and wrote memos about disturbing (possibly criminal) images they found there.

    “That afternoon [in May 2011], Msgr. Murphy called Capt. Smith and  told  him that although  disc [flash drive actually] had been made to preserve the 
    material on the computer, the laptop itself had been 
    given to Bishop Finn, who gave the computer to Fr. Ratigan’s brother.  Fr. Ratigan’s brother had destroyed it.”  

    Bishop Finn himself handed off the laptop, full of evidence, to Shawn Ratigan’s family in the wake of SR’s suicide attempt. The report does not say that Bishop Finn told the family they should destroy the computer, but how could Finn not have realized the family was very likely to do just that. (In mob movies, they never say, “I want him killed” — just “This problem needs to be taken care of.” That’s good enough to ensure that it gets done.) I’m no lawyer, but it doesn’t strike me as a big stretch to see Bishop Finn obstructing justice, conspiring to destroy evidence, etc.–in addition, of course, to failing to report suspected child abuse as corporate head of the diocesan Catholic school system.

    Bishop Finn needs to resign. I cannot see how anyone can claim he is still fit to lead that diocese, or any other diocese. No one deserves a bishop who hands off a computer full of evidence of likely crimes rather than picking up the damn phone and calling the police.

  18. Sorry, a quick follow-up. The last line I tried to quote above got cut off due to my own bad typing. Here’s the end of it:

    “…the laptop itself had been given to Bishop Finn, who gave the computer to Fr. Ratigan’s brother.  Fr. Ratigan’s brother had destroyed it.”

  19. I live in St. Louis where Bishop Finn served as a priest in many capacities, some of them lofty, prior to his being named bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

    I also worked for 10 years for one of the agencies of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and was privy to gossip and rumor minimal as it was. Although I did not know Finn personally, he in my mind personified what a priest should be–provided your preference leans toward straight-arrow priests.

    As someone far from the scene of Finn’s current troubles, it is nevertheless my opinion–and that is all this is, my opinion–I have great difficulty believing Finn would do anything wrong provided he had full information and knew that his decision would involve doing the right thing or the wrong thing.

    It breaks my heart to see a bishop like Finn in civil trouble while Bishop Hubbard, as far as I know, still rules in Albany, NY, following his distribution of the Eucharist at a televised Mass to Governor Cuomo and his mistress, without having faced any upbraiding, known to the public, from his Church superiors.

    It is also interesting to me as a conservative Catholic that Father Shawn Ratigan’s pornographic interests appear to be largely if not entirely heterosexual. His problems seem to indicate, in theory at least, that in the area of aberrant sexual behavior a “straight” priest is no more impervious to temptation than a “gay” priest.

  20. Wow, Steve’s comment above, if it is true, does sound like obstruction of justice and destroying evidence.

  21. Donal Mahoney #23:

    “Bishop Hubbard, as far as I know, still rules in Albany, NY, following his distribution of the Eucharist at a televised Mass to Governor Cuomo and his mistress.”

    I don’t think that Sandra Lee is a Catholic or that she presented herself for the reception of the Eucharist at that Mass. Do you have any information that would refute my judgement?

  22. HMS,

    I was led to believe that by the secular media that Sandra Lee received communion but I suspect Deacon Kandra’s comment above is far more accurate than anything else that I may have read.

    Maybe the Catholic Press did cover the details of this televised Mass. If so, I cannot remember anything. All of my impression of the event was created by the secular media which hopped on the story.

    Maybe Deacon Kandra can straighten me out on another matter:

    Is Bishop Hubbard, within reason, answerable to Abp. Dolan in matters like this? Dolan, like Bishop Finn, is also a St. Louis product and it is hard for me to believe that Dolan would have given Hubbard a pass. If Hubbard is answerable to Dolan, I would have to believe that Hubbard heard from Dolan in private.

    The question for me is what will happen the next time Cuomo gets a hankering to receive the Eucharist.

    Events like this make it hard for me to remember that I too am a sinner of great private repute.

  23. Donal…

    Arch. Dolan is on the record as saying he is not in favor of denying communion to pro-abortion politicians.

    I don’t know if Hubbard is “answerable” to Dolan on this. But from what I’ve observed, even if he is a metropolitan overseeing a region, an archbishop won’t meddle in the pastoral decisions of another bishop.

    Dcn. G.

  24. Donal Mahoney and Deacon Greg:

    “The divorced son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who was once chastised by Catholic leaders for his support of abortion rights, calmly received Holy Communion. Lee walked in line for Communion with him.” (NY Daily News, Sunday, January 2, 2011)

    Case Closed. The New York Daily News reported it.

  25. Bishop Hubbard is not “answerable” to Bishop Dolan unless he were to be distributing communion in Dolan’s diocese. A bishop is sovereign in his own diocese, and not answerable to anyone, including Vatican bureaucrats or other bishops — including the pope. And bishops in general get pretty pissy about not only their own prerogatives, but also get pretty pissy when it comes to respecting the prerogatives of every other bishop, no matter how much they disagree with what the bishop is doing.

    Yes, a bishop can be removed, but as long as he is in charge, he is in charge.

  26. Are we seriously comparing a bishop’s decision on communion policy to the crime of covering up and enabling child abuse?

  27. Kenneth; you ask; “Are we seriously comparing a bishop’s decision on communion policy to the crime of covering up and enabling child abuse?’
    yes they are!!!!!.. they will bring up anything in order to distract the thread from Church leadership disfunction.

    ‘The communion for Cuomo’ folks and deacons go to Mass every Sunday where the re-married couples go to communion; the couples’ Internal forum is very much the same as when bishops deny cover-up when deposed under oath, except the couples are not committing a crime by doing so..

  28. Ditto what Kenneth said.

    There’s a vast, vast difference between the two issues. Putting the bishop who is derelict on protecting children in his diocese in the same league as a bishop who makes an at best debatable decision about who will receive communion is the sort of thing at which outsiders shake their heads. And, as much reverence as I have for the Eucharist, I have to shake my head too.

    Bishop Finn’s behavior in this case is a problem that can’t be side-stepped. Failing to protect children, failing to take key provisions of the Dallas Charter seriously, should be grounds for a bishop giving up job. Otherwise, we’re back in 1997 or 1978, with bishops choosing when or if to take the actions necessary to keep children from being exploited.

    This is an essential question for the church: Are we going to change, or do we want to repeat the mistakes of the past when it comes to not protecting children from sexual abuse?

  29. 33 Rudy; I’m a patriarch of a very large extended Catholic family who sees how the ‘they’ are driving children and grandchildren away from the Faith.. It’s been mentioned in all the papers and on TV.. you missed it?

  30. Kenneth and Anonymous,

    We do not know yet if Bishop Finn is guilty of knowing of Shawn Ratigan’s failures prior to public disclosure or if this information was kept from him by someone else in his office.

    Having lived for years in the same diocese as Finn before he was named a bishop, it’s extremely difficult for me to believe that he would not have done the right thing had he had the proper information in time.

    We do know, however, that Bishop Hubbard administers the Holy Eucharist to pro-choice, pro-gay-“marriage” Governor Cuomo who brings his live-in mistress to receive communion with him. at least when the Mass is televised. And we also know now that Abp. Dolan apparently cannot do anything about it.

    We know for a fact what Bishop Hubbard has done. We do not yet know what Finn has done. We only knows that he has been accused and he at this time protests his innocence.

    If Finn is proven guilty, then I would have to agree with Kenneth and Anonymous. And I might even have to shut up for awhile on the subject of Bishop Hubbard, whose decision was intellectual unlike Father Shawn Ratigan’s decisions which have put Finn in terrible trouble.

    Ratigan likes to take pictures up the skirts of little girls. His decisions emanate from aberrant emotions and a sick psyche. He probably cannot stop himself.

    Hubbard, I maintain, can stop giving communion to Cuomo provided he has the intellectual testosterone to accept the media’s flak. If Hubbard needs advice on how and why he should do that, he can probably call Cardinal Burke in the Vatican. Burke doesn’t care how the media view him.

  31. Maybe we should all hold the Eucharist as something we charish and want to protect as much as we would a child. I do not see why one has to be compared to the other, but I do not think one should be dismissed as being less of concern to Catholics.

    Again, I hope that we see society get very serious about all abuse of children. I can think of little that sickens me more than some perverted person doing something to a child of God. It seemed to get Jesus attention as well when he described what he saw as the future for those who harmed children. I would like to see both sides of the aisle pass some very strong legislation to really put teeth into the war we should be waging on abuse of children by anyone.

    Mark 9: 42″And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

    Can that be deemed Jesus call for capital punishment that most could now consider to be cruel and inhumane punishement? Of course God’s form of capital punishment from every discription of hell seems to be something that would get the ACLU fired up…

  32. Instead of continuing to bicker, argue, and point blame at others, can we use this energy to pray for the safety of our children, the victims, and all who have been affected by this tragedy?

    On this side of heaven, we’ll never truly know how much Bishop Finn did or did not know. Let’s leave it to the courts, the lawyers, and the police to sort out his innocence or guilt and proper punishment.

  33. “On this side of heaven, we’ll never truly know how much Bishop Finn did or did not know.”

    The prosecutors have a pretty good idea through a thing called evidence as well as the parishioners, parents, and staff who alerted the bishop about the child porn and behavior of the Ratigan.

    It is a crime that the Bishop has not alerted family members to this late date about which of their children appears in the photos. The bishop’s investigators know but have not released the details.


    “Liz Miquelon and her husband, Brad, asked each other the same question they’ve asked since the scandal broke months ago: would today be the day they returned to church? They had not attended since they pulled their daughter from St. Patrick’s School, terrified that she might be among the unidentified children in the photos.”

    Once the Bishop had sent Ratigan to live in a convent, with bishop’s permission, Ratigan presided at a girl’s first communion, according to interviews and court documents.

    That is down right unbelievable.

  34. #38..On this side of heaven, we’ll never truly know how much Bishop Finn did or did not know’

    you obviously have not read the KC don’t upsets the too pious..

  35. Greta (#37), there is such a thing as “willful ignorance.” For the record, I think it may be Bishop Finn who is guilty of that. I am not accusing you of being willfully ignorant.

    You can, if you wish, read the report prepared by the diocese’s law firm (quite a lengthy thing, about 150 pages; I’ll confess that I focused only on the lengthy section concerning the Shawn Ratigan case–which was disturbing enough). When I read that document, I got a strong sense that Bishop Finn was operating from a stance of plausible deniability. What sort of culture does a bishop create, after all, that the people around him (Msgr. Murphy, the development head for the diocese, and others) are hesitant to approach him with concrete evidence (lots of photos on a laptop, plus Principal Hess’s five page letter) that something was gravely — and very possibly criminally — wrong with Shawn Ratigan’s behavior in 2010, especially near the end of that year. Wouldn’t you expect any good bishop to tell his senior lieutenants (e.g., Fr. Murphy), “I want to know about allegations of inappropriate behavior — in detail. Bring the allegations and the evidence to me. Let me meet personally with those who concerned.” Especially, that is, after the massive settlement of the lawsuits a few years previous. When those who are next-in-charge do not contact the bishop directly, or hand a letter to him so he can read it himself (was he really TOO BUSY to read the Hess letter?), you start to wonder if that’s the bishop’s way of keeping his hands clean. And yet he DID know something was gravely wrong, or he wouldn’t have sent Shawn Ratigan to live in what Finn imagined was a more isolated setting. Obviously, he did realize the man posed a very real danger to children. And the report from the diocese’s law firm states that it was Finn who handed off the computer to Ratigan’s family, who ended up destroying it.

    I’m not completely convinced that Finn was ignorant of the details in the Hess letter until spring 2011, as he claims. It just doesn’t seem plausible that he would not have asked to read it in the wake of Shawn Ratigan’s suicide attempt in Dec 2010. Don’t they maintain personnel records for priests in that diocese? The bishop could not ask someone to fetch Ratigan’s file so he could review it that very week?

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