Memo to Bill Donohue: Please Stop Helping Now

Memo to Bill Donohue: Please Stop Helping Now December 6, 2012

Shoutin’ Bill offers a text book lesson in how not to defend the Faith:

The Times says that Finn’s conviction of a misdemeanor “stemmed from his failure to report the Rev. Shawn Ratigan to the authorities after hundreds of pornographic pictures that Father Ratigan had taken of young girls were discovered on his laptop in December 2010.”

That statement is factually wrong. On October 15, 2011 the Times mentioned there was “a single photo of a young girl, nude from the waist down,” and “hundreds of photographs of children” showing “upskirt images and images focused on the crotch.”

Now anyone who takes such pictures is clearly disturbed. But it also needs to be said that crotch shots are not pornographic.


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  • I’ve said for years, even before I knew that The Catholic League isn’t an official arm of The Church, that someone else needs to represent The Church in America on TV. At the time I had hoped the job would be given to Dr. Dolores Greer.

  • Jonathan Carpenter

    Amen to that Dr. Eric! The only reason that drew me to support Dr. Donohue was that he was the most prominent Catholic who spoke out against Legitimate Anti-Catholic bias. If more did that we would not need his services.

  • Ron Belgau

    It’s also disappointing that Donohue speaks as if it were only the “Catholic Left” that was upset with Bishop Finn. I would think that at least some Catholics who are completely committed to the Church’s teaching on chastity might have some objection to the Bishop’s handling of the Fr. Ratigan case. It shows a lapse in judgment which, in my view, makes resignation an appropriate response.

    Among the qualities the Apostle Paul demands of a bishop in I Timothy 3:1-7 are that he must be “above reproach . . . must manage his own household well . . . [and] must be well thought of by outsiders.” Obviously, there are times when standing firm for truth will earn enemies. This, however, is not one of those times. Bishop Finn is not mistrusted by outsiders because he is faithful; he is mistrusted because he didn’t respond effectively to an accusation that one of his priests was a potential sexual predator.

    See also noted Liberal Catholic Elizabeth Scalia on Bishop Finn:

  • I THINK he is alluding to the fact that, allegedly, the Msgr. under the Bishop had shown a police officer one crotch-shot picture, and that police officer said it did not qualify as child pornography.

    But if he can’t be more clear than that, we’d all be a LOT better off if he just shut up. Can’t any ecclesial authority reel him in? Maybe you should offer to be his copy editor, Mark? (Only half kidding.) There are times that his statements are so bad that I worry that he is a plant working for the other side.

  • Brian

    Bill Donohue has a serious reputation as a bully and a right-wing partisan. For one thing, I’ve seen him caricature his opponents in very nasty ways. For example, look at some of the cartoonish pictures he uses for some of his press releases. He has also infamously claimed that Hollywood is run by secular jews who “hate Christianity” and “like anal sex” (though to his credit, he later apologized for using the word “dominated). For another thing, I’ve barely seen him show understanding of the seriousness of the damage of the sex-abuse scandal to the Church’s witness. I fear that he will contribute to an epic anti-Catholic backlash that will make the sex-abuse scandal look like a match in Street Fighter.

    • ivan_the_mad

      “Bill Donohue has a serious reputation as a bully and a right-wing partisan.” Yup. I read a couple of issues of Catalyst, which was in the Church vestibule, and was embarrassed by it. Its reasoning is shoddy, and its really just a lot of angry shouting.

  • Woah, that’s a full face-palm, all the way! Double face-palm, all the way! OMG! It’s so bright, and so vivid! It’s starting to look like a triple face-palm OOooOOooOh!
    (CF:, and then cross reference with

  • Tim Jones

    So, he’s saying crotch shots of young girls is not legitmate porn?

  • And if there was no child porgnography on Fr. Ratigan’s computer, how did he get convicted of taking pornoraphic pictures of children and storing them on his computer? All the details are here – . See in particular the “Stipulation of Testimony” – undisputed facts that both prosecution and defense agreed to in this case. Not only is Donahue wrong, but Bishop Finn needs to resign.

    • sal magundi

      “And if there was no child porgnography on Fr. Ratigan’s computer, how did he get convicted of taking pornoraphic pictures of children and storing them on his computer?”

      because liberals

  • John Thrippleton

    It took me a while, but I finally found the editorial he referenced. ( He probably should have linked it from his site. Given this I think what he was trying to say, albeit poorly, was that the Times has no business slamming Finn for pornography of this type when it hails the “art” of Sturges and Hamilton. Since I am at work, I can’t freely browse their work to judge for myself, but I’d still be nervous about doing that. The editorial actually does say that nude photography of children is not necessarily pornography. So by that logic, neither are the photos on Father Ratigan’s computer. This, of course, is bad logic since it is based on a faulty premise (that Sturges and Hamilton’s work are not pornography). But nonetheless, the complaint that Bill was less than eloquent in stating this is an understatement. However, this is the same complaint I have against most of the conservative commentators and politicians. They simply don’t have enough understanding of these issues to articulate them well. Truth just doesn’t fit into neat little soundtracks as well as falsehood does.

  • Bob

    I think we agree all about Bill Donohue. No one mints new Catholic-haters faster than him.
    But I’m curious to know what Mark and the comboxers think of the matter at hand regarding Bishop Finn? Should he resign? If he refuses to resign, should he be removed? (Apologies if I missed previous commentary on this.)

    • I would say that, for the good of the Church, he should resign. I’m not sure if he should be removed or not. From reading the “Stipulation of Testimony”, I feel that Bishop Finn is at fault, but also did not report it to police because he was under the mistaken impression that Msgr. Murphy had consulted fully with the KCPD over the matter and was told it was not a criminal matter. (In fact, Murphy had not shown any pictures to the police, though he had described ONE picture.)

      I still don’t feel comfortable with the way Bp. Finn handled the matter, though, even if he was under the impression that it wasn’t a criminal matter. He should have made sure his directives were being enforced.

      • Bp. Finn knew what the pictures were and knew Msgr. Murphy had not contacted the police. Bp. Finn gave the computer back to Fr. Ratigan’s family, and they destroyed it, fully knowing what he was doing. Read the Graves Report. Read the treatment I give this on my blog (linked in my previous comment). This was a cover-up, and a slap in the face of the victims and their families. It wasn’t just a lax bishop not fully informed. Finn knew what he was doing.

        And to make matters worse, he spent $1.4 million of diocesan money – money the diocese receives from parishes and Catholic schools – to defend himself against two misdemeanor charges that resulted in a $1,000 fine.

        Bishop Finn is not fit to be a Boy Scout Leader, much less a reigning bishop.

        • “Bishop Finn is not fit to be a Boy Scout Leader, much less a reigning bishop.”

          Neither was St. Peter who denied Christ three times.

          • kenneth

            Hesitancy in volunteering for martyrdom done out of fear is a hell of a different sort of character flaw than complicity in the violation of children done out of hubris. Finn was not some hapless functionary in the early 60s who just failed to grasp the full scale of a horror he had never heard of. He knew better than any prelate in modern history the nature and implications of cleric abuse and what should be done about it. He made a willful decision to do the wrong thing, applying a cynicism and moral relativism which can only be described as Satanic. If Donohue and others want to cast this issue in terms of the lawyers game of what “is is” in the definition of pornography, they will find the moral authority of their faith will be judged accordingly.

            • “He made a willful decision to do the wrong thing, applying a cynicism and moral relativism which can only be described as Satanic.”


              Perhaps I’m naive, but I tend not to impute evil motives to people. It seems to me, that like St. Peter, he failed in courage when confronted with evil. I think this a symptom of these times. We’ve been trained not to confront. Confronting is bad, especially when talking about sexual immorality. And so men these days are largely wimps. They don’t slay dragons, they run away. Or they ignore them. The same sort of thing is happening throughout the culture. Public schools, and in the Boy Scouts.

              How many of you confront the moral evils of the day? The unmarried couple with children living in the neighborhood. How about when a relative comes for an overnight visit with his or her “significant other”. Sure, these aren’t as gravely evil as pedophilia, but they are all mortal sins. Our blog host infamously said that he didn’t care about the personal sexual life of a SSA person he thought a saint. I don’t have the handbook for which mortal sexual sin Catholics are supposed to ignore, but my guess is that we take our cues from the secular culture.

              Ignoring sins is easy. Having the courage to go face to face with people about their sins requires practice (let us not forget that speaking out in the lavender seminaries was reason to be thrown out of seminary; how easy is it to break out of that formation?). I vividly remember the last time I was told I was headed for hell. It about a quarter of a century ago. As far as I know, these things aren’t done anymore.

              [P.S. Confronting people on the Internet is a huge exception. In fact, it takes effort not to be confrontational and be as bland as we are in real life.]

              • carlamariee

                He wasn’t just anyone, he was a Bishop. The mandate was clear and yet he intentionally abandoned lambs to the wolf. Do you have any idea how much this stuff kills any credibility the Church has remaining in speaking to the larger culture? He should resign.

                • I believe that perhaps there’s a mistake here within this little sub-thread. It seems assumed that I don’t grasp the magnitude of Bishop Finn’s sin. It’s not that. I don’t see that the magnitude (or the gravity) of the sin has any bearing on Finn as bishop. That’s precisely why I brought up St. Peter. He denied Christ three times. If anything would have bearing on the fitness to be In Persona Christi, one would think that denial of Christ would be a primary disqualifying factor.

                  My return home to the Church happened during the height of the Scandal, in Boston, while Cardinal Law was still archbishop of Boston. Blessed Pope John Paul II had declined Cardinal Law’s first request for resignation. Perhaps then, perhaps, I came to the recognition that as all are sinners, bishops lack at least some credibility. Their credibility comes not from themselves, but from Jesus Christ.

                  Then I think of the two vocations, ordination and marriage, two sacraments of the Church. There are similarities. Each bishop is the head of his diocese, just as Christ is the head of his bride, the Church. Suppose a husband breached the trust with adultery. In this culture, divorce is the solution. And yet, I don’t believe the Church would permit divorce (although the Church recommends separation for safety reasons, divorce when separation is required to be acknowledged by civil authorities). There is terrible damage done to the family, but the father doesn’t resign as father, nor does the husband resign as husband. Even if a civil divorce is granted, the Church still recognizes the marriage, and if an annulment were granted it would not be granted because of any sin that occurred years after the vows, but rather it would determine at the time of vows, whether there was a marriage in the first place.

                  Obviously, the analogy with bishops and their diocese is looser, since bishops do move around somewhat, and not all bishops have a diocese. But while a bishop to diocese can be viewed as a CEO to a modern corporation, it seems to me, that in a deeper sense, it is to be viewed principally as a relationship. People don’t ordinarily resign from relationships, even when they’ve done something to disfigure that relationship (such as adultery).

                  So, I’m reluctant to agree with calls for resignation. But it’s not because I’m failing to recognize the sin or its gravity.

                  • carlamariee

                    You see this as comparable to a marriage relationship, one that two adults enter into equally. These were children whose dependency called for protection. A husband and wife may choose to work out their relationship if one strays. If a parent is found to have been willfully permitting sexual acces to the children under their care, they should lose the privillege of being parent. This is not abstract, and no, I do not believe that you have any idea of the gravity. As awful as adultry is, it is not comparable with the sexual expoitation of children. Please educate yourself. I can’t imagine anyone really understanding the enormity of this crime and not strongly advocating for the children first and foremost.

                    • “Please educate yourself. I can’t imagine anyone really understanding the enormity of this crime and not strongly advocating for the children first and foremost.”

                      Thank you for confirming my suspicions.

                      For the record, I choose adultery as the sin that breaches the trust in a marriage, and not for the sake of comparing adultery to sexual child abuse. Adultery attacks the heart of what a marriage is, just as the denial of Christ attacks the heart of what an ordination is.

                      Since you view it impossible that I could care about the abuse of children unless I join in calls for Bishop Finn’s resignation, our discussion is at an end.

                      I ask you not to consider leaving the Church (that is, “please don’t leave the Church”), if it turns out that Bishop Finn remains the bishop of his diocese until retirement. Everyone’s final end in heaven is more important than the perceived and actual sins and mistakes made by fallen human beings in the Church Militant.

        • kenneth

          He should have been prosecuted as an accessory to the child porn possession and with felony obstruction of justice. That’s exactly what would have happened to any of us had we been in the same circumstances.

  • This post is another reason why I like this blog and its author!

  • Alexander Anderson

    Argh. Can we get this man off television? Have the bishops state abundantly clearly that he does not speak for the Church? Not only does he perturb me when he outrages about unimportant things, I hate it when he’s presented as the voice of Catholics.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    I have little doubt that Donohue means well.

    That being said, good intentions are no excuse for being a jackass, and every time Donohue makes the news, I feel nothing but profound embarrassment. It’s time for him to resign. The Catholic League is doing more harm than good. I see nothing of the Sermon of the Mount in their methods.

  • Alexis C.

    Laughing hysterically over here at “Shoutin’ Bill.”
    I’ve thought for eons that this guy does way more harm than good.

  • tz

    But the Bishops don’t insist he remove “Catholic” any more, and probably less than “Catholics for Choice”.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      If you are referring to the National Catholic Reporter, no further insistence is necessary. They were told to cease using the title Catholic in 1968 and have been in disobedience ever since.

  • By learned Doctor Donohue’s definition of pornography, there has been a great miscarriage of American Justice in the false conviction of Father Shawn Ratigan on the Federal Charges of possession and manufacturing of child pornography. No wonder Bill Donohue despises Attorney General Eric Holder and the dark forces of the U.S. Justice Department so much. Catholicism is not only being attacked by the U.S. Government but the wholesale ignorance Donohue dumps by the tone into the American Town Square of public opinion.