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Indicting a Bishop and a Diocese in Missouri
October 14, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph have been indicted by a Jackson County, MO grand jury on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse. Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to face criminal prosecution in a child sexual abuse case, and faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine (the diocese only faces the fine). Both Finn and the diocese entered not guilty pleas.

The significance of this indictment is not fully reflected in the potential penalties, Rev. Thomas J. Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, sums up the sea change: “For a bishop to be indicted is absolutely extraordinary...This is a first. And in terms of the Catholic Church, this is an extraordinary move which is going to signal that the times have changed. Neither people nor government are going to put up with any kind of activity that looks like a cover-up.” Finn was called to testify to the grand jury in September and testified that he would do "the best we can to cooperate with law enforcement."

The indictment alleges that Finn and diocese had reasonable cause to believe that the Father Shawn Ratigan, a priest in the service of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, may have abused a child but did not report it to authorities. After the diocese discovered that Ratigan had hundreds of nude and sexualized photos of children on his laptop on December 16, 2010, Finn and the diocese restricted Ratigan from being around children but did not report their discovery to police until May 11, 2011. Ratigan is currently facing 11 counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography and 2 counts of possessing child pornography.
posted by 2bucksplus (86 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meant to include:
The case has generated fury at a bishop who was already a polarizing figure in his diocese, and there are widespread calls for him to resign. Parishioners started a Facebook page called ’”Bishop Finn Must Go” and circulated a petition. An editorial in The Kansas City Star in June calling for the bishop to step down concluded that prosecutors must “’actively pursue all relevant criminal charges” against everyone involved.

Stoking much of the anger is the fact that only three years ago, Bishop Finn settled lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10 million and agreed to a long list of preventive measures, among them to report anyone suspected of being a pedophile immediately to law enforcement authorities.

Bishop Finn, who was appointed in 2005, alienated many of his priests and parishioners, and won praise from others, when he remade the diocese to conform with his traditionalist theological views. He is one of few bishops affiliated with the conservative movement Opus Dei.
New York Times
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:36 PM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Justice delayed is still justice denied, but it is finally a step in the right direction. I think the rot goes a far ways towards the top.
posted by Renoroc at 2:40 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


One year in jail? Galileo was about to be burned alive for having a theory (tought crime), and child abusers get a slap on their hands?
posted by elpapacito at 2:52 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not that the penalty isn't laughably light, but the medieval Catholic Church (which did burn plenty of heretics, just not Galileo) isn't really something to model a justice system after.
posted by kmz at 2:57 PM on October 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


The case has generated fury at a bishop who was already a polarizing figure in his diocese, and there are widespread calls for him to resign.

I'm actually shocked that parishioners even have to ask.
posted by empath at 2:57 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"One year in jail? Galileo was about to be burned alive for having a theory (tought crime), and child abusers get a slap on their hands?"

Shawn Ratigan, the abuser, is facing quite a bit more time than a year. This article is about a bishop whose diocese failed to adequately follow state law and its own policies by not doing enough to stop Ratigan, it is clear that he was not trying to actively hide his crimes but they did fail to respond properly.

Also, Galileo died of a fever at the ripe old age of 77.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:01 PM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well this is going to hurt the chances of John Paul II becoming a saint because the only miracle I can associate with him is the none of these criminals went to jail.

And that's not just snark. The Catholic Church could be brought up on RICO charges for the way that they systematically and knowingly shielded, excused, and enabled criminal behavior.

To say nothing of the way they paid hush money.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 PM on October 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm actually shocked that parishioners even have to ask.

Last time I checked, the Church wasn't a democracy, and the hierarchy wasn't particularly responsive to the pleas of the flock.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:05 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


that is Bishop Finn not actively hiding Ratigan's crimes
posted by Blasdelb at 3:05 PM on October 14, 2011


One year in jail? Galileo was about to be burned alive for having a theory (tought crime), and child abusers get a slap on their hands?

--

Shawn Ratigan, the abuser, is facing quite a bit more time than a year. This article is about a bishop whose diocese failed to adequately follow state law and its own policies by not doing enough to stop Ratigan, it is clear that he was not trying to actively hide his crimes but they did fail to respond properly.


Also, the legal system of Missouri in the year 2011 is rather different from that of Rome in the year 1633.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:15 PM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm glad this happened. I'll be interested to see how it plays out.
posted by OmieWise at 3:20 PM on October 14, 2011


After the diocese discovered that Ratigan had hundreds of nude and sexualized photos of children on his laptop on December 16, 2010, Finn and the diocese restricted Ratigan from being around children but did not report their discovery to police until May 11, 2011.

Because really, how much damage could the guy do in six months, right?
posted by quin at 3:25 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, the legal system of Missouri in the year 2011 is rather different from that of Rome in the year 1633.

Now if it were Texas ...
posted by zippy at 3:31 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


What we've got here is a failure to excommunicate.
posted by slackdog at 3:44 PM on October 14, 2011 [71 favorites]


Now, see - if they had the protection of our esteemed Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, he could've gotten off! (Not *that* way)...
The one thing we do know about where Ron Johnson stands on child protection comes from his prominent opposition to the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, a bipartisan bill that would have extended the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.

In 2009, Johnson, a private citizen, traveled from Oshkosh to the capitol in Madison to deliver testimony (see page 27) opposing the bill. There’s not much of serious substance in his testimony, other than his argument that lawsuits by abuse victims would hurt “non-profit organizations.” Johnson then listed eight nonprofits he was involved with, including some affiliated with the Catholic church, who fought the legislation strongly (Johnson is a Lutheran).
posted by symbioid at 3:46 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


After the diocese discovered that Ratigan had hundreds of nude and sexualized photos of children on his laptop on December 16, 2010, Finn and the diocese restricted Ratigan from being around children but did not report their discovery to police until May 11, 2011.

Because really, how much damage could the guy do in six months, right?
Federal prosecutors say Ratigan took sexually explicit pictures of girls' private parts starting in 2005 through April 2011.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:50 PM on October 14, 2011


His name is actually Ratigan?

The villain from The Great Mouse Detective?

brb nachtmere tiem
posted by LogicalDash at 3:50 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


In December, diocesan officials found what prosecutors later alleged was child pornography on Ratigan’s computer. The diocese said it contacted a police officer and described “one of the more disturbing images” from Ratigan’s computer, asking whether it constituted child porn, and the officer said it did not. Police later confirmed that the officer was Capt. Richard Smith, but said that he was told only about one photo and was not made aware that other, more graphic images were stored on Ratigan’s computer.

The church relieved Ratigan of his duties as pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in the Northland and assigned him to live at an Independence mission house. While there, according to a federal indictment, he allegedly attempted to take pornographic photos of a 12-year-old girl.


so, you might ask, what were the photos on Ratigans laptop?
a computer technician discovered pornographic images of girls on the laptop, including pictures of girls' vaginas, according to court documents.

Ratigan is accused of taking sexually explicit pictures of a 6-year-old girl in June 2005, according to the federal indictment. Pictures of that girl was on the laptop turned over to the diocese on Dec. 16, 2010, according to prosecutors.

The second victim was 2 years old when Ratigan began taking pictures of her, according to the indictment. He took pictures of her at St. Joseph's Church in Easton, including inside the church's choir loft, in May 2006, prosecutors say.

Ratigan again took pictures of the girl when she was 5 years old, according to the indictment. Prosecutors say Ratigan took more than 40 close-up shots of the girl's private area while she stood on the church's front steps on June 3, 2009.

The third victim was 5 years old when Ratigan took photos of her private parts in the summer and fall of 2007, according to court documents. He allegedly took sexually explicit photos again of the sleeping girl in March 2008 while allegedly trying to pull her pants down. He is accused of again taking photos of her in April 2008 and April 2010.

The fourth victim was 7 years old in 2009 when photos were taken of her, according to court documents.

The fifth victim was sleeping in August 2008 and September 2009 when Ratigan pulled down her pants and took pictures of her private parts, according to the indictment. The girl was 8 and 9 years old during this period of time.
So, the diocese contacted a police officer and described a photo which the officer apparently did not think was pornographic. Either the decency standards of Missouri cops are lower than I would expect or the diocese could have been charged with a lot more than misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:59 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


and the hierarchy wasn't particularly responsive to the pleas of the flock.

They might be responsive to all those tithes going elsewhere, though. When it comes down to it, aren't churches profit centers?
posted by small_ruminant at 4:13 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


[edited to make the state correct. Carry on.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:15 PM on October 14, 2011


A few years back, I went out with a girl who was a staunch Catholic. Any attempt to discuss any of the Catholic Church's various misdeeds (the Crusades, popes fathering tons of kids in the Middle Ages, sex abuse of children) was met with stonewalling and a threat that she would break up with me if I said any more negative things about the Church.

A lot of Catholics might be like her, devout and unwilling or unable to question the various bad acts committed by leaders within their faith.

That being said, I'm glad that the secular authorities are finally taking matters into their own hands and ending the practice of allowing religious organizations to remain above the law.
posted by reenum at 4:21 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this what happens when men are in charge and dismiss sexual encounters as "boys will be boys"? Whether the "boys" are Scout Leaders, counselors, coaches, or bosses.
posted by Cranberry at 5:10 PM on October 14, 2011


Is the point of this thread to feel good about myself or find out what's actually going on? It's not like they were waiting six months to let Ratigan flee the country. It was possibly stuck in committee or the suspicion developed over time, and meanwhile they kept him away from children. That's not ideal in hindsight but that's about it.
posted by michaelh at 5:16 PM on October 14, 2011


If there were multiple children involved, why can't they prosecute him on multiple counts of failing to report? There has to be some way to throw this guy in the slammer for more than just a year.
posted by pjdoland at 5:20 PM on October 14, 2011


michaelh, a report commissioned by the church itself found they "failed to follow their own policies and procedures in responding to reports of child sexual abuse." This was three years *after* Finn agreed, in a multi-million dollar settlement, "to report anyone suspected of being a pedophile immediately to law enforcement authorities."

"Not ideal in hindsight" is a peculiarly gentle way to describe the despicable behavior that happened (yet again) this year.
posted by mediareport at 5:41 PM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


What we've got here is a failure to excommunicate.

Slackdog wins the Internet.
posted by neuron at 6:05 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Bishop? That's the highest rank EVER charged in the USA?

Wow, it's just like the military. Hang a few stooges out to dry while the brass gets off scot free.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:09 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good to see burning at the stake and The Crusades have been mentioned already.

*FACEPALM*
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:11 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


A Bishop? That's the highest rank EVER charged in the USA?

Well, in a way bishop is really the highest title that exists in the Catholic Church, since even the Pope is also a bishop. Also, there are no Popes or Patriarchs in the US, so I guess you could charge one of the American Cardinals or an archbishop, which is technically higher in rank than bishop, but bishop is still pretty high.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:21 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shawn Ratigan, the abuser, is facing quite a bit more time than a year.

Which, in a way, strikes me as wrong, really. Ratigan is obviously, like any adult who gets off on 6 year old children, fucked in the head. As a parent I fear and loathe such people for what they could do to my kid, but I pity them, too. Something is terribly wrong with their wiring. They need to be tucked away somewhere until they can't do any damage to kids, but I'm not convinced prison to be raped and beaten by prisoners looking to feel better about their own depraved lives by shitting on someone further down the totem pole is the right thing. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's the wrong thing.

But yeah, fucked in the head. This bishop, on the other hand, is an infinitely worse, more depraved, more vile sort of a creature. He values the cachet of his position and organisation such that he will cover up for child sex abuse simply to preserve it, yet he is not driven by the same demons as Ratigan. Ratigan is pathetic and dangerous. The bishop is evil.
posted by rodgerd at 6:32 PM on October 14, 2011 [20 favorites]


Cheers Bulgaroktonos, I did not know that. I was using the rough scale of:

Acolyte < Brother < Priest < Monsignor < Bishop < Arch Bishop < Cardinal < Pope
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:37 PM on October 14, 2011


rogerd, I agree with you wholeheartedly. This is what I mean when I said that traditional religious organizations have been allowed to largely operate without interference from the authorities.

Without the oversight faced by other public institutions, they were free to build a wall of silence and unaccountability designed to protect the church from the prying eyes of outsiders. Simply put, power corrupts, and this has happened in the worst way not only with the Catholic Church, but also every other religious denomination that protects preachers and other higher ups from scrutiny faced by their secular equals.

I say we need to subject these organizations to the same scrutiny and oversight they would be subject to if they were a non-religious organization. Not only in the US, but all over the world. Only then will we have a hope to squash these problem individuals when they decide to start doing legally and morally abhorrent things. Only then will we prevent the power hungry bishops, deacons, imams, and others would shield such people to keep their own position.
posted by reenum at 7:03 PM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Shawn Ratigan, the abuser, is facing quite a bit more time than a year."

"Which, in a way, strikes me as wrong, really. Ratigan is obviously, like any adult who gets off on 6 year old children, fucked in the head."


My grandfather once said while explaining the concept of justice to me, that it is wrong to hang a horse thief because he deserves it; he doesn't. It is also wrong to hang a horse thief because it rights some kind of cosmic wrong; it doesn't. That it is also wrong to hang a horse thief because horse thieves are somehow evil; they arn't. But that you should never fail to hang a horse thief so that horses don't get stolen.*

*This lesson from an age and place where horse theft could easily result in farm loss, poverty, and starvation.

"But yeah, fucked in the head. This bishop, on the other hand, is an infinitely worse, more depraved, more vile sort of a creature. He values the cachet of his position and organisation such that he will cover up for child sex abuse simply to preserve it, yet he is not driven by the same demons as Ratigan. Ratigan is pathetic and dangerous. The bishop is evil."

It is not clear at all that in this case there was an active cover up of any kind. The actionable incident that traveled up the chain of command was reported to their internal sex-abuse panel, which is exactly what should have happened (and mirrors the standard in most mainline protestant churches), the failure occurred when Capt. Richard Smith of the Kansas City Police Department determined that no crime took place in the taking of those pictures. The panel then erred in trusting the judgement of the LEO and the Bishop erred in picking such a gullible panel.

Believe me, I think he should serve jail time for his failure, but to characterize him as the more depraved and vile creature is I think pretty absurd. He is currently waiving his 5th amendment rights, providing all of the documentation and testimony prosecutors are asking for, and not in any way scrambling to cover his quite exposed and liable ass. I hope he continues to act with such dignity by stepping down and serving the time he gets with grace for the good of the community, the church, and particularly the victims.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:07 PM on October 14, 2011


"What we've got here is a failure to excommunicate."

As awesomely snarky as this is I also just wanted to point out that it represents a misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine. The concept of excommunication comes from Galatians 1:8 — "But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be anathema!" where in both current and past usage it is nothing more than a tool used to recognize that someone who is sowing confusion is no longer a Catholic. One can believe in the Nicene Creed, hold and convey a 'correct' understanding of Catholic doctrine, and still fail by committing all manner of sin up and including murder, eating a Friday steak dinner, and molesting children. The idea is that man is always capable of redemption no matter how depraved, a Catholic christian is someone with at least a roughly 'correct' idea of how to get there.

tl;dr: Excommunication is a more subtle concept than just most bad punishment and would be inappropriate to apply to anyone in this case for reasons that are non-obvious to heathens like most of us.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:26 PM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I say we need to subject these organizations to the same scrutiny and oversight they would be subject to if they were a non-religious organization. Not only in the US, but all over the world. Only then will we have a hope to squash these problem individuals when they decide to start doing legally and morally abhorrent things. Only then will we prevent the power hungry bishops, deacons, imams, and others would shield such people to keep their own position.

Interesting you bring up Islam. There just isn't the will on a certain side of politics to do anything. Even polite, common sense actions such as removing your burqa for a police traffic stop causes a ridiculous amount wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Scrutinising non Christian organisations for child abuse? Ha!

"B-b-but The Crusades!"
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:31 PM on October 14, 2011


and not in any way scrambling to cover his quite exposed and liable ass

Cooperating after you get caught isn't really all that admirable.
posted by mediareport at 8:09 PM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


It is not clear at all that in this case there was an active cover up of any kind. The actionable incident that traveled up the chain of command was reported to their internal sex-abuse panel, which is exactly what should have happened (and mirrors the standard in most mainline protestant churches), the failure occurred when Capt. Richard Smith of the Kansas City Police Department determined that no crime took place in the taking of those pictures. The panel then erred in trusting the judgement of the LEO and the Bishop erred in picking such a gullible panel.

ummm.... so, they had a laptop full of crotch shots of very young girls spanning many many years.
a computer technician discovered pornographic images of girls on the laptop, including pictures of girls' vaginas, according to court documents.
from this sentence it looks like the technician found vaginas and testified to that in front of the grand jury. Now, you are arguing that somehow they didn't see the bad stuff? Or, Capt. Smith thinks 6 is above the age of consent in Missouri?
The computer repairman alerted the diocese to the images. Church officials then asked a diocese computer technician to review the laptop, according to police investigators. Copies of the image were made but the laptop was turned over to Ratigan's family, who then destroyed the laptop, according to investigators. A church official in December described a single picture over the phone to a police officer, investigators have said.

The diocese didn't give the images to police until May. In the ensuing five months, Ratigan remained with the diocese. Diocese officials have said they contacted police in May after Ratigan ignored warnings to stay away from children.
the diocese made an 'image' of the laptops harddrive and then returned it to Ratigan. the diocese had plural images, which they were able to turn over to the police after he was caught with a 12 year old girl at the retirment home they parked him at.

So, either the diocese never bothered to fully search the laptop after he was caught with something which looked like kiddie porn and had a complaint from a school principal about his behavior and they tried to take him out of circulation (for what reason?) or they failed to report multiple sexual images of children and tried to pass it off to the police as a single image that was possibly innocuous. That's what this case is about.

But, the fact is that these sorts of "mistakes" have happened over and over again. When the scandal started to break I was ready to chalk it up to the sort of hysteria that afflicts any organization that works with young children... but the more cases that come up, the more it seems to me that the church hierarchy has made a deliberate decision to shield priests whom they internally believe are child molesters. I believe the church has convinced themselves they are doing it out of moral reasons, charity, forgiveness, etc. but that makes it all the more evil.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:09 PM on October 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


It is not clear at all that in this case there was an active cover up of any kind. The actionable incident that traveled up the chain of command was reported to their internal sex-abuse panel, which is exactly what should have happened (and mirrors the standard in most mainline protestant churches), the failure occurred when Capt. Richard Smith of the Kansas City Police Department determined that no crime took place in the taking of those pictures. The panel then erred in trusting the judgement of the LEO and the Bishop erred in picking such a gullible panel.

Come on, is that really believable? An officer said that taking photos of young girls private parts was not a crime.

I can't believe they gave an honest description of the contents.
posted by fruit sandwich at 9:18 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excommunication is a more subtle concept than just most bad punishment and would be inappropriate to apply to anyone in this case for reasons that are non-obvious to heathens like most of us.


Blasdelb:
Gee whiz, and here my ex-parish priests threatened me with excommunication, because while I was married to another Catholic in a Catholic church, I then later divorced him and remarried civil ceremonies. AND he called my 2 children resulting from my second marriage illegitimate.

That son-of-a-bitch is just one of the reasons I'm an ex-Catholic. One of the other reasons was Monsignor O' Shay of the wandering hands in grade school. But there are many reasons, and I digress.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:46 PM on October 14, 2011


michaelh, a report commissioned by the church itself found they "failed to follow their own policies and procedures in responding to reports of child sexual abuse." This was three years *after* Finn agreed, in a multi-million dollar settlement, "to report anyone suspected of being a pedophile immediately to law enforcement authorities."

"Not ideal in hindsight" is a peculiarly gentle way to describe the despicable behavior that happened (yet again) this year.

I said in hindsight because in hindsight they should have moved on this guy a lot faster. Everything is amazingly clear now. Before then, maybe it wasn't so obvious. We're talking about one of the more thorough reformers here so unless you think heads should roll for fun, it's a good idea to be sure of what's happening before discouraging other bishops in troubled dioceses from acting like he has these last few years.
posted by michaelh at 10:08 PM on October 14, 2011


This was three years *after* Finn agreed, in a multi-million dollar settlement, "to report anyone suspected of being a pedophile immediately to law enforcement authorities."

That seems an extraordinary requirement, as it's not illegal to be a pedophile.
posted by layceepee at 10:23 PM on October 14, 2011


From the links I became curious about the principal who complained. The internet includes the memo she sent. And a chart.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:40 PM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Imagine a multinational corporation with branches in essentially every city of the world, long history, and a huge bankroll. Now imagine that members of that company has systematically raped vast numbers of children, and that the leadership of that corporation will nothing to stop them, and will even go to great lengths to protect the members that rape children.

If the public learned about these heinous crimes, what would happen? My guess is that shortly after the centuries of child-rape was made public, police and military units from every nation would be converging on all the various branches of the organization, and that Navy Seals would assault the compound of the CEO and shoot him in the face.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:48 PM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Gee whiz, and here my ex-parish priests threatened me with excommunication, because while I was married to another Catholic in a Catholic church, I then later divorced him and remarried civil ceremonies

Paging Father Merrin, paging Father Merrin. In what country and what millennia did this occur? What form did this threat take?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:54 PM on October 14, 2011


Now imagine that members of that company has systematically raped vast numbers of children

Is there a good figure for the number of children raped by members of the Catholic clergy? I tried to determine one timee how the percentage of priests indicted for child sexual abuse or similar crimes compares to the rate in other similar professions--clergy in other faiths, teachers, others who work regularly with children--but wasn't able to. Are Catholic priests significantly more likely to abuse than others, and did protection of abusive priests by the Church hierarchy contribute to the disproportionate population of abusers in the clergy?
posted by layceepee at 10:59 PM on October 14, 2011


So, three years after a settlement requiring prompt reporting (with prompt removal and reporting being at the core of the injunctive relief sought by the plaintiffs) --

It takes six months (until December 2010) following a five-page detailed memo reporting inappropriate conduct (sent in May 2010) to remove the priest from parish duties. Around the same time of the discovery of the child pornography. Then five more months to report to law enforcement (May 2011).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:04 PM on October 14, 2011


Is there a good figure for the number of children raped by members of the Catholic clergy?

10 seconds of googling brought me these links:
-10% of Catholic Priests Were Pedophiles and Still Counting, 20 to 200 Times More Than General Population
-Catholic clergy ‘abused children for decades in County Donegal’
-Revealed, six decades of 'ritual' child abuse: Catholic schools and orphanages damned in report
...

I can keep going here, if you want to really debate this accountancy of evil.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:40 PM on October 14, 2011


I can keep going here, if you want to really debate this accountancy of evil.

Relax, tough guy. It was a genuine question, it's not a circle jerk.

Furthermore, you haven't answered the gist of the question.

I tried to determine one time how the percentage of priests indicted for child sexual abuse or similar crimes compares to the rate in other similar professions--clergy in other faiths, teachers, others who work regularly with children--but wasn't able to. Are Catholic priests significantly more likely to abuse than others

That first link of yours has some shiteful maths. Do "keep going." Please.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:54 PM on October 14, 2011


"Is there a good figure for the number of children raped by members of the Catholic clergy? "

"-10% of Catholic Priests Were Pedophiles and Still Counting, 20 to 200 Times More Than General Population"

You mean, a number that is 10% of the current roster of priests in Manchester have been shown to have been pedophiles in modern times, which is, you know different. The data came from bishop-accountability.org, which is really what you are looking for. Some of their figures have serious statistical flaws, but the data they've collected is amazingly well curated and it is presented honestly enough that one can tell when it does.

"I tried to determine one time how the percentage of priests indicted for child sexual abuse or similar crimes compares to the rate in other similar professions--clergy in other faiths, teachers, others who work regularly with children--but wasn't able to. Are Catholic priests significantly more likely to abuse than others"

I tried to do the same thing once but even if one were to generate a way to incorporate the diverse variety of information available into a coherent analysis, what you would end up with wouldn't be nearly statistically relevant enough to make valid conclusions. My anecdotal impression is that non-teacher childcare workers are less rapey than priests but not nearly as much less rapey as we generally believe.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:04 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This specific story seems more like a extended cascade of individuals in a loose crowd each seeing something very wrong and passing the buck in hopes that someone else would take the final responsibility for the certainly unpleasant task of taking this man down, than OMG INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY.

Parents failed to report the presence of children's panties in planters in the back yard of a home of a middle aged man without children. The school principal failed to bar this man from her campus and failed to provide the essence of her report directly to the authorities, I'm sure it could qualify as probable cause for a search warrant with the camera and everything else. The computer technician passed the buck to the diocese in violation of his legal duty to report child pornography to the state. Ratigan's family failed to turn him in, opting instead to destroy his laptop. The sex-abuse panel failed to act in a timely manner to the child pornography in spite of the officer. The officer failed to discern child porn as child porn, delaying the panel. The Bishop failed along with the panel and by presiding over much of the whole mess.

A lot of things here did go right in ways that DID NOT HAPPEN just twenty years ago. Everyone mentioned knew exactly what Ratigan was even if they did not know the full extent of what he was doing. This is likely at least partially because "...all teachers, caregivers, coaches, and parent volunteers are required to take the workshop 'Protecting God's Children'. Every teacher receives monthly Virtus bulletins, which outline the boundaries of appropriate adult -child interaction and explain what to look for in adults who may be "grooming" children for future abuse." Father Ratigan aroused so much suspicion largely because policies put in place made it impossible to hide.

This looks a lot more like human weakness than the core institutional failure, willful ignorance, and cronyism seen in the Boston and Irish scandals.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:33 AM on October 15, 2011


Chekhovian, I'm no statistician, but a lot of the numbers in that first link don't pass the smell test.

Should the percentage of paedophile priests be 1.5%, as suggested by Monsignor Tomasi, it would be twenty times higher than the incidence found in the secular population.

I mean, that seems preposterous. I've never seen a study that estimates the rate of pedophilia in the general population that low. Between 2 and 5%, sure. But less than a thousandth of a percent?

Covington diocese states that 9.6% of its priests have been accused, which extrapolates to 10,531 nationally.

Again, not a statistician, but extrapolating the national average from that of a single diocese seems pretty unsound.

uncanny hengeman: If you're interested in the numbers, there's of course the John Jay report which was commissioned by the USCCB. I've also found this article from Johns Hopkins to be interesting:

Prevalence and Incidence of Roman Catholic Clerical Sex Offenders

It's important to note that when you're looking at any of this data you have to be sure you're not comparing apples and oranges. Most of these studies distinguish between pedophilia and ephebophilia. The majority of cases against Catholic priests involved the latter.
posted by Cortes at 1:00 AM on October 15, 2011


A lot of things here did go right in ways that DID NOT HAPPEN just twenty years ago. Everyone mentioned knew exactly what Ratigan was even if they did not know the full extent of what he was doing. This is likely at least partially because "...all teachers, caregivers, coaches, and parent volunteers are required to take the workshop 'Protecting God's Children'. Every teacher receives monthly Virtus bulletins, which outline the boundaries of appropriate adult -child interaction and explain what to look for in adults who may be "grooming" children for future abuse." Father Ratigan aroused so much suspicion largely because policies put in place made it impossible to hide.

Oh come on. Father Ratigan is a walking, talking caricature of a pedophile... down to his creepy goatee.
During one of Father's classroom interruptions, a teacher reported the following: using a sing-song voice, Father entered the 5/6th grade social studies class with " I got an invitation, I got an invitation!" waving the paper in the air. When asked what he was invited to, Father answered, "To a Cinco de Mayo Party". One of the kids grabbed the invitation from his hand and said to him, " It's to the PRE-school party!" and everyone laughed. Somehow the conversation turned to Reconciliation and the fact that Father wished that the Pius students would confess their real sins, and not just the "little stuff". When the kids asked what he meant, he said, "Sins against the 6th commandment." Later, a 6th grader asked the teacher, "Does Father Shawn think the kids at Pius are having affairs with their neighbors?"
Or how about the house filled with stuffed animals and decorated for children where a school group found girl's panties in a planter outside? No one needed to attend a "workshop" to figure out what was going on.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:56 AM on October 15, 2011


This looks a lot more like human weakness than the core institutional failure, willful ignorance, and cronyism seen in the Boston and Irish scandals.

I'm sorry. Because of the previous failures, the Catholic Church no longer has a long leash in this matter. They have to be hypervigilant, with the zeal of the converted. Sitting on the evidence for half a year is not enough.
posted by stevis23 at 5:14 AM on October 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Either the decency standards of Missouri cops are lower than I would expect or the diocese could have been charged with a lot more than misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.

There's additional info in ClaudiaCenter's interesting "chart" link:

Bishop Finn has said that diocesan officials told a Kansas City police officer in Dec. 2010 about the images, but the officer said they weren't child porn. The officer was a member of a diocesan committee. The diocesan review board was not notified of the allegations.
posted by mediareport at 5:18 AM on October 15, 2011


Excommunication is a more subtle concept than just most bad punishment and would be inappropriate to apply to anyone in this case for reasons that are non-obvious to heathens like most of us.

Urban VIII issued a 1624 papal bull that made the use of tobacco in holy places punishable by excommunication; [wp]

For years I told disgruntled catholics that the fastest way out of the Holy Roman Church was to take a pinch of snuff at the back of one of its temples. Unfortunately they got wise, because Ratzinger (the current bond-villain posing as pope) saw fit to overturn it.
posted by stonepharisee at 6:00 AM on October 15, 2011


Unfortunately they got wise, because Ratzinger (the current bond-villain posing as pope) saw fit to overturn it.

It was overturned by Pope Benedict XIII in the 18th century, not the current Pope Benedict XVI.
posted by grouse at 8:12 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


cortes, check your own math. One-twentieth of 1.5 percent is not one thousandth of a percent.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:24 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Between 2 and 5%, sure.

You think there are between 6 and 15 million pedophiles in the US?
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on October 15, 2011


You think there are between 6 and 15 million pedophiles in the US?

That's what Wikipedia thinks. The prevalence of pedophilia in the general population is not known, but is estimated to be lower than 5% based on several smaller studies with prevalence rates between 3% and 9%.
posted by layceepee at 9:39 AM on October 15, 2011


cortes, check your own math. Yeah, I messed that up - thanks for catching it. If you can ignore my 3rd grade grade math error, the point I was trying to make is that even 1.5% is below what most psychiatrists estimate as the rate of pedophilia in the general population.
posted by Cortes at 9:44 AM on October 15, 2011


"The prevalence of pedophilia in the general population is not known, but is estimated to be lower than 5% based on several smaller studies with prevalence rates between 3% and 9%."

You can imagine how terribly this turned out for everyone back between the 50s and 70s before the sexual revolution figured out that while sex between consenting adults, homosexuality, and talking about sex are totally not wrong, sex with children still totally is.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2011


The school principal failed to bar this man from her campus and failed to provide the essence of her report directly to the authorities.

I think the challenge with the Catholic Church is that the principal does not have the power to bar the priest from the parish school. It is not her campus. She could have provided her memo to the police, that is true (although the memo does not describe crimes per se, so am not sure what the result would have been). It does seem to me that she was trying to follow the institutional procedures put in place to prevent abuse, whereas the higher-ups did not.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:52 AM on October 15, 2011


This looks a lot more like human weakness than the core institutional failure, willful ignorance, and cronyism seen in the Boston and Irish scandals.

Speaking of the later: Rupture With Vatican Reveals a Changed Ireland
posted by homunculus at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


ClaudiaCenter,

It looks like he was not employed by the school itself but instead directly by the diocese which would have prevented her from firing or reassigning him. However, if you were Officer friendly sitting at the desk of your local precinct and a primary school principal walked in asking for a uniform to bar a suspected pedophile from entering the campus, would you have any trouble with the request? At least in DC where I grew up, school principals have an absolute legal right to bar anyone from their campuses for any reason, I even got to watch it abused to manipulate PTA politics (it turns out to hide embezzlement). What I was suggesting was that his photography habits, with no clear purpose for the pictures, combined with signed statements to the effect of obviously he was a pedophile would have been grounds for a warrant to search his house for the child porn they would be certain to find.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:24 PM on October 15, 2011


You can imagine how terribly this turned out for everyone back between the 50s and 70s before the sexual revolution figured out that while sex between consenting adults, homosexuality, and talking about sex are totally not wrong, sex with children still totally is.

This sounds really awful to me. Are you blaming the sexual revolution for people who rape children? Or saying that everyone got confused and thought it was fine, not just the pedophiles?

You can stop calling it "sex with children" too, as if kids are capable of consenting. It's rape, or assault, not a little peccadillo. Rape has always been a crime, and the sexual revolution did not change that.

Please tell me that I've missed something or that I've misinterpreted what you're saying here. I would really like to be wrong.
posted by harriet vane at 3:38 AM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


his photography habits, with no clear purpose for the pictures, combined with signed statements to the effect of obviously he was a pedophile would have been grounds for a warrant to search his house for the child porn they would be certain to find.

But taking photos without a purpose isn't a crime. Signed statements from parents that someone is "obviously" a pedophile aren't evidence of a crime. The accusation made against him was that he wasn't obeying the guidelines for interacting with the kids, which (as stupid as it sounds in hindsight) may have been caused by him being a bit thick or not understanding the reasons for them. Going to the police could easily have been dismissed as a panic. I don't believe any court would issue a warrant without a serious complaint. If you read the 5-page report from the principal, you can see that no clear evidence of wrong-doing had been found, only that Ratigan was doing things that raised red flags. The principal wanted Finn (who was the boss of both the principal and Ratigan) to discuss it with Ratigan, rather than march to the cops themselves and accuse someone of the horrendous crime of raping children without anything more than an uneasy feeling as proof.

Meanwhile, Finn had the actual evidence of crimes that had taken place, along with years worth of complaints and shuffling Ratigan from one parish to another. And he treated it like an annoying admin task, putting it off rather than immediately doing what he agreed to do in such situations and report it immediately to police.

Finn knew damn well what was going on. Either he didn't think it was important that children were being abused, or he didn't think it was more important than keeping up appearances. His punishment is far too light and won't serve as a deterrent to any other church officials covering up similar cases.
posted by harriet vane at 3:49 AM on October 16, 2011


Please tell me that I've missed something or that I've misinterpreted what you're saying here. I would really like to be wrong.

I read Blasdelb's comment five or six times without getting any closer to figuring out what he was trying to say. Judging by the rest of his or her comments in this thread, I'm guessing it's an attempt to minimalize the seriousness of the bishop's actions, but as I say, it missed its mark.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:07 AM on October 16, 2011


At least in the US, solid evidence that a crime has been committed is not necessary to begin an investigation. While the five page report does not contain evidence of the commission of a crime, it does however contain information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime could be found in the home of the accused. That report contains a lot more than an uneasy feeling, it alone could easily have been the basis of a criminal investigation.

"Are you blaming the sexual revolution for people who rape children?"

No, people who rape children are responsible for their crimes. However, I would suggest that the eightfold difference in the projected incidence of child rape between then and now, incidentally reflected in the Catholic churches shameful statistics, might have something to do with the fact that child rape was openly celebrated by half of society and actively hushed by the other. Roman Polansky drugging and brutally raping a kidnapped 13 year old girl in 1977 was largely defended by the media with the child generally protrayed as some kind of seductress. Allen Ginsberg, known to have been a prolific raper of children, is still celebrated as a cultural hero. Children were held up for sexual objectification in advertisements, media, art shows in New York.

"Or saying that everyone got confused and thought it was fine, not just the pedophiles?"

I am saying that a lot more people than we currently acknowledge in fact did get 'confused' and that the 'confusion' directly enabled a largely unacknowledged epidemic. The gay rights movement was until the mid-80s still fully integrated with NAMBLA including gay rights pioneers like Harry Hay and David Thorstad.

"You can stop calling it "sex with children" too, as if kids are capable of consenting. It's rape, or assault, not a little peccadillo. Rape has always been a crime, and the sexual revolution did not change that. "

You're right, I'm sorry, the language that we use is indeed important. Though the rape of children as young as 12 has not always been a crime and in most of the world it still isn't.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2011


Judging by the rest of his or her comments in this thread, I'm guessing it's an attempt to minimalize the seriousness of the bishop's actions, but as I say, it missed its mark"

That wasn't what I was trying to do at all, I suppose was is a bit of a non-sequitor in this thread and I regret the derail. The pedophile I encountered while in kindergarten was not a catholic priest but was a product of a cultural history that we all, including catholic priests, share but no one seems to want to acknowledge.

Nothing can excuse seriousness of the Bishop's callous inaction. I have said before in this thread that he certainly should get the jail time he hopefully receives. However, the two minutes of hate for the Catholic church that metafilter seems to regularly need, seems out of place here. The institutional structures and education, which require that a long line of people with a responsibility to protect children knowingly fail in that duty, that church institutions have desperately needed were all plainly there. As a result, each failure was incidentally documented so that as prosecutors can comb through the evidence and charge appropriate people with the crimes that they committed while enabling this pedophile.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2011


Allen Ginsberg, known to have been a prolific raper of children, is still celebrated as a cultural hero.

This is not true, and it's shameful of you to say it is.
posted by layceepee at 12:55 PM on October 16, 2011


Blasdelb, can you please cite your course for those allegations about Ginsberg? That's news to me.

Thanks ever so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:24 PM on October 16, 2011


Ginsberg was, for a time, a member and supporter of NAMBLAs right to free speech but was always, as far as I knew, against pedophilia but was also against society's criminalization of even talking about adolescent and child sexuality. He has definitely never been convicted of any sort of rape of children and I don't think he was ever even arrested for this. You can read a little more about the issue here and a less charitable view here.

The gay rights movement was until the mid-80s still fully integrated with NAMBLA

This is really, again, not true. NAMBLA were early outspoken activists. In the early years of the gay rights movement there weren't as many people speaking out about gay issues. Pretty much as soon as NAMBLA was founded in the late seventies, there was opposition to its approach and its mission and sources indicate that they were pretty much disinvited from any mainstream gay event by the mid eighties.
posted by jessamyn at 2:43 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Ginsberg was certainly a pedophile but I don't think there's any proof (as there is with Polanski) that he ever acted on this inclination that he had.
posted by Cortes at 3:17 PM on October 16, 2011


Repeating that allegation without additional evidence does not make it any more persuasive.
posted by grouse at 3:21 PM on October 16, 2011


From a 1990 interview.

LOFTON: Do you now have a desire to have sex with young boys?

GINSBERG: I have a sexual desire for them, I must say, yes.

LOFTON: Still?

GINSBERG: Oh, the older I get, the more.

posted by Cortes at 3:28 PM on October 16, 2011


...child rape was openly celebrated by half of society ...

Not the society I was part of. Where do you get that idea?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:10 PM on October 16, 2011


A certain founder of a certain religion is famous for being a paedophile. Maybe that half of society? Unless you're assuming American society = society?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:47 PM on October 16, 2011


If not American society, just what society is referred to in that comment. Also, what religion founded by a pedophile is half of some society?

Don't be coy. Spell it out.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:36 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


From a 1990 interview.

LOFTON: Do you now have a desire to have sex with young boys?

GINSBERG: I have a sexual desire for them, I must say, yes.

LOFTON: Still?

GINSBERG: Oh, the older I get, the more.


While technically correct, that quotation is misleading. You should read the whole interview, which is extraordinarily antagonistic on the part of the interviewer, to get a sense of whether or not it seems like Ginsberg should really be tarred with that brush. Or whether he means something more general and (in his argument) universal.

From the end of the interview:

LOFTON: Is nothing black-and-white?

GINSBERG: Nothing is completely black-and-white. Nothing.
posted by OmieWise at 8:28 AM on October 17, 2011


I won't try to try to argue with your alternate interpretation of the words "I have a sexual desire for young boys" (although I will say that the Catholic Church would love to have you on their PR team.) The fact that Ginsberg was attracted to adolescent males is not really contested. Read his poems. Look at the groups he was involved in and the statements he made. He didn't exactly beat around the bush about it. Whether he ever acted on these urges is anybody's guess.
posted by Cortes at 9:29 AM on October 17, 2011


The big deal is that there's a gap between people's meanings of pedophile and one of them is starkly illegal and one of them is not. There's the what you think in your head and there's what you do. People alleged that Ginsberg was a child rapist, above. People responded by saying that this was untrue. Other people responded that he'd lusted after children. These things are different and the word pedophile encompasses both of them somewhat confusingly.
posted by jessamyn at 9:31 AM on October 17, 2011


I won't try to try to argue with your alternate interpretation of the words "I have a sexual desire for young boys" (although I will say that the Catholic Church would love to have you on their PR team.)

Well, you could try engaging in the conversation without being insulting.

I don't really have an interpretation of Ginsberg's comment, although it does seem clear that he's talking about the difference between thought and action, at the very least. However, I am deeply suspicious of anyone who claims to have read that interview and still thinks that Ginsberg's words there should be taken as definitive.
posted by OmieWise at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2011


Yeah, when I said above that "Ginsberg was certainly a pedophile but I don't think there's any proof that he ever acted on this inclination" I was disagreeing with both Blasdelb's claim that he was a "prolific raper of children" and yours that he was "as far as I knew, against pedophilia."
posted by Cortes at 9:40 AM on October 17, 2011


I do not agree that "child rape was openly celebrated by half of society and actively hushed by the other." People of an age we'd now consider children used to be thought of as nearly fully grown - teenagers weren't really invented until the 20th century, at least. And younger people weren't always treated well, no matter what terminology was used to group them.

People never want to blame their heroes, and even when there's no hero, blaming the victim is always easier than confronting an ugly truth. This seems pretty similar to the way people try to defend church heirarchies, in my opinion.

But all this means is that people don't like dealing with difficult issues if they can avoid it, not that they think raping kids is morally ok.

But none of that is relevant to a priest who was behaving suspiciously in a way that first seems to have been documented in 2004, not the 70s. I take your point about the warrant, though.
posted by harriet vane at 1:07 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, just up the road a bit in Minnesota, the Church, bastion of morality and goodness that it is, is potentially violating its tax exempt status to engage in a fight to deny gay people civil rights by constitutional amendment.

You'd think that maybe after being found out, yet again, to have protected and hidden rapists the Church as a whole would be a bit less than eager to proclaim itself to be the final arbiter of sexual morality. But apparently not.
posted by sotonohito at 7:53 AM on October 19, 2011


Last time I checked, the Church wasn't a democracy, and the hierarchy wasn't particularly responsive to the pleas of the flock.

Whatever. You're a priest, you are indicted, you actually broke the law -- you should resign. As far as I'm concerned, civil disobedience and speeding are the only thing that religious leaders should be allowed to get away with. They're supposed to be examples to their congregation and need to be held to higher standards.

His not resigning isn't a failure of democracy or of the hierarchy -- it's a failure of character.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:29 AM on October 21, 2011


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