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