|Bishop Finn is another in a long line of conservative bishops who practice sexual abuse strategies exactly like their supposed more liberal brethren. Duplicity in not a matter of liturgical preferences. It seems to be a career necessity.|
Bishop admits failure in priest's child pornography case
Bishop Robert Finn: 'I should have done differently and I'm sorry'
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One day after newspapers across the nation featured front page articles about a U.S. bishops' sponsored study on the causes of the clergy sex abuse scandal, which blamed much of the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s, another clergy abuse news story was on the front page of The Kansas City Star: A local priest had been arrested for possession of child pornography.
To many, the most disturbing revelation in the story of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, 45, a priest in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese since 2004, was that diocesan officials knew his personal computer had been found last December to contain many photographs of young children, including at least one of a nude girl.
But they did not share the information with members of the diocese or its review board. Instead, Bishop Robert W. Finn moved the priest to a local home for religious sisters.
Even after the priest attempted suicide, the diocese kept the information surrounding his transfer secret.
The diocese went public about Ratigan's computer photographs last week after the priest was arrested by local police May 19 and charged with three counts of possessing child pornography.
Catholics throughout the diocese expressed shock and anger as the revelations spread. Even within the local chancery office the information was "devastating," according to one source.(Why in the world would any sane Catholic express shock? Where have they been for the last ten years?)
At a May 20 session at the parish where Ratigan served as pastor for a year, Finn fielded questions from distraught parishioners. He revealed during the session that he had considered placing the priest, after learning of his troubles, at the diocesan archives so he could do work that "wouldn't put him in contact with children."
According to guidelines established by the U.S. bishops in their 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, independent review boards in each diocese are to help the bishop "in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors."
But a member of the review board in the Kansas City diocese told NCR the group had never been notified of the Ratigan matter.
"We haven't been presented the case; we haven't been asked to look at the case," said Jim Caccamo, who serves on the board and said he first learned of the allegations against Ratigan after hearing news reports of his arrest.
"There's nothing normal about this," Caccamo said, referring to the delay between when the diocese first learned of Ratigan's possession of child pornography and the priest's arrest.
"My question will be: Why did it take five months?" ..................
.............The Kansas City case, while involving only one priest, seems to reveal a pattern long associated with the clergy sex abuse scandal: Local bishops make the final decision regarding whom to notify when priests are accused of abuse or, as in the case of Ratigan, suspected of possessing child pornography.
A source inside the Kansas City diocesan chancery said people there first learned of Ratigan's arrest from the news report last Thursday. That person, who is familiar with the review board process, also said that the system has been "exposed as a sham." (It was a sham from the get go. The Dallas Charter provided no over site for bishops. That was as blatant a message as the USCCB could give laity. Bishops answer to Vatican City, not lay review boards.)
"If they're not even given the information, then there's no point in having a review board at all," the person said. "We should just go right to the authorities." (The light dawns.)
According to a letter released from the Kansas City diocese late Friday afternoon, Finn said he first learned that a laptop computer owned by Ratigan contained "many images of female children," including one of an "unclothed child," in December. The bishop said that he described one of the images to a police officer and was told it "did not constitute child pornography."
A Kansas City police spokesman told the Star Friday that diocesan officials reached out to a ranking police officer who serves on a diocesan committee. (Oh my what a surprise.)
The spokesman said the officer was told there was a "single image of a young naked girl on a computer, nothing sexual in nature," and was not shown the photo or told there were other images.
After Ratigan attempted suicide Dec. 17, when emergency workers found him unconscious in his closed garage with his motorcycle running, Finn said he sent him "out of state" for psychiatric care, according to the letter.
When the priest returned to the diocese, Finn said in the letter that he sent him to a community of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist with instructions to not attend or participate in events where children were present. Finn also said the priest "did not have his computer or his camera in his possession during this period." (And I bet the sisters knew nothing.)
Records obtained by NCR indicate Ratigan accessed his Facebook account as late as March 9, and posted several status updates that day using his cell phone. (And I bet it had a camera.)
After the diocese became aware that Ratigan had attended several functions involving children, Finn said in the letter that the diocesan vicar general contacted the police again May 12.
Following an investigation, police officers found more pornographic materials of children -- including "up-skirt pictures that were covertly taken," as well as a nude photo of a minor female.
According to court documents, detectives determined May 13 that many of the images "were taken in and around the churches and schools Ratigan has been associated with."
Officers arrested Ratigan May 19. The priest is being held on $200,000 bond, with arraignment expected Monday.
The day after the first news accounts appeared in Kansas City, Finn visited the parish where Ratigan last served as pastor. Standing in the sanctuary alone at the lectern, Finn was grilled by outraged and disillusioned parish members.
For just under three hours Friday parishioners at St. Patrick's parish, where Ratigan had served for about a year, expressed outrage at Finn -- asking why the priest was not brought to the police when the diocese first knew of his troubles in December, and how parishioners could ever trust Finn, or even the Catholic church, again.
"I should have done differently in this regard and I'm sorry," admitted Finn at one point to the crowd of 300, which also included parents of children who attend the parish school, which Ratigan would visit frequently.
"Don't trust me. Trust our Lord Jesus Christ, trust his church." (I don't think too many people are left who confuse Jesus Christ with Roman Catholicism.)
One after another -- mother after mother, father after father -- lined up to speak directly to Finn as he stood alone at the lectern next to the parish's altar. Many were in tears. Others were speaking at the top of their voices, almost without the words to express their anger.
One, a woman who identified herself as a member of the parish for over 10 years, recounted how she had seen Ratigan tickling young children at the school's daycare program.
"As soon as you knew what was going on, why the Hell didn't you tell me something?" she asked, her voice shaking.
"When a priest becomes our priest, he becomes a part of our family. And this family deserves to know what is going on in this church." (Not true. A priest is first and last a part of the bishop's family. The idea that he's a part of the parish family is a lay delusion.)
Earlier in the questioning, a man who identified himself as a teacher at the parish school asked whether there were any warning signs of Ratigan's predilection towards children, and if there were, why he was still assigned to a parish.
Finn replied, at first that "we did not have complaints before" and "we have a priest shortage in our diocese and we needed a pastor here." (This is utterly stunning as a defense for Finn's actions.)
For the rest of the article, here's the link.
Just in case Catholics in the heartland thought they were immune from the clerical abuse scandal, Bishop Finn has taught them differently. Oh and just in case they believed the tripe in the John Jay report about the wild sixties and seventies, they now know clergy sexual abuse favors no particular generation or decade. Only the technology of availability has changed, theoretically keeping things more anonymous and safe for the abuser, but making things less safe for our girls.
I don't even know where to go with any of this. How much more of this do we have to take before Catholics of all political and theological stripes wake up to the fact that this issue will not go away until the laity wise up and demand that there are changes in how our hierarchy does business. If there is a major cosmic lesson in all of this, and there is, it's that we have got to stop looking for God outside ourselves and realize external divine authority of any kind is an ego illusion.
Our connection with God is first and foremost found with in, not outside ourselves. Faith is called faith precisely because it functions for us directly in the face of uncertainty. Life itself is an uncertainty. There are no guarantees. This is where the current Vatican is flat missing the boat when they aren't sinking the barque. Jesus said to go with in and find that connection, the Vatican is telling us to look to them. Poorly I might add. The Eucharist serves to build a community of faith in which we rely on each other for support, but to also connect with the entire communion of the Church, past, present, and future through one ritual act---a communal meal. It's pretty simple really, but we've had two thousand years to complicate the entire thing and now we have a leadership class which is unaccountable to the flock or each other. That's not my idea of a community and it's not what Jesus ever intended. How much longer will we need to really get this lesson?