Sunday, October 16, 2011

Will Bishop Finn Exchange His Purple Clericals For An Orange Jump Suit?

It is entirely possible that the Holy Spirit is calling Bishop Finn to a less ostentatious prison ministry.


Finally a Roman Catholic Bishop is held accountable for hiding the truth.  The following editorial is from the Kansas City Star.

The Star’s editorial | Bishop Finn and KC-St. Joseph Diocese face disturbing charges

The grand jury indictment of Bishop Robert Finn on Friday sends the right message to the Catholic Church’s hierarchy: Authorities will target not only alleged perpetrators of child abuse, but those who reportedly fail in their legal obligation to protect children.

Finn faces a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspected abuse of a child by a priest. He is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be criminally charged in a case involving child abuse.

The distressing picture that overshadows this case, as well as so many others across the nation and in Europe, is of a Catholic Church more interested in protecting priests than the young abuse victims who trusted them. That cannot be allowed to continue.

Also indicted was the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, charged with failure to report suspected child abuse. (Just goes to prove corporations are people too--and just as legally accountable.)

The indictments compound problems for the diocese’s reputation, wounded in 2008 when it reached a $10 million settlement with 47 plaintiffs who had alleged wrongdoing by a dozen priests or former priests. That payout should have resulted in a vigilant dedication to avoid more problems. (Which makes Finn's actions even more galling, since he signed off on this settlement.)

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker made the appropriate point Friday: “This is about protecting children.”

The misdemeanor charge against Finn should not be taken lightly, she said. Punishment of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine are possible for Finn. The diocese faces up to a $1,000 fine, too. Finn and diocesan officials entered not guilty pleas.

The indictment alleges that Finn and the diocese had reasonable cause to suspect that a priest had been abusing children but did not report their suspicions to authorities as required by law.

Last December, diocese officials learned of pornographic images showing girls as young as 3 or 4 on a computer of Father Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan — now facing state and federal child pornography charges — was sent to a mission house in Independence and ordered to have no contact with minors. According to a federal indictment, he disobeyed that order and allegedly tried to take pornographic pictures of a 12-year-old girl.

In a report last month, a diocese-commissioned investigation found that — in handling the Ratigan case — church officials failed to follow their own policies and procedures. Instead, they behaved in ways that “could have jeopardized” child safety. (Especially since part of that 'not following their own policies' involved keeping their own diocesan commission on sexual abuse out of the loop.)

This case has been a sorry comment on the church’s priorities and a challenge to its moral authority.
But the right message has been sent by the legal system. All are responsible to protect children.


From the get go I felt this story of Bishop Finn and Fr Ratigan would result in charges against Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph.  First because there was too much evidence that Finn was protecting Ratigan, and secondly, because part of the ten million dollar abuse settlement reached in 2008, signed by Finn,  included pretty specific language about how future allegations would be handled by the Diocese.  It truly makes me wonder about the mind set of Bishop Finn.

Now the people of Finn's Diocese will get to pay for his and the Diocese's defense attorneys on top of all the other legal bills they have had to foot. Fortunately for them, Ratigan has a Public Defender, so all the tax payers of Kansas City get to pay for Ratigan's defense not just Roman Catholics.  Good thing too since Ratigan is facing both State and Federal charges for child porn distribution.

This morning I read the Federal charges against Ratigan in an attempt to get some feel for just what exactly he was photographing, in order to understand how Finn and company had trouble to determining whether any of it was pornographic.  It's hard to understand how Finn and company could have determined these photos weren't child pornography. It's one thing to give someone the benefit of doubt, and quite another to give someone a free pass.  Ratigan got a free pass, more than one actually, given the times and dates listed in his indictment.  

The question the keeps circling in my mind is how in the world could this happen in this country almost ten years after Boston and after all the other exposure globally on this issue?  How sick is this Catholic clerical system that it is in fact still protecting itself and it's prerogatives after a decade of the exposure of it's criminal activity?  Does Finn symbolize the clerical mindset that thinks it is in some real way ontologically superior to the rest of humanity and not accountable to anyone other than themselves?  I have come to the conclusion Finn and others like him, really do think they are in some way above the rest of us mere mortals, and that no matter how damaged a priest might be, the fact he is a priest completely changes the accountability parameters.  It's pretty apparent that when it comes to priests there are no lay peers qualified to pass judgement on their behavior--- no matter what secular legal systems might believe.  For Finn,  the belief he acted on was that those secular legal systems could freely be ignoredThe price for that kind of thinking could very well be his freedom and that would be a message heard round the clerical world.  Finally.


  1. Forget about the secular charges. A bishop has responsibility to uphold the canon law. Boom. Move vigorously against people like Ratigan. Make a statement, like "I will not tolerate this. Not here, not on my watch, not in my diocese. No!"

    I respect the fact that you have looked further into the criminal charges. It is important to be fact based. May I suggest that the civil courts will be very, very hard on Finn and the diocese. When he signed the contract to settle with the vicitims of previous clerical abuse Finn promised perform certain activities and refrain from other activities. That contract has been breached, the injunction has been violated. It may cost the diocese many tens of millions of dollars more.

    Personally I hope he spends some time in jail.


  2. Your point about the Diocese having to pony up even more for violating the settlement agreement has to be one of the more frustrating aspects of this case. How much does Finn expect to squeeze out of his diocese for his mistakes? How long before his laity really do rebel?

    Maybe Benedict and his curia clones should consider building a prison for those who egregiously violate Canon Law. I sometimes think that will be the only way some of these 'shepherds' actually do any time.

  3. Is it cooperation with evil to contribute to the church's coffers? Why should the 99% pay for the sins of the hierarchy, less than 1% of the church? Is there a pattern here?

  4. I think there is a pattern here Searcher. Here's another example of the problem. I work for a non profit mental health center. Like may such centers we are experiencing the crunch created by social conservatives taking over our legislature, coupled with rising costs for everything else. The state has cut back funding for services, both for matching state dollars for federal programs like Medicaid, but also for stand alone state programs. (My particular state is operating in the black, but not necessarily because of cuts, but because of windfalls on energy taxes and other revenue.)

    In any event, my own salary was cut by 13% when my job title was phased out, and I am facing another company wide 1.5% cut in my new job title. Our union is fighting the company wide cut because our corporate leadership instituted it without notifying the union. Bad move.

    We had a meeting last week in which the CEO did her best to try and explain why we grunts had to work harder to keep the company afloat for the sake of our clients. I asked how much our annual loss was on Psychiatric services. She coughed and said 1 million dollars. This figure pretty much confirmed my own calculations. By the way, that loss represents 8 psychiatrists out of a company employing about two hundred people. Psychiatrists make approximately 100 dollars an hour. (add another hundred for benefits and malpractice insurance) This is not much for psychiatrists, but in the context of this particular company it is the one labor cost which is killing us. Of course in the final analysis, it's not us two hundred who will be really hurt by this company going under, it's the three thousand plus mentally ill clients we serve who will really pay the price.

    Now, the truth is we need some of those psychiatrists to meet state and federal requirements. The question is how many of them do we really need? That seems to be the question the head honchos won't answer--some of them being psychiatrists.

    In one sense this is sort of a microcosm of what is happening globally in the Church, and globally with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Everything needs to be re evaluated in terms of economics, effectiveness, and fairness. Mindlessly adhering to business as usual is resulting in spectacular failure for everyone--no exceptions for education, status, or self importance.

    If we don't get that everything and everyone is inner connected and act on that knowledge then we will all fail together.

  5. Bishop Finn is the epitome of prelates who enable abuse: they love the institutional church (Vatican, hierarchy) more than they love the Ecclesia (the church in the pews, the real people, real children).

    Such prelates ignore (thus enable) abuse lest it “scandalize” the institutional church. It is not surprising that Finn is among them, given his fundamentalist, Opus Dei theology which places the supremacy of Roman authority above all else.

    If you want to see what God has to say about such religious prelates, read Ezekiel 34 and Matt 23.

  6. I wonder how many of the other Catholic bishops in the US will contribute money to the legal defense of Finn and his diocese. Much like they found money just about falling off trees to make political contributions to fight against marriage rights for gays and lesbians, I'll assume the worst up front and decide they'll find some upside in this as well. Whether it becomes a matter of 'religious freedom' coupled with 'we must protect the seal of the confessional' or for some other reason. I'm quite sure the bishops will be protecting their own.

  7. I am a retired teacher in Finn's diocese. Teachers have been training in the Virtus program for about 10 years. Every month teachers get an updated mandatory training via their computers. Every person who comes into contact with a child in a school must take the training - even a parent who wants to participate in an activity in their child's classroom. A trainee could sniff out anything related to abuse - in fact, if you were an abuser, you could probably learn a lot about how to hide it. So, it is incomprehensible to me that Bishop Finn can plead not guilty given the facts. I am a disheartened lifelong Catholic. Thank God I have found a parish with a progressive view. It is my last stop. I hope Finn gets at least a year in jail.

  8. Mary, your testimony is very valuable here. It confirms for me the seriousness of Finn's flouting of the law. And that's the long and short of it: he has acted as if he is above the law.

    That has to stop, with the leaders of our church.

  9. Colkoch,

    Yes, I see the pattern of the 1% dis-enfranchising the 99% often. It is happening where you work. I am very sorry to hear that. It always the least who are hurt the most. I think that is why Jesus said that the poor will always be with us. Because we cannot break our mind-set away from our egos, from our selfish needs. I think that is why the Wall Street protesters are no longer be voiceless and power-less, but to use our numbers to begin a change process. I just pray it is not too late. There is evil afoot, me thinks. But we have to remeber there is the power of the resurrection that beats all hands.

  10. The Church has lost its moral authority and the defense of children in utero gets lost when you aren't protecting them after they're born. Bishop Finn is as guilty for his actions as Father RATigan. They STILL don't get it! I can't believe they still don't get it. Even Congressmen and police are arrested for breaking the law...why not them? Easy to throw priests out, but name one Bishop defrocked for his complicity and even when they themselves are abusing children they are not defrocked. They are sent on a permanent vacation paid for by the Faithful.

  11. Anon, you have hit on another of my pet peaves. Even when bishops are themselves perpetrators they are sent on a permanent vacation paid for by the Faithful.

    Mary, you bring up another galling point in the Finn story. Kansas City-St Jo has spent God knows how much money on Virtus training only to have Finn ignore the results--results which were right on target. This was money well spent but ultimately flushed down the clerical toilet. Again.

    Searcher: Human consciousness is on the cusp of another major leap. Every time this happens the forces of regression (evil if you prefer to call it that) rise up in an effort to stop the leap or control the results. This didn't work in the past and won't work now. In the meantime it's a very stressful time for all of us.