The Kansas City Star has a story up about misdemeanorindictments handed down over a failure to report child abuse perpetrated by aCatholic priest. The Star reports that on October 6th a Grand Jury secretly indicted both Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse in a case involving a priest facing child pornography charges.
Rev. Shawn Ratigan faces state and federal child pornography charges.
The indictment alleges that Bishop Finn waited five months before he contacted authorities about the Ratigan’s child pornography collection.
But this story is far more complicated and disturbing than that.
In 2010 a technician who was working on problems with Ratigan’s laptop found the child pornography.
The tech contacted to Diocese…
…but failed to contact authorities.
The Diocese then waited five months after that to contact authorities.
In those five months - Ratigan tried to kill himself and was hospitalized. The church turned the computer over to their tech who copied the pictures and then gave the computer back to Ratigan’s family…who then destroyed the laptop. The church eventually described the photos to a police officer and showed them to an attorney. Church officials claim that they were told the pictures were disturbing but not child pornography.
But it is important to note that the police officer serves on a church committee.
Eventually a disc containing the pictures was given to authorities and they determined that the photos were taken by cell phone and digital cameras. They determined that the photos are evidence of crimes.
Ratigan was arrested…and authorities began to untangle the wretched web of who knew what when.
But wait…it gets worse.
The Star reported that the diocese had been warned about Ratigan a year before the computer tech discovered the images on Ratigan's laptop. A school principal warned the diocese by letter about teachers' and parents' concerns about Ratigan's "inappropriate behavior with children." A lawsuit alleges Ratigan engaged in sexually explicit conduct with a female toddler from 2006 to 2010. The lawsuit also alleges that Bishop Finn and the diocese hid a 2006 report of suspicious behavior by Ratigan with a 4-year-old girl in order to avoid scandal.
As I read through the articles about this story I can’t help but wonder when, if ever...during those five long months...Church authorities reached out to parents to express concern over the welfare of the children in these photos.
For all the claims that these new indictments are historic and send a message...
…I’m left wondering if Bishop Finn and the Church are being investigated for obstructing justice.
In a way, this entire story is a about failing the victims...
By the Church that was warned of inappropriate and likely criminal behavior by Ratigan years before child pornography was found on his computer.
By the tech who first found the pictures by ran to the church instead of toward justice.
By the police officer and attorneys who the Church brought in to review the material.
By Ratigan’s family, who likely knew something about the material on the computer because they destroyed it.
By Finn and his minions, who opted to take five months before contacting authorities.
Bishop Finn, in the diocese statement about the indictments, said, “We will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”
It seems that the Grand Jury felt Finn and the church should have applied “steady resolve” to mandatory reporting of child abuse and “vigorous defense” to protecting children under their care.