Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the failure to report…


Shall we?

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.

Pause…consider…continue.

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.

Ugh.

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.

Blink.

6 comments:

Tedra said...

I saw a (local?) news story a couple days ago about some thieves who stole a laptop and found child porn on it.

They went to the cops immediately even though they knew that doings would mean confessing to theft.

The contrast--thieves vs church authorities--seems positively biblical, doesn't it?

charmngbilly said...

i agree with Tedra's assessment of the contrast between the conduct of 'common' criminals and the 'righteous' church authorities. it casts serious doubt about just what Bible are these 'authorities' reading from.....and just what kind of calculus is applied to find the value of the children harmed. how are they calculating their degree of moral obligation? pedophile-predator priest vs. a child...who is owed more protection and respect? how much more of this before someone with real authority in the church stops and says, 'hey, there is something seriously f'd up happening on a systemic level.....and it has to stop!'

just my $0.02.

Peterr said...

Finn's conduct is reprehensible.

Said Finn in a statement posted on the diocesan website: “After the arrest of Shawn Ratigan, I pledged the complete cooperation of the diocese and accountability to law enforcement. . .”

Isn’t that sweet? “After the arrest . . .” But Finn knew of the problem well before Ratigan was arrested. A little cooperation *before* the arrest would have been not just nice, but highly appropriate.

Not filing a report when you suspect abuse has taken place is a crime. Amen. Period. End of story.

Sadly for Finn, it's not the kind of crime the church takes refuge in. St. Paul spent time imprisoned, but not because he was protecting a pedophile. Martin Luther King spent time behind bars, but not to safeguard the image of the church from a pastor who produced child pornography.

It's about time a member of the hierarchy was indicted for not reporting abuse. No, it's well past time for that, but better late than never.

Tezcatlipoca said...

From a report I read, Finn misled the police officer, showing 1 isolated photo and not indicating there were hundreds more. So, while I have no love for police officers, my opinion in this is that the blame rests with Finn who not only didn't report this to authorities but also deceived the officer who Finn consulted with.

Tezcatlipoca said...

As a followup to my earlier comment, here's the link:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/10/14/national/main20120751.shtml

Anonymous said...

In 2003, when Phill Kline was still AG of Kansas, he began subpoenaing the records of abortion providers, in a secret "inquisition" allowed under KS law, on the premise that any minor who terminated a pregnancy was an unreported victim of sexual abuse. He later went further, mandating from his position as AG, that any minor, male or female, who seeks family planning services (birth control, STI testing, abortion, etc) should be automatically reported as a victim of sexual abuse. The Kansas Catholic Conference, one of the most powerful anti-abortion organizations in the state, continues, in 2011, to advocate for this approach. The Kansas Supreme Court later ruled sexual activity, in and of itself, does not constitute sexual abuse. More recently, in 2011, the Brownback administration has reportedly issued instructions to all local and county health departments to hotline as sexual abuse any minor seeking family planning services.

Mr. Kline and Governor Brownback, both devout Catholics, feel strongly, as they have stated in interviews, that their faith gives them the moral obligation to protect minors from sexual abuse. Where was Mr. Kline, in his capacity as AG and DA in Kansas, when his own Church continued to fail to report and protect minors from sexual abuse by trusted family priests? Where is Governor Brownback's outrage at the "conspiracy" by the Catholic Church to protect themselves while allowing minors to go unprotected?