Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Admitting failure in child porn case, Bishop Finn hears from parishioners

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2011 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge Shawn Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to child porn charges.
  • Shawn Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to child porn charges.

Bishop Robert W. Finn went to St. Patrick's parish on Friday, a day after a priest who served there was arrested and charged with three counts of possessing child pornography. Finn admitted that the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph mishandled information that a priest, Shawn Ratigan, 45, possessed images of children, including at least one of a nude girl.

The parishioners blasted Finn for nearly three hours, according to an account in the National Catholic Reporter. "As soon as you knew what was going on, why the hell didn't you tell me something?" one woman asked Finn.

Finn learned in December that Ratigan kept disturbing images on his personal computer. The diocese says most of the pictures of the children were taken at public or parish events.

Faced with the information, the diocese then commenced a stupid investigation, which Finn described in a statement he released on Friday.

[W]e contacted a Kansas City, Missouri, police officer and described one of the more disturbing images. At the same time, the diocese showed the images to legal counsel. In both instances we were told that, while very troubling, the photographs did not constitute child pornography, as they did not depict sexual conduct or contact.
Finn failed to mention that the police officer serves on a diocesan committee. It wasn't until May 12 that the proper authorities, the police department's Cyber Crimes Against Children Unit, learned about Ratigan. The diocese finally made a report after Ratigan "continued to disregard" the restrictions that Finn placed on him upon the initial discovery of his activity.

Finn has been forced to acknowledge that he screwed up. "I deeply regret that we didn't ask the police earlier to conduct a full investigation," he said on Friday.

Finn's actions appear to have violated the guidelines established by the church in 2002. According to the National Catholic Reporter, independent review boards in each diocese are to help the bishop "in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors."

But the review board in the Kansas City Diocese was shut out of the Ratigan matter. Jim Caccamo, who serves on the board, told the National Catholic Reporter that he learned of the allegations against Ratigan from the media.

At Friday's session at St. Patrick's, Finn shed some light on the church's tendency to want to protect Ratigan and other priests who are accused of misconduct. "[W]e have a priest shortage in our diocese and we needed a pastor here."


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