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Bishop Finn indicted for failure to report priest's child-porn discovery

October 14, 2011

A Missouri Catholic bishop faces criminal charges for his failure to inform police about child pornography discovered on a priest’s computer.

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City has become the first American bishop to face prosecution in connection with his handling of the sex-abuse scandal.

He entered a not-guilty plea on October 14, after a Jackson County grand jury indicted both the bishop and the diocese on misdemeanor charges. Lawyers representing the diocese also entered a not-guilty plea.

Bishop Finn has acknowledged that he was aware in December 2010 that child pornography had been discovered on the computer of a diocesan priest, Father Shawn Ratigan. But he did not inform police about the photos until May. Father Ratigan now faces his own trial on child-pornography charges.

While he has apologized for mishandling the case, Bishop Finn has denied criminal wrongdoing and insists that he has cooperated fully with law-enforcement officials. His lawyer promised a vigorous defense against the criminal charge.

Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker argued that after learning of the files on Father Ratigan’s computer, the bishop had probable cause to believe that children had been abused, and was therefore legally obligated to report to police. He said the criminal charge is a bid “to ensure there are not future failures to report, resulting in other unsuspecting victims.”


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  • Posted by: koinonia - Oct. 15, 2011 11:01 PM ET USA

    Why are so many men who are supposed to have great discretion so hapless on this issue? As one commentator pointed out, the concern was not Bishop Finn's admitted lapse in judgement in itself but that the lapse was even possible in light of all the damage done already to the Church's reputation (and pocketbook), not to mention the intensified scrutiny that is to be expected. What he did was certainly more than many before him had done, but it was not enough. It was too little, too late. Too bad.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Oct. 15, 2011 4:50 PM ET USA

    It took the bishop 5 months to "fully cooperate with the law"? Some jail time is just the medicine the hierarchy needs when they ignore these heinous crimes. My first reaction upon hearing this was,"good!". I can imagine what our Church's enemies said.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Oct. 14, 2011 10:25 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately there is limited information about what transpired behind closed doors. Pray for our bishops and priests. Bishop Finn has done much for traditional Catholics in Kansas City. Sadly, if he fell short in this area, it will be his enduring legacy. In fact, for the time being the same might be said of the Church in general. In all honesty, just what does the average person think of these days when hearing the words "Catholic priest?" Not what they once did.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Oct. 14, 2011 8:48 PM ET USA

    Classic. For years various bishops endangered the faithful with doctrinal and liturgical debacles. More apalling to many has been the horrendous immoral behavior tolerated. Now the secular authorities are going to be the enforcers. And it is not the perpetrators, but largely their successors and the faithful who will suffer the consequences. Bishop Finn is a Tradition-friendly, reform-minded prelate. Of all the bishops out there, this could not have happened to a better man. Literally.

  • Posted by: opraem - Oct. 14, 2011 8:08 PM ET USA

    it is about time that the bishop is indicted for criminal negligence. the failure to visibly punish the bishops for their cover-up activities has kept this scandal on the front page. and has muted the bishops' voice on everything but recipes.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 14, 2011 7:36 PM ET USA

    Where to begin? In order to salvage something of the reputations of honorable bishops and priests (we must pray for them!), we must not cease to point out that the Dallas rules only protect real children in a diocese, not virtual children whose images are an computer files.New rules are needed so that the vermin who use child pornography are expelled immediately and permanently from the priesthood. And those who protect them as well.