"Let's step outside and settle this thing like men," she said, and she was a lady. "You're spewing anti-Catholic rhetoric!" he insisted. "How can you criticize a bishop when you're an actor and everyone knows actors are perverts and nitwits," she screamed. (That last gal had a point).
And above all, people are charging me with believing the biased media coverage of the scandal.
This, at least, is not true. In fact, everything I say in this post will be taken not from a media account of the scandal, but from the independent report on it as commissioned by the diocese, the Graves Report, which you can read on your own here.
So let's shove the media aside and see for ourselves what's contained in this internal diocesan report conducted by an independent firm.
Fr. Shawn Ratigan was a priest of the diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph, Missouri. While pastor of St. Patrick's Parish (a parish with a grade school), his behavior around children raised many red flags. There were several incidents of "boundary violation", in which Fr. Ratigan held girls on his lap or tried to spend time with them alone while waiting for rides. At one function, he began rubbing a girl's back until her father angrily pulled her away. A pair of girl's panties was found in Fr. Ratigan's back yard planter.
In December, 2010, a computer technician servicing Fr. Ratigan's laptop discovered hundreds of photographs of young girls, apparently taken by Fr. Ratigan. Many were of children playing, the photographer focusing on their crotches and not including their faces. There were photos of girls climbing ladders in swim suits, focusing on their crotches. There were photos of girls wearing shorts sitting with their legs apart, focusing on their crotches. The girls appeared to be between eight and ten years old. One stash of photos was of a child in diapers. The series of photos ended with the diaper moved to the side, to reveal the girl's genitals and her bare buttocks. The photos were labeled with this toddler's name. Another series of photos was of a girl of about age seven, sleeping, but posed in sexually provocative ways while asleep. Her face was fully visible. The computer also contained links to internet sites advertising spy photo pens and two way mirrors.
The computer technician who made this discovery, his hands shaking, brought this laptop to the deacon at St. Patrick's and showed him the photos. The deacon immediately took the laptop to Msgr. Murphy, the Vicar General of the diocese, and Bishop Finn's right hand man. Before he viewed the images, Msgr. Murphy called and asked a friend of his who was a police officer if a single photo of a nude girl on a laptop "in a non-sexual pose" constituted child pornography. The officer answered that it might, but, particularly if it were of a family member, it would probably not be prosecuted.
This was the only contact the diocese made with the police until the following May. For, even after Msgr. Murphy viewed the images, and after it became clear that these images were not of family members, and that they were of a sexual nature, and that they were almost certainly photos Fr. Ratigan had taken of children in the diocese, neither Msgr. Murphy nor any one else involved in this case, contacted the police for nearly six months.
As soon as the pictures were discovered, Fr. Ratigan tried to kill himself, leaving a note saying he was sorry for what he had done. He survived his suicide attempt and was sent to a psychologist in Philadelphia who specializes in treating priests with problems. And yet, after interviewing Fr. Ratigan, and even after viewing the pictures which were pulled from Fr. Ratigan's laptop, the psychologist concluded he was not a pedophile. He was just lonely. And depressed. Why? Because the principal of the school was "out to get him," having complained about his inappropriate behavior around children. It was her fault, not his.
The diagnosis being evidently wrong, there were at least a few people in the Chancery Office who advised Bishop Finn to seek a second opinion. He did not.
At one point the legal counsel for the diocese told Msgr. Murphy that an attempt should be made to identify the children in the photographs, particularly if they were children in the diocese, as it appeared they were - victims of a child pornographer, and perhaps of other more violent sexual abuse at his hands. Legal Counsel also advised Msgr. Murphy to report this case to the Missouri Division of Family Services.
But contrary to the advise of counsel (and contrary to common sense, not to mention Christian charity), no one made any attempt to identify these victims or to reach out to their families.
No one made any report to the Division of Family Services.
In fact, no one even bothered to report the incident to the Independent Review Board, as required by diocesan "Protecting God's Children" policies!
Bishop Finn then assigns Fr. Ratigan to a Vincentian Retreat Center ... where school groups often go on retreats. He tells Fr. Ratigan to stay away from computers, cameras and children, but he allows him to say Mass for the school groups.
The Vincentian leaders at the retreat house adamantly claim that they were never informed of these restrictions on Fr. Ratigan, nor were they told he was a pedophile with a flair for child pornography; they thought he was simply recovering from his suicide attempt. Bishop Finn says he informed them of the full story; they say he did not. In fact, they told the firm conducting the independent review that if they had known the full scope of the situation, they would not have let Fr. Ratigan live with them. In any event, no one was placed in a supervisory role over Fr. Ratigan. He was living entirely unsupervised.
Immediately, Fr. Ratigan began using Facebook. He started attending public events and St. Patrick's parish-family events where children were present, including a birthday party for a sixth grade girl. He started glad handing parishioners, telling them the reason he had not been re-assigned to St. Patrick's was that the principal was "out to get him". Against the Bishop's directives, he made contact with children on retreat at the center, and on Easter Sunday - Easter Sunday - he tried to take pornographic pictures of a girl at the center.
Bishop Finn was informed of all of these violations of the "honor code" he had placed on Fr. Ratigan and yet Bishop Finn admitted that, as late as May of 2011, he had (in his own words) "not formulated a plan to further address Fr. Ratigan's behavior if he continued to violate restrictions".
By the middle of May, Msgr. Murphy eventually let his policeman friend know of the full scope of the situation - that the laptop contained not one photo of a nude girl in a non-provocative pose (as he had told him earlier), but hundreds of photos of girls, all of a lascivious nature. The police officer said, "You never told me that," and informed Msgr. Murphy that the diocese should immediately turn the laptop over to the police.
But instead the laptop was given to Bishop Finn, who gave it to Fr. Ratigan's brother, who (naturally) destroyed it.
And while copies remained of the photos, the original evidence (the laptop and its hard drive), including any other cached information the police could have obtained, is now gone for good.
Now, Bishop Naumann makes a passioned defense of his brother bishop, and points out that many in the Kansas City media are viciously pro-abortion and will stop at nothing to destroy the Catholic Church. Bishop Naumann, I'm sure this is true.
And many lay folk have pointed out to me that Bishop Finn is orthodox in his teaching and has boldly attacked pornography, for example. I'm sure that this is true as well.
But have we come to a stage where we are so desperate for orthodox bishops that we turn a blind eye to their other shortcomings? Are we so defensive against our own sins that we refuse to acknowledge where we fall shy of virtue, simply because other sinners are pointing our failures out to us?
And how do we expect to turn the hearts of the pro-abortion zealots in the Kansas City media if we don't even have the gumption to protect a two-year-old girl who's being victimized while asleep by one of our priests? Why on earth would they listen to us about the evils of killing unborn babies when we won't even do anything to protect a sleeping two-year-old from a predator?
Because, my friends, it comes down to this.
Bishop Finn and his Vicar General knew that children under their care had been exploited and abused. Bishop Finn and his Vicar General did nothing to identify or protect those children. Instead, and incredibly, when the story finally broke, Bishop Finn and his Vicar General instructed that the parish of St. Patrick's hold listening sessions at which parents were asked to write down one "hurt" and one "hope".
As the Graves Report states, two "hurts" collected at listening sessions included the following ...
The images of my daughter's private areas that the FBI showed me, they are forever burned into my brain. Shawn Ratigan was in my house, around my children in February, and I thought my children were completely SAFE!!
You let one of your priests hurt my children and you saw the pictures and decided to cover it up. That monster was in my house in February 2011 to prey on my children and I let him in since you felt you were above the law and made that decision not to turn in photos of my kids.
So those of you out there who are offering to take me out back and fight me, those of you who think I'm an anti-Catholic filled with hatred and Chick-tract rhetoric, those of you who think that if a human being happens to be an actor, he should not be allowed to write about this, answer one question for me ...
What would you say to these parents? Or better yet, if Fr. Ratigan had taken pictures of your sleeping two-year-old girl and removed her diapers to take a spy-pen snapshot of her vagina and her bare butt for use on his computer, and perhaps molested her and the diocese never bothered to tell you this, and never bothered to warn you not to let this man back in your house, or reach out to make sure you and your daughter got the help you needed (all the while the beg letters for the annual diocesan appeal kept coming in the mail) ... what would you put down on the "hurt" card? What would you "share" as your "hope" during the listening session while somewhere a man we call father masturbates to a picture of your sleeping two-year-old?
Perhaps Bishop Finn should not be tried for this misdemeanor (failure to report the crime in a timely manner) in the criminal courts of my state. I think a case could be made either way. But one thing I'm sure he should do.
He should repent in sack cloth and ashes and beg the forgiveness of every girl dancing naked in Fr. Ratigan's dreams. For he had the ability to reach out and offer help and the love of Christ to these girls and their parents, and he did not do it.