Thursday, September 6, 2012

Finn-ishing Up

There's something about Christ and how we fail Him that we can learn from Kansas City / St. Joseph Bishop Finn.

Here's what Bishop Finn did  -

  • He was informed by letter by a Catholic School Principal at St. Patrick's Parish in Kansas City that parents and teachers were concerned about the behavior of their pastor, Fr. Ratigan, who was trying to spend time alone with students, who insisted on giving a little girl a massage at a church event, who was taking a lot of pictures of  little girls, and in whose garden a pair of little girl's underwear was discovered.  Bishop Finn ignored the letter.

  • A year later, a computer technician finds hundreds of photos on Fr. Ratigan's computer - photos of little girl students at the parish school, and one of a sleeping two year old, with her diaper moved to the side to reveal her genitalia - all taken by Fr. Ratigan.  In fact, the photos of the students were taken surreptitiously on the playground, at the cafeteria and elsewhere, and included close-ups of girls' crotches, and some where their underwear or genitals were showing.  Also on the computer were links to sites that sell spy cameras.  The computer is taken to Msgr. Murphy, the vicar general, who before seeing the photos, (that's right, before seeing the photos) calls an off-duty police officer and asks him if a few photos of a mostly-clothed children could be pornographic.  The off-duty police officer says, "Maybe."  This is the only contact the diocese makes with the police, until they are forced to contact them again six months later.  Some of the photos are downloaded from the computer by the chancery, but Bishop Finn gives the computer to a relative of Fr. Ratigan's, who then promptly destroys it.

  • Fr. Ratigan attempts suicide but survives.  He is sent to a counselor in Pennsylvania for a very brief evaluation.  The counselor says, "This man is fine.  He just needs the principal of the school to stop picking on him."  Bishop Finn does not allow the parishioners to know what has happened; they are only told of the suicide attempt.  No effort is made to determine who the victims were.  No effort is made to contact their families, to see if the children were physically assaulted as well as photographed.  No counseling or outreach or intervention of any kind is offered.  The victims and their families are kept entirely in the dark.

  • Bishop Finn assigns Fr. Ratigan to a retreat center in Kansas City where Catholic School students are regularly sent on retreat.  Bishop Finn tells no one at the retreat house that Ratigan is dangerous.  He is given full access to students and even says Mass for school groups.  Fr. Ratigan is discovered taking inappropriate pictures of a little girl at this retreat center on Easter Sunday, 2011.

  • Meanwhile, Fr. Ratigan makes contact with some of his former parishioners and complains that he has been railroaded and treated unfairly by being removed as pastor after his suicide attempt -which, he says, was caused by the principal, who is out to get him (though he had left a letter confessing all his crimes the day he tried to kill himself - a letter the contents of which were not revealed to the families involved).  The parishioners take pity on him and invite him to their homes, including to birthday parties for their young girls.  Parishioners are doing this because Bishop Finn has refused to let them know that they've already been victimized and that this man is dangerous.

  • When the off-duty cop finds out that the computer (criminal evidence now destroyed due to Bishop Finn's actions) contained not a few but hundreds of pictures, some of them clearly pornographic, he tells Msgr. Murphy that if Murphy won't make a report, he himself will.  At this point, six months after the photos were discovered, the police are contacted and Fr. Ratigan is arrested.

  • Bishop Finn holds "listening sessions" at the parish, where the victims' families are asked to "share" how the "feel" about something the diocese hid from them and only revealed to them when they were forced to.

  • Bishop Finn is charged for failure to report suspected child abuse by two Missouri counties.  He cops a plea with Clay County, in which he lets the secular government have an active hand in how the Church is run.

Got all that?  There's a lot more, but that gives a brief overview of what Bishop Finn did.

Here's what Bishop Finn should have done -

  • Put the needs of the children and families of his diocese above those of covering his backside.

  • Once charged, admit he failed to do his duty, repent in sackcloth and ashes, plea bargain with both counties, resign, and save the diocese $1.4 million dollars, money which could fund either Catholic education or counseling for the victims.

Now I'm not saying I'm perfect.  I'm not saying I'm better than Bishop Finn.  I'm not saying we should judge the state of his soul.  In fact, I just wrote an earnest post on how we're all sinners, including me.

But I am saying this -

What we are seeing in Bishop Finn is what we see all around us.  Instead of successors to the Apostles (bishops) behaving like successors to the Apostles - willing to risk everything and follow Christ - we get middle-management bureaucrats.  A priest has abused children?  Don't tell the families!  We'll get sued!  Cover everything up.  "What would Jesus do? "  Hell, no!    Forget Christian charity, forget even human compassion, this is a corporation whose assets we've got to protect - though over a million of those assets will be used to keep my own sorry asset out of jail (even though jail time is inconceivable in a plea bargain over misdemeanors and I've really got nothing to fear).  And if I get a light sentence after all is said and done?  Well, my buddy Bishop Joe over in KC, Kansas will write another article claiming that's it's all the fault of the pro-abortion anti-Catholic media!  He'll back me up!  So will that Donohue guy who spun the whole thing last year so that everybody was at fault but me!  I'll come off smelling like a rose while Fr. Shawn Ratigan beats off to pictures of your eight-year-old daughter's crotch and panties that I refuse to tell you he took, just in case you might want to invite him over with his spy cam for her next birthday party.  And if the cops force us to tell you about it (they'll never get all the evidence, I saw to that), well, I'll hold a listening session and have you fill out a card telling me how the visual violation of your daughter and our enabling of it makes you feel.  Yeah, that's the ticket!

The lesson? 

The time has come.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.

REPENT and believe.


ADDENDUM: Here's a helpful timeline the Kansas City Star has put together on this case.


ADDENDUM 2: As I wrote this week, this circling the wagons trick to defend our own, whether right or wrong, is precisely why we aren't effective evangelists.


Joey Higgins said...

He was informed by letter by a Catholic School Principal at St. Patrick's Parish in Kansas City that parents and teachers were concerned about the behavior of their pastor, Fr. Ratigan, who was trying to spend time alone with students, who insisted on giving a little girl a massage at a church event, who was taking a lot of pictures of little girls, and in whose garden a pair of little girl's underwear was discovered. Bishop Finn ignored the letter.

While I'm a little neurotic about following up, if I am the principle, I don't just send a letter. Not to take any of the blame away from other parties.

Sad day - can't protect the most vulnerable again. I was thinking of situations where I know there is someone potentially dangerous that "we" don't do anything about in my own life. I thought of one example so I guess I can see how easy it is to do nothing - but even with that "perspective" I'm still in awe every time a case like this happens. Amazing how "we" can fail so perfectly.


Bishop Robert Finn was convicted on one count, sentenced to 2 years which was immediately suspended and told that he will have a criminal record...FOR ALL OF 2 YEARS.

What a travesty of justice. Finn, who should be removed as bishop there in Kansas City, is unlikely to be sanctioned in any way by the pope.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John Torrence’s decision is an OUTRAGE!


Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind why the hierarchy of the RCC has lost all credibility? All Moral authority?

Finn was quoted as saying he"wanted to save (Ratigan's) priesthood," and "Boys will be boys."

So much for the SANCTITY OF LIFE as far as raped, sodomized and exploited children are concerned.

Everyone in ministry in the Roman Catholic Church should be OUTRAGED by the actions of Robert Finn.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Advocate for Victim/Survivor­s & Legislative Reform
New Castle, DE

Don K. said...

Sister M-P has it spot on! Is she the only beacon of hope for truth and justice among our RCC clergy and religious? Where are the other voices of outrage? Cardinal Dolan where are you - such cowardice.

Don Kawaja

JudyJones said...

The KC judge found Bishop Finn guilty of concealing and not reporting sex crimes against innocent little girls. There are many other bishops who could have sat in that court room and been found guilty also. This is a beginning of getting this horrific abuse stopped. We hope the families of Fr Ratigan's victims can feel a sense of relief, even though Finn only got a sentence of probation. We hope they can sleep a bit easier tonight.

We have come this far in protecting kids because brave victims of clergy sex abuse are speaking up and contacting police. Like Finn has now learned the hard way, it is not the church officials who should be deciding or investigating child sex crimes, that is the job for law enforcement.

Thank you to the judge for this historic guilty verdict. This is just a start for some hope for the safety of our children and the future.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511.,
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)