Monday, September 30, 2013

What on Earth is Wrong with Our Bishops?

The children of St. Patrick school in Kansas City, whose principal tried to protect them, but whose bishop put them at risk.

What on earth is wrong with our bishops?  

As bad as I thought Bishop Finn handled the Fr. Ratigan case, I had no idea that he ignored the red flags described in this letter alone.  The letter was written in 2010 by Julie Hess, the principal of the Catholic school at the parish where Fr. Ratigan was pastor, and delivered to Finn's Vicar General, his second-in-command.

All you need to keep in mind while reading it is that Fr. Ratigan was later discovered to have been busy taking pornographic photographs of the little girls of his parish (one as young as age two), was molesting them, and has since been sentenced to 50 years in Federal prison without the possibility of parole.

How did Fr. Ratigan's ordinary react to this letter and to the unfolding of this horrific case?

  • Bishop Finn utterly and totally ignored this letter.  As far as I know, he never even acknowledged receiving it until more than a year later, after the story broke, when he claimed he finally "read it for the first time."  Even if this is true (and I doubt it), how can the Vicar General receive a letter like this and not insist that the bishop read it immediately and act on it?
  • Bishop Finn failed to report the abuse of these children to the police once it became known to him.
  • Bishop Finn refused to let the parishioners know their children were victimized by Fr. Ratigan.
  • Bishop Finn placed Ratigan in an unsupervised setting where he continued to have access to the children of the parish, and continued to abuse them.
  • Bishop Finn allowed the computer containing the evidence of pornography to be destroyed.  And though a copy of the hard drive had been made, police were certain that other evidence could have been uncovered from the computer by experts, had Finn not given the computer back to one of Ratigan's relatives, who promptly trashed it.
  • Bishop Finn spent $1.4 million dollars of diocesan funds defending himself against two misdemeanor charges relating to this case that he was nonetheless convicted of - a conviction that imposed only a few thousand dollars in penalties.
  • Bishop Finn's supporters made light of the child abuse.
  • Bishop Finn's supporters - including his brother bishops - blamed not Bishop Finn, but the local news media for all of this.

Catholics of Kansas City / St. Jo: after reading this letter, if you give one dime to the diocese, you are enabling a situation where this kind of thing is encouraged.  

And we know that Archbishop Nienstadt of St. Paul and Bishop O'Connell of Trenton recently behaved exactly as Bishop Finn did in Kansas City - with contempt for the innocent victims and with flagrant disregard for the red flags that their own disturbed priests were waving.  And all this ten years after the sex scandal broke - a decade after the bishops have been telling us they've fixed things!

I'm beginning to think most of these men really don't believe a word they preach.  I suspect a level of corruption and degradation has grown up in the episcopacy that we cannot imagine, and that the bishops are deliberately shielding and enabling men like this, not out of incompetence, but with careful planning and for the worst of reasons.

Personally, I think after ignoring a letter like this and letting children continue to get harmed, Finn should be ashamed to call himself a man much less a priest of Christ.


By the way, if you don't read the letter, don't comment.  If you choose to comment, you must read the letter or your comment will be deleted.


John C. Hathaway said...

Other than the "pro-life" thing (which is highly hypocritical on his part)--my kids don't know the mechanics of reproduction but they know that babies are born, and they know what abortion is--every one of those points should have been a major red flag and should have been addressed, as with the story about the priest with the camper, by just following the basic requirements of Canon Law about things like "particular friendships," etc.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to keep an open mind when I read the letter, even though he was convicted. After reading the letter, there is NO WAY he should have been allowed to stay at a school. At the first warning sign he should have been placed on leave.

Dr. Eric

Del said...

That was one tough reading assignment.

Thank you, Kevin, for posting that letter. Thank you for making clear why the sentence was so harsh and why we must hold Bishop Finn accountable.

The Bishop's failure to act decisively about this letter is appalling. So many parents and teachers are disturbed and frightened by Ratigan's behavior. Swift intervention would have protected the children and maybe even kept Ratigan out of prison. Why risk a cover-up?

Unknown said...

OH my :(. I just read the letter. I wonder what is going on with our bishops, too. Are they on another planet? What was described in the letter should have been a no brainer for Bishop Finn. This priest should have been sacked immediately. The whole letter was covered in red flags. I agree, after a decade, this is inexcusable.

Dan Lynch said...

Dear Mr. O'Brien

Bishop Finn never had knowledge of any child sexual abuse by Father Ratigan in 2010.

Mr. Haden, the diocesan attorney, informed the Diocese that it was his legal opinion the images were not child pornography. Bishop Finn was provided Haden's opinion by Vicar General Msgr. Murphy. The Bishop also understood from Msgr. Murphy that Rick Smith, a Captain with the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) as well as a member of the Diocese Independent Review Board had been shown the photographs and indicated they were not child pornography. (Trial Stipulated Facts).

Upon the later discovery in 2011 of pornographic children’s photographs, Fr. Ratigan was reported to the authorities, arrested and convicted. Before that, Bishop Finn had no reason to suspect that he might be a child sexual abuser.

Following his arrest, Bishop Finn met with priests of the Diocese. When asked why Ratigan was not removed earlier, Bishop Finn replied that he "wanted to save Father Ratigan's priesthood" and was told that Ratigan's problem was only pornography." (Trial Stipulated Facts).

You paint Bishop Finn’s face black with the whole Father Ratigan scandal through assumptions and innuendos and because, without any evidence, you don’t really believe Bishop Finn’s own testimony.

You wrote, “What on earth is wrong with our bishops? As bad as I thought Bishop Finn handled the Fr. Ratigan case, I had no idea that he ignored the red flags described in this letter alone. “ You refer to a letter that the Bishop had not seen, because of which, he did not ignore the “red flags” in it.
The Bishop had no knowledge of that letter or of its contents until 2011, after Father Ratigan’s arrest.

The issue here is what did Bishop Finn know and when did he know it?

Bishop Finn never read the principal’s letter or knew of it. I believe him, you do not and, without any evidence, you imply that the Bishop is a liar. I believe Bishop Finn. If Bishop Finn did not in fact know about it or read it, then your accusations are without any foundation.

My beliefs are supported by the Graves Report and the Bishop’s own statement.

The Graves Report of an independent investigation concluded that “the Diocesan Vicar General, Msgr. Robert Murphy, [not Bishop Finn] waited too long to advise the Independent Review Board (“IRB”), a body of confidential advisers to Bishop Finn, of the allegations. . . and that “Bishop Finn was unaware of some important facts learned by Msgr.
Murphy or that the police had never actually seen the [2010] pictures . . “ See the Report here:,

Bishop Finn stated on May 27, 2011:
“Yesterday evening, I read, for the first time,
the memorandum prepared in May 2010 by our principal at St. Patrick School.. ..
Please understand that at the time of the May 2010 report, we had no knowledge of any
inappropriate photographs or images in Shawn Ratigan’s possession. Those were not
discovered until December 2010.”

You wrote, ”Even if this is true (and I doubt it). . . .” So you admit that you “doubt” the Bishop, but you must really believe that he is lying and use that unfounded foundation for all of your accusations against him.

Perhaps you should examine your conscience and discern whether you have violated the 8th Commandment by making unfounded accusations and spreading innuendos, calumnies and distraction against Bishop Finn.

Sincerely in Christ,

Dan Lynch

Kevin O'Brien said...

It's not about me, Dan.

Read the Graves Report again. If you can do so without wanting to lynch Bishop Finn, you are a far better man than I am.

But this is not about me and my need to go to confession. This is a legitimate problem world wide and we've known about it for over a dozen years. This is not about me or my sins, many though they may be.

Kevin O'Brien said...

By the way, Dan, if the evidence exonerates Bishop Finn, why was he convicted?