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Frank Cocozzelli mentioned yesterday that Pope Francis has a chance to put his money where his mouth is regarding child abuse by priests and give Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City his walking papers for his failure to report suspected child abuse by one of his priests in a timely manner.  Lest anyone think that this may be too drastic, a healthy amount of digging reveals that the spiritual leader of northwestern Missouri's Catholics knew or should have known about that priest's behavior--and yet sat on his hands until the issue was forced on him.

The story begins on May 19, 2010, when Julie Hess, principal of St. Patrick Catholic School, wrote Finn to report concerns that her boss, Father Shawn Ratigan, was acting inappropriately around children.  Among the incidents that raised eyebrows from parents and teachers were Ratigan allowing girls to sit on his lap, swinging a girl over his head while she was wearing her uniform skirt, tossing a girl over his head even though she was wearing a two-piece swimsuit and letting kids get candy out of his pants pockets.  Additionally, several parents accompanying a Brownie troop to Ratigan's house reported seeing a pair of girl's panties in a planter.

Fast forward to December 16, 2010, when a diocese IT specialist found some extremely graphic images of little girls on Ratigan's laptop.  According to a timeline of the case from the Wichita Eagle, diocese IT director Julie Creech took one look at the pictures and told Vicar General Robert Murphy (the diocese's second-in-command) to call the police.  When Ratigan learned what had happened, he tried to commit suicide by turning on his motorcycle in his closed garage.  

What did Finn do next?  He simply ordered Ratigan to move to a convent and stay away from children.  But according to the New York Times, Finn allowed Ratigan to attend children's parties, stayed with parishoners over weekends and even presided over a girl's First Communion.  During that time, he continued to take pictures of another girl.  When Murphy saw those pictures in May 2011, he alerted police.  During that time, the kids at St. Patrick were told Ratigan was recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning.  The first they heard that anything was wrong was when his arrest flashed across local media.  Last year, Ratigan pleaded guilty to five federal counts of possession of child porn; last week he was sentenced to 50 years in prison--all but assuring he will die in prison.

Finn's defense is that he assumed Murphy called the police in December 2010.  But that's no defense.  According to the Kansas City Star, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has a long and sordid history of priests molesting kids.  Finn was well aware of this when he came to Kansas City in 2005.  Even without that to consider, wouldn't you think that he would have made sure this was reported?  Apparently he didn't, if he found it OK to let Ratigan go to children's parties.

From where I sit, Finn looks almost as bad as Graham Spanier.   To my mind, his guilty plea last September is a tacit admission that he is morally unfit to be dogcatcher, let alone a bishop.  Finn needs to go--and if he doesn't go on his own, Francis needs to make him leave.

Originally posted to House of LIGHTS on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 06:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  That would set an extremely bad precedent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Massconfusion, davidincleveland
    Frank Cocozzelli mentioned yesterday that Pope Francis has a chance to put his money where his mouth is regarding child abuse by priests and give Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City his walking papers
    Heck, that would set the Church on a slipperly slope where they'd soon have no bishops at all left!

    I don't think * anybody * wants that.

  •  As a survivor I can say, without question that... (7+ / 0-)

    the church hierarchy is nothing short of a criminal enterprise when it comes to pedophilia among it's employees. In addition they have acted like a criminal enterprise in the hiding of funds and the obfuscation of their "corporate" structure to prevent them from being seen as libel for criminal action and civil attack. These men are heartless and very unlike their expressed ideals.

  •  This story is so outrageous. (8+ / 0-)

    And let me tell you something else that made my blood boil. Sometime in early 2012, I was celebrating a family event at a very nice, well-known Kansas City restaurant. It was a week night and the place was largely empty. When we arrived, only one other table was occupied. After we were seated and ordered our drinks and an appetizer, the good Bishop and two of his cronies come into the restaurant. Everyone drops what they are doing and begins catering to them. Soon, the wine started flowing, the food starting coming out to their table. Never mind we'd actually ordered BEFORE they even walked in and still didn't have our food. They were obviously regulars and the staff catered to their every need.

    As I mentioned above, this is a very nice restaurant and not on the inexpensive side. These guys ate like kings. Fine wine, steaks, all the fixings. It is no exaggeration to say their dinner had to be at least $500 for the three of them. I was so disgusted I could barely contain myself. Here they were, supposed men of God, eating like kings - only blocks from the largest homeless shelter in the city. Two blocks from homeless camps under a bridge. And the worst part? They'd just come from the courthouse where Finn's attorney had asked for this case to be dismissed. It wasn't.

    •  I don't believe you. (3+ / 0-)

      While I am sure the meal took place, and you saw what you saw, you neglected to report on the cognac and single malts they ordered with their meals. Bishops, CATHOLIC Bishops surviving on wine alone? IMPOSSIBLE.

      Besides, do you know how stressful it is to plan a cover up, protecting a child abusing priest? They have to eat to keep up their energy.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 07:42:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  so outrageous...and so unsurprising. (4+ / 0-)

      (Fortunately my favorite KC hang is The Foundry, so I never have to see those types.)

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 07:45:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  there is no question that the RCC routinely (5+ / 0-)

    shields its clergy.  It appears that the path to power in the hierarchy is tied to success in sheltering these priests.  That being said, it appears that a similar scandal of similar size is brewing in Protestant Fundamentalist ranks as well.  While not as organized as the RCC and more given to independent governance, it appears that the sex scandals of Swaggart, Bakker, and others are just the utmost tip of a very large iceberg.
    Here is a bit of discussion:

  •  as early as 2010? (4+ / 0-)

    what took him that long?

    the Boston news broke in 2002, and after that everyone should have been operating on a higher level of scrutiny

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 08:33:26 AM PDT

  •  the details are damning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice

    This is a story that needs to be told and retold until Finn goes.

  •  not like he didn't know better (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stoking much of the anger is the fact that only three years ago, Bishop Finn settled lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10 million and agreed to a long list of preventive measures, among them to immediately report anyone suspected of being a pedophile to law enforcement authorities.
    If ever there was justification for prosecution. And a real stand up guy..
    [Finn] cut the budget of the Office of Peace and Justice, which focused on poverty and human rights, and created a new Respect Life office to expand the church’s opposition to abortion and stem cell research. ...

     Father Ratigan, 45, was also an outspoken conservative, according to a profile in The Kansas City Star. ...

     The diocese was first warned about Father Ratigan’s inappropriate interest in young girls as far back as 2006

  •  Jumping the gun? (0+ / 0-)


    Spanier has not been convicted of anything yet. The trial keeps getting pushed back (probably because the prosecution has flimsy evidence).

    Why don't we wait for the trial before we convict someone. We don't lknow what he was told (the graduate assistant coach has changed his story five times already).

    As the judge in the Sandusky trial told the jury, just showering with a young boy is not a crime (although I must say it in itself is creepy.)

    •  The evidence against Spanier looks pretty damning (0+ / 0-)

      so the comparison is pretty apt.  Unless there's something we haven't heard or seen, only a pretty egregious error in the trial will keep Spanier out of an orange jumpsuit.

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