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Home / Local / 2011 top stories (No. 7): Child porn case plagues KC diocese

2011 top stories (No. 7): Child porn case plagues KC diocese

Barbara Dorris, second from right, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, stands with other abuse victims across the street from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Kansas City on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

A set of disturbing images allegedly found on a Kansas City priest’s computer one year ago set in motion a flurry of litigation that will continue into 2012.

Bishop Robert Finn, of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, allegedly knew in December 2010 that child pornography had been found on a laptop computer used by Father Shawn Ratigan, but the information wasn’t reported to police for five months. Ratigan was arrested and charged in May.

The allegations prompted the plaintiffs in a 2008 settlement with the diocese to ask a Jackson County circuit judge to force the church to honor its terms. The settlement had included not only a $10 million payment but also 19 promised reforms the plaintiffs say the church hasn’t lived up to.

Just weeks after the lawsuit was filed in October, Jackson County prosecutors charged Finn and the diocese with failing to report the suspected abuse. Although the charge against Finn is a misdemeanor, it marks the first time a criminal charge has been leveled against the leader of a diocese.

Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to state and federal charges. He is currently set for trial in federal court in June. Meanwhile, a December hearing on Finn’s misdemeanor charge was recently delayed until Jan. 9.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which sent out blistering press releases about the diocese throughout the fall, said the delay is no big deal.

“This is good news,” said Michael Hunter, one of the plaintiffs in the civil case and the Kansas City-area spokesman for SNAP. “It is often hard for victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to step forward and it often takes a lot of time for them to gain the strength to speak up. Now, they have more time.”

A hearing in the civil case is also set for January.

Finn has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charge and says the church complied with the terms of the 2008 settlement. In statements on the diocese’s website, he’s pointed continued reforms taken throughout the year.

“With deep faith, we will weather this storm and never cease to fulfill our mission, even in moments of adversity,” he said in October, after the criminal charge was made public.

During the year, Finn commissioned an independent investigation by Todd Graves, a former U.S. attorney now in private practice with Graves Bartle Marcus & Garrett. (Graves’ report, released in August, said the diocese “failed to follow their own policies and procedures for responding to reports” of abuse.

Also this year, Finn reached an agreement with the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office, which will have oversight of the diocese’s reporting practices and will meet monthly with Finn for five years. (Ratigan’s alleged conduct occurred in Clay County.) Finn could be charged criminally if he fails to meet the terms.

The civil case is James G. (Casey) Walsh III et al. v. the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn, 1116-CV29191. The criminal case is State v. Finn, 1116-CR04467.

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One comment

  1. Sister Maureen Paul Turlish SNDdeN

    “With deep faith, we will weather this storm and NEVER CEASE TO FULFILL OUR MISSION, EVEN IN MOMENTS OF ADVERSITY.”

    The reality is that by his actions Bishop Robert Finn has already failed to fulfill the church’s mission and his own mission as a member of the hierarchy to protect the most vulnerable among us, the children.

    Shame on him and other members of the hierarchy who say one thing and do another.

    The plaintiffs, the victims of childhood sexual abuse should not hold their breath waiting the “19 promised reforms the plaintiffs say the church hasn’t lived up to.”

    The Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled some years back for 660 million dollars but plaintiffs there are still waiting for the release of all records, files etc.., that were part of that settlement.

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Advocate for Victims& Legislative Reform
    Delaware & Pennsylvania
    maturlishmdsnd@yahoo.com

    THE TIME IS NOW: CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE AND STATUTES OF LIMITATION

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/examining-crisis/time-now-childhood-sexual-abuse-and-statutes-limitation

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