The Catholic bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Robert Finn has been indicted by a Jackson County grand jury on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. In addition to Finn’s indictment, the grand jury also handed down a similar one-count indictment against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for failure to report the sexual abuse of a child.
Finn’s indictment marks the first time a Catholic bishop has been indicted for failure to report one of his Catholic priests who stands charged with the sexual abuse of a minor child.
The failure to report sexual abuse indictment stems from Fr. Shawn Ratigan’s arrest in May 2011 for the possession of computer child pornography. Ratigan remains in jail and faces additional charges filed in August for the production of child pornography.
According to media reports, the Diocese discovered the computer pornography in December 2010 but didn’t report it to the police until May 2011. Approximately one year prior to Ratigan’s arrest, a Catholic school principal had written a letter to Bishop Finn outlining her concerns about Ratigan’s strange behavior and inappropriate interest in the minor children at St. Patrick Catholic school. When questioned about the letter this summer, Bishop Finn admitted he never read the letter.
Several civil sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against Fr. Ratigan, Bishop Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Survivors of abuse and those who support them have for years wondered why, in the face of overwhelming evidence of child abuse cover up by bishops and other church officials, there has never been anyone from the church hierarchy ever indicted. Well, it seems that day has finally arrived. Of course, the bishop and diocese are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but it will be interesting to see what sort of defense they put up.