How Catholic bishop failed on priest's sex abuse

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CONVICTED: Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn
  • CONVICTED: Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn

CONVICTED: Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn
  • CONVICTED: Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn
Shocking replay today in the New York Times of facts underlying the conviction Thursday of a Missouri Catholic Bishop, Robert Finn, for misdemeanor failure to report suspected child abuse by a priest, Shawn Ratigan.

This is an account of how, as recently as 2011, in violation of both church and civil laws, a bishop and church officials failed to stop a priest from pursuing his obsession with taking pornographic photographs of young girls. Eventually it was Monsignor Murphy, not Bishop Finn, who turned in Father Ratigan.

Advance warnings went unheeded. Actions were slow after the cache of photos were discovered. A police officer says he wasn't fully informed. Despite warnings about the priest's suspicions actions, the priest was allowed to work with young girls.

Over the next five months, Father Ratigan, who is now 46 attended a sixth-grader’s birthday party, co-celebrated a child’s confirmation, communicated with children on his Facebook page, hosted an Easter egg hunt and attended a parade, the testimony recounts. Invited to dinner at the home of parishioners, he was caught taking photographs, under the table, up their daughter’s skirt, according to a federal indictment of Father Ratigan.

Neither the bishop nor any church official told church members or Father Ratigan’s large extended family — which includes many children — that the priest had been ordered to stay away from children, Darron Blankenship, a brother-in-law of Father Ratigan and a police officer who has handled child abuse cases, said in an interview on Friday.

Bishop Finn, it's worth noting, had engendered church controversy after his appointment in 2006. A conservative member of Opus Dei, he decried "moral relativism" and pushed for greater church concern with biological issues (against abortion, for example) over distributive justice. Progressive voices were squelched. Along with complaints about a deviant priest. He remains bishop.

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