40+ victims file “unprecedented” new lawsuit
They charge KC’s bishop with “breach of contract”
He breaks 2008 agreement & endangers kids, they say
Suit seeks “continuing supervision” of diocese, not money
Finn pledged to report child sex abuse suspicions to police
But he clearly hid evidence & reports about Ratigan for a year
And for seven months, he kept twice-accused predator priest in parish
Holding signs and childhood photos, about ten clergy sex abuse victims will disclose an unprecedented new, 12 page civil lawsuit charging KC’s Catholic bishop with “breach of contract” lawsuit against the diocese, by:
-- refusing, four months, to report allegations and suspicions about a priest (Fr. Shawn Ratigan) to police,
-- withholding evidence of possible child porn from law enforcement for five months,
-- keeping another sued and credibly accused priest (Fr. Michael Tierney) in a parish for six months, and
-- failing to defrock four suspended and accused child molesting clerics.
The suit seeks no money, but asks a judge to:
--force the bishop to go to arbitration, as he agreed to do in 2008, and
--provide continuing supervision of the diocese to make sure it honors 19 non-economic abuse prevention and healing steps that victims fought for and won when they settled their lawsuits against the diocese three years ago.
SNAP believes this is the first such lawsuit ever in which a group of victims seeks to force Catholic officials to honor promises they made during a settlement.
TODAY, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2:00 p.m.
Outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic church, 3333 Broadway (corner of 34th) in Kansas City, MO
Ten members of a victims’ self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including a KC man who is the organization’s long time KC director and at several individuals who were part of a landmark 2008 child sex abuse settlement against the diocese (and are part of the new suit)
In 2008, 47 victims resolved their clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuits against the KC MO diocese. As part of that deal, they insisted that Bishop Robert Finn and other top church officials commit to 19 non-economic reform steps. Now, in an unprecedented move, 44 of those victims are charging that Finn and his colleagues have broken six sections of the agreement, a total of roughly 20 times, in part by keeping two priests in ministry (Fr. James Tierney and Fr. Shawn Ratigan) despite credible allegations against them and by not reporting suspicions and knowledge of child sex crimes promptly to police and prosecutors.
The suit also says the bishop hasn’t honored his pledge to defrock four suspended or credibly accused clerics.
The 19 non-economic steps were a written contract, the suit maintains, with a provision that assured arbitration if any dispute about implementation arose. Months ago, the victims asked for arbitration but the diocese has refused.
Increasingly, victims are pushing for and winning similar abuse prevention agreements. That’s because victims now realize that most dioceses – with extensive wealth and insurance – aren’t reforming just because they settle civil lawsuits. So more and more often, as part of settlement discussions, victims are devising and fighting for specific commitments by church officials to prevent and reform how they deal with abuse cases in the future.
According to a Boston-based research group, at least 22 KC Catholic clerics stand accused, often several times, of molesting kids. Yet not one of them (nor a single complicit church colleague or supervisor) faces or has ever faced criminal prosecution (with the recent exception of Ratigan who is jailed on child porn charges).
The News conference is being held outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help church because in June, a special mass was held there to "promote unity" in the diocese. That event, SNAP contends, only served to intimidate others who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups from coming forward and exposing wrongdoing.
The victims’ attorneys are Rebecca Randles of Kansas City MO and Jeff Anderson of St. Paul MN.