A prominent Catholic lawyer who once headed the American Catholic bishops’ top sex abuse panel is harshly criticizing, in a rare and stunningly candid manner, Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn.
“How can Finn face his people, priests, and fellow bishops? He has let them all down. How can he attend national bishops conference meetings and hold his head up?” writes Nicholas Cafardi, a staunch Catholic, a civil and canon lawyer and Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Duquesne University School of Law. More significantly, he is the former chair of the National Review Board, a lay panel created by America’s bishops in 2002 to oversee how the prelates deal with clergy sex crimes. Bishops picked Cafardi for that role.
In a new, 2400 word article in the Catholic magazine Commonweal, Cafardi notes that “Some bishops still act as if the sexual-abuse scandal never happened.”
Specifically, about Finn’s actions in the Fr. Shawn Ratigan case, Cafardi says
--“When bishops ignore their review boards they put children at risk. That’s partly why Bishop Robert W. Finn, of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, was found guilty of child endangerment last year.”
--“Finn “did not notify the police (or his own) diocesan review board (about Ratigan). Instead, Finn reassigned him as chaplain to (nuns) in Independence, Missouri. The sisters later said they had not been informed of the real reason Ratigan was there.”
--“Finn placed minimal restrictions on Ratigan—for example, he was allowed to say Mass for youth groups. So for the next five months, apparently without local supervision, Ratigan concelebrated a confirmation, interacted with children on Facebook, hosted an Easter egg hunt—and even attended a sixth-grader’s birthday party.
--“After he was invited by parishioners to dine at their home, he was caught taking photos up their daughter’s skirt, according to a federal indictment. Eventually Ratigan admitted to charges of possessing and creating child pornography.”
In response to his question “How can Finn face his people, priests, and fellow bishops? How can he attend national bishops conference meetings and hold his head up?” Cafardi writes “Perhaps it’s easier when” (America’s bishops) “fail to schedule a discussion of the problem of bishops who break their own rules.”
We are encouraged every time a Catholic insider sees and says that bishops are breaking their promises and endangering their flocks. This is what will help bring about reform: when respected Catholics, once trusted by bishops, begin to clearly see and publicly denounce the continuing complicity in the church hierarchy.