Bishop testifies; SNAP responds
Despite what Finn's lawyer says, the bishop is not "cooperating" with law enforcement. He's doing what he must: responding to a grand jury subpoena.
Real cooperation would involve Finn visiting Ratigan's former parishes and clearly begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and prosecutors. Real cooperation would involve holding a news conference to this effect. Real cooperation would involve printing an editorial like this in his diocesan newspaper, and putting announcements like this in every parish bulletin and on every parish website.
Some will see this news and think "OK, the real wrongdoers are going to get nabbed." That’s a risky assumption. A smart move is to assume that the grand jurors are still struggling to find the truth and that every person who has a piece of this puzzle should still contact the prosecutor's office and share what they know.
Finally, Finn's public relations staff must be pleased that he's staying "on message" and talking about improved church abuse procedures. That's smart PR, but that's also a smokescreen. The problem is self serving decisions by top church staff, not inadequate procedures in church manuals. Corrupt Catholic officials, not inadequate Catholic policies, enabled a child predator to hurt more kids.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Posted on Fri, Sep. 16, 2011 01:23 PM
Bishop testifies for Jackson County grand jury
By MARK MORRIS, GLENN E. RICE and JUDY THOMAS
The Kansas City Star
Bishop Robert Finn, leader of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, testified this morning before a grand jury investigating the case of a priest already facing state and federal child pornography charges.
Finn, wearing a black suit and clerical collar, entered the Jackson County Criminal Justice Center through the main doors shortly after 8:15 a.m. and began testifying about 9:55 a.m. He left about 1 p.m.
“We’re doing the best we can to cooperate with law enforcement,” Finn said after testifying.
Finn agreed to give jurors any information they requested, said one of the attorneys who accompanied him into the justice center. “He’s hoping to move this matter along so he can get back to his ministry,” Gerald Handley said.
The grand jury began hearing testimony last month in the case involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a Catholic priest charged with child pornography offenses in Clay County and in U.S. District Court. Unlike Finn, some of those testifying last month were kept from the public’s view and did not enter the building through the main doors.
The lineup of grand jury witnesses suggests that the inquiry is focused more on the conduct of diocesan officials than that of the Ratigan.
Those who have testified include diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers and a Kansas City police captain whose opinion diocesan officials sought on a photo Ratigan allegedly took. The police captain also is a member of the diocese’s Independent Review Board, which reviews allegations against priests and makes recommendations to the bishop.
The diocese has said it contacted a Kansas City police officer in December and described “one of the more disturbing images” from Ratigan’s computer, asking whether it constituted child porn, and the officer said it did not. Police later confirmed that the officer was Capt. Richard Smith, but said that he only was told about one photo and was not made aware that there were other more graphic images on Ratigan’s computer.
Diocesan officials have come under sharp criticism for failing to take immediate action when concerns were raised about Ratigan’s behavior.
In May 2010, the principal of a Catholic school complained to the diocese about what she described as Ratigan’s inappropriate actions around children. But other than counseling Ratigan to moderate his conduct, his church superiors took little substantial action.
In December, diocesan authorities found what prosecutors later alleged was child pornography on Ratigan’s computer. The church relieved him of his duties as pastor of a Northland church and assigned him to live at an Independence mission house. While there, he allegedly attempted to take pornographic photos of a 12-year-old girl.
Ratigan was charged in Clay County in May with three counts of possession of child pornography. Federal grand jurors later indicted him with 13 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child porn.
After Ratigan’s arrest, Finn publicly apologized for his handling of the case.
Earlier this month, an investigation led by a former federal prosecutor found that diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures in responding to reports of child sexual abuse.
The investigation found that “individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, schools and families.”
“Our investigation identified shortcomings, inaction and confusing procedures, but we believe Bishop Finn and the leadership of the diocese understand the gravity of the issues and take these recommendations seriously,” said Todd Graves, a former U.S. Attorney who led the study.
The diocese released the findings in a 141-page report compiled by Graves’ law firm, which Finn hired in June to evaluate how the diocese handles allegations against priests.
Finn called the recommendations “comprehensive, thoughtful and detailed.”
“We understand their importance and are focusing on them so we establish clear, strong and unequivocal procedures for all diocesan personnel and volunteers that ensure the safety of our children today and into the future,” the bishop said in a statement.
Catholic officials have been the subjects of criminal investigations involving child sexual abuse cases in other states in recent years as well.
In 2006, a Catholic bishop in Northern California was threatened with misdemeanor criminal charges for failing to immediately report allegations of sexual abuse against a priest in his diocese after the priest admitted the abuses to him. The priest fled to Mexico before being charged with sexual abuse. Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Diocese of Santa Rosa agreed to enroll in a diversion counseling program in lieu of facing criminal charges. Walsh resigned as bishop in June, a year short of his mandatory retirement at age 75.
And in Philadelphia, a grand jury released a report in February saying it found that 37 accused priests still were working around children in Catholic parishes. The grand jury harshly criticized the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for failing to fully investigate claims of misconduct against priests and recommended charges against a monsignor who was the former head of the archdiocese’s clergy office.
Monsignor William J. Lynn has been ordered to stand trial on a charge of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children. The monsignor is the highest-ranking diocesan official in the nation to face criminal prosecution for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of minors by priests.