Victims file formal complaint versus shrink

  • Victims file formal complaint vs. shrink
  • He should have refused to evaluate child porn priest
  • Therapist advises group that helps convicted predators
  • SNAP to KC bishop “Explain your controversial choice

Clergy sex abuse victims have filed a formal complaint against a Philadelphia area psychologist chosen by Kansas City's Catholic bishop to evaluate a priest accused of possessing and producing child pornography.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, say that Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons of West Conshohocken is "biased" and gave a "bizarre" diagnosis of Fr. Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan faces state and federal child porn charges stemming from hundreds of photos he took of girls at several Catholic parishes.

SNAP is writing two Pennsylvania agencies asking them to discipline Fitzgibbons. And the group wants KC Bishop Robert Finn to publicly explain why he picked Fitzgibbons to do Ratigan’s evaluation.

Fitzgibbons is an advisor to Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a controversial Detroit-based group that gives support and financial help to accused and convicted child molesting clerics.

“Fitzgibbon’s close affiliation with a controversial advocacy organization for child molesting clerics makes it hard, if not impossible, for him to be objective in evaluating an accused sex offender priest,” said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP’s outreach director.

SNAP says it's "bizarre" that Fitzgibbons claims Ratigan is "depressed" and "lonely" and that's what caused him to take hundreds of pictures of little girls' crotches. The group is also critical of Fitzgibbons for reportedly backing Ratigan’s claims that a principal was “out to get him.”

“What kind of therapist diagnoses an adult as “lonely” because he takes pictures of little girls’ underwear and private parts for years?” asked Mike Hunter, SNAP’s Kansas City director “What kind of therapist blames a parochial school principal for that child predator’s problems? And what kind of bishop seeks out this therapist?”

SNAP wants Pennsylvania officials to investigate and possibly discipline Fitzgibbon for his actions. The group is contacting two Harrisburg-based institutions – the State Board of Medicine (chaired by Carol E. Rose, M.D.) and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society (headed by Deborah Shoemaker).

"Unless you act, other mental health professionals may see and decide that there's little or no risk if they cross boundaries and evaluate alleged wrongdoers towards whom they are biased," SNAP wrote to both women.

The group also wants Bishop Robert Finn to publicly explain his choice of Fitzgibbons.

“Finn clearly didn’t want an honest assessment of Fr. Ratigan’s sickness. He wanted legal and public relations ‘cover’ so he could put Fr. Ratigan around kids again,” Hunter asserts.“At an absolute bare minimum, Finn owes his flock – especially parents of Fr. Ratigan’s victims – an explanation of why he knowingly picked such an obviously biased and bizarre therapist for such a crucial assignment.”

“There are tens of thousands of competent, independent mental health professionals in this country. Finn chose none of them,” said Clohessy. “Instead, he deliberately picked a biased guy who would provide the 'cover' Finn sought so he could protect church assets while putting Fr. Ratigan back in ministry.”

“It’s what bishops have done for years – pay unqualified or unethical therapists who will call child predators anything except child predators so bishops can put them back in parishes,” said Hunter. “Then, in yet another cynical betrayal, bishops end up blaming those therapists for giving them ‘bad advice.’ And when the dust settles, and another allegation surfaces later against another cleric, bishops hired the same therapists again.”

Fitzgibbons is also tied to the Philadelphia archdiocese. He served, for years, on the "Counseling Committee of Psychiatrists and Psychologists for Religious of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which Dorris says “is perhaps the most discredited Catholic diocese in America on child sex abuse and cover ups.” A grand jury investigation earlier this year found that 37 accused pedophile priests were still on the job in the archdiocese.

SNAP calls Opus Bono “a radical group” and notes that Catholic bishop of Ft. Wayne Indiana said "I think it's outrageous what they're doing" and called their work "unauthorized." 

According to its website, Opus Bono’s director:

-- believes that “culpable priests” must be given “opportunities to return to active ministry

-- thinks that “at least a thousand priests…have been removed and remain out of public ministry because of unproven accusations" and

-- has said "the rights of the accused priest are completely ignored." 

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  • David Clohessy
    published this page in Media Statements 2011-11-22 11:24:00 -0600

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