Bishop Finn Indicted


Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph have been indicted on failure to report child abuse charges.  The charges are misdemeanors.  Here is the statement of the Kansas City-Saint Joseph Diocese regarding the indictments.  Go here for the details.  A few observations:

1.  The charges stem from child pornography found on a priest’s, Shawn Ratigan’s, computer in December 2010.  The pictures were turned over to the authorities in May of this year.  This was far too slow.  The diocese was conducting its own internal investigation of Ratigan, but bishops should not attempt to play cop.  Whenever such evidence surfaces it must be turned over to the authorities pronto.

2.  The prosecutor Jean Peters Baker is a fanatic pro-abort.  A former Democrat member of the Missouri House, she resigned when she was appointed as Kansas City prosecutor in May of this year.  I suspect that she intends to use Bishop Finn’s scalp to ride to higher political office.  She claims that this was all the grand jury’s doing and not hers which is risible.  Grand juries are the tools of the prosecuting attorneys and will, as the saying goes, normally indict a ham sandwich if that is what the prosecutor wants.

3.  Failure to report suspicion of sexual abuse is rarely prosecuted as demonstrated by the fact that Planned Parenthood abortion clinics routinely abort underage girls, and no Planned Parenthood affiliate has ever been successfully prosecuted for failure to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor.



4.  Bishop Finn made a big mistake by his failure to immediately go to the cops with the child porn, and he has handed a weapon to an enemy of the Church to score points against the Church.  However, much more important than that is his failure to recognize that his first duty was to protect children from a priest who was obviously a danger to them.  When this happens in the future bishops have to run, not walk, to the cops immediately and throw this into their laps.

Update:  Go here to read the report on this mess commissioned by the Bishop.  It is unsparing in its analysis and its conclusions of what went wrong in the Bishop’s handling of this matter.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. In less universally vital news: top US law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder and his DoJ special ops cadres run guns to Mexico drug terrorists, a fed and 200 civilians are killed . . . then he lies to Congress . . . silence . . .

  2. Several years ago, at my nephews elevation to Monsignor in Kansas City, I shook Bishop Finn’s hand, and mentioned to him that I had read a lot about him. He said he imagined it was not good things that I read. I encouraged him with “yes it was very good.” I think there are those who have been gunning for him for a while. God bless this good bishop. It must be an awful thing to have to choose between the good of the children and the lose of a preacher of the gospel, especially since there have been so many false accusations.

  3. A female principal tried to document in writing a warning to the Bishop long before but it went through an intermediary to the Bishop in a verbal abriged form that may have reduced its strength. The Bishop should have asked for the actual letter and read it. A Ms. Gaveau contended in the Boston case of Fr. Schanley that she warned Cardinal Law to his face about Schanley and one year later after she noticed Schanley still in place in a parish, she warned Cardinal Law again to his face and he noted that she should contact his auxialiaries because that’s why he had them. Christ warned the apostles that they were not to be so above others:
    Luke 22:25.
    * He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’;
    but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.”

    The lesson from Kansas City…..if a Principal writes a letter, Bishops….be a servant and read it.

  4. Bishop Finn is the epitome of prelates who enable abuse: they love the institutional church (Vatican, hierarchy) more than they love the Ecclesia (the church in the pews, the real people, real children).

    Such prelates ignore (thus enable) abuse lest it “scandalize” the institutional church. It is not surprising that Finn is among them, given his fundamentalist, Opus Dei theology which places the supremacy of Roman authority above all else.

    If you want to see what God has to say about such religious prelates, read Ezekiel 34 and Matt 23.

  5. Actually, Ezekiel 34:1-10 more properly applies to those liberal heterodox clerics who favor democracy in the Ecclessia and who reject the authority of the Kingdom God.

    PS, what’s wrong with Opus Dei theology? If it’s anything like what’s in the writings of its founder (Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer), then I say more power to Opus Dei! Books like the Way, the Furrow and the Forge couldn’t possibly be more Christian.

  6. Whether the prosecutor supports abortion is completely irreelvant. Whether Planned Parenthood reports child abuse is irrelevant. Whether Bishop Finn is “conservative” or “liberal” theologically also is irrelevant. This is exactly why the judicial ideal is “blindness,” not only to class, ethnic and racial distinctions but political and theological ones, as well.

    The world has seen so often in this crisis that the “orthodoxy” or “heterodoxy” of prelates and priests is utterly irrelevant, which raises two interesting questions:

    1. Does one need to be “orthodox” or “heterodox” to do what is so obvious morally and ethically?

    2. Are Catholics so infatuated with “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” that they relegate legitimate questions about the moral behavior of their leaders to a lower place?

    I completely agree with Bill’s and Liz’s comments. The lacy of urgency Bill describes and the institutional arrogance Liz describes have been the hallmarks of the Church’s response to clerical sex-abuse at least since 1049, when St. Peter Damian wrote his treatise, “Liber Gommorianus” (“The Book of Gomorrah”), describing not only priests sexually abusing children but priests taking mistresses and other such misdeeds. Pope Leo IX initially supported Peter, then backed off under pressue. This was a thousand years ago, people!

    There’s something even worse going on here: God’s holy name is besmerched by such grotesque sin. I suggest you all pick up a copy of “Losing My Religion,” written by William Lobdell, a former editor and reporter with the Los Angeles Times. Lobdell was considering becoming an evangelical Protestant when the fiscal scandals invovling TBN and Paul Crouch broke. Then he was considering becoming Catholic when the clerical sex-abuse crisis in Boston broke. As a result, he couldn’t believe that a just God would allow such travesties to happen in His Name, so he became an atheist.

    Lobdell’s logic might be extremely faulty (just read Ezekiel 34 and Matthew 23). But how many others have rejected God and His Son because of legitimate disgust with ecclesiastical corruption? Do you think that a holy, righteous God — the quintessence of purity — will not hold the perpetrators to account in a way that would boggle the mind of the average Christian?

    God is not mocked. The Church’s leadership long ago rejected Jesus’ model of self-sacrificing service described in John 13-16. It has sacrificed that mandate on the altar of power, wealth, secular influence, intellectual vanity, institutional arrogance and a pervasive sense of entitlement. It has infected too many of its members with those same qualities. I hope Bishop Finn’s indictment is the start of many more such indictments. Only when the Church’s real values (those I just described) are threatened will it act with the aggressiveness it lacked since the 11th century.

    If you don’t believe me, then ask yourselves this: Would the Council of Trent ever taken place without the challenges Luther brought?

  7. Joe, the huge chip you have on your shoulder against the Catholic Church is getting old really fast. Lose it when you comment here or I will ban you. This is not a forum for enemies of the Church.

    The motivation of the prosecutor is always relevant in a case involving selective prosecution which is what this is partially about since these types of prosecutions are so rare. The animus of a prosecutor against the target of prosecution is always a factor to consider when examining any prosecution. I await with eager anticipation Prosecutor Baker bringing such charges against the Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in her jurisdiction. (Crickets chirp.)

    Orthodoxy and heterodoxy are always important to believing Catholics. Since you are no longer a believing Catholic such distinctions are not important to you, but they are highly important to the vast majority of people who read this blog.

    Your attempt to portray the Church as irredeemably corrupt is a time worn staple of anti-Catholic bigots. Corruption within the Church has been a problem since Judas betrayed Our Lord. It is a battle that will be fought until Gabriel blows his trump and it does not alter an iota the fact that the Catholic faith is the True Faith, your opinion to the contrary notwithstanding.

    I hope the prosecution of Bishop Finn will be an object lesson to bishops that they need to turn over all allegations of abuse to the authorities immediately. Bishops are not criminal investigators and they only get into trouble when they adopt that role. However, you are delusional if you think that Catholics cannot recognize the double standard deployed against the Church in this matter, and the attempts by enemies of the Church to use such scandals as a club to wield against her. Catholics are quite capable of insisting that the officials of the Church act against predatory priests and bishops while also combating our foes outside of the Church.

  8. I hope this example will be ANOTHER warning to all Church officials that this type of behavior and / or oversight is unacceptable. If mistakes were made he should be punished. If I was him – I would immediately resign, take my punishment and resign myself to a life and prayer and penance. This is the only solution that I can see.

    I just don’t understand – what is it going to take for the leaders to deal properly with this issue. Hasn’t it been in the news enough?

  9. “Would the Council of Trent (have) ever taken place without the challenges Luther brought?”

    We don’t know. I suspect it might not have, but even so, that simply shows that God can always bring good (the strengthening/purification of the Faith) out of evil (scandal followed by schism/apostasy).

  10. Don,
    Maybe what made this legally mandatory is the fact that Bishop Finn took an oath three years prior as part of a court settlement to report immediately henceforth in another case that cost the Diocesan peoples one and all….ten million dollars. Wouldn’t that court oath nullify discretion in this case on the part of the prosecutor. In effect, Bishop Finn was also breaking his word as given in the previous case’s settlement details. Catholics from the previous case could have ambushed the prosecutor on the settlement violation….?and asked for more money perchance?

  11. Bill, any agreement in a civil settlement would have absolutely no relevance in this criminal prosecution. The Bishop is being prosecuted for not complying with a Missouri statute with a criminal penalty attached. If the participants in the settlement believe the Bishop has breached the terms of the settlement then they could bring a civil suit. Civil and criminal litigation are two separate animals.

  12. “Would the Council of Trent (have) ever taken place without the challenges Luther brought?”

    Probably since such Church councils were a common feature of that period in Church history and there were calls for a council, many of them from popes, to reform the Church predating the appearance of “Pope” Luther. The V Lateran Council sat from 1512-1515, and I have no doubt other councils would have appeared in due course without Luther.


  13. Question of fact: Is presence of child pornography on a person’s Personal Computer considered prima facie evidence of that person’s being a child abuser?
    Just asking.

  14. Don,

    Go get ’em! Nice post, and I absolutely believe that you have to take into account the prosecutor’s political leanings in this indictment. Great point about Planned Parenthood monsters not being prosecuted for their abuse of minors. But here’s what I want to know from the prosecutor: Why wasn’t Bob Murphy, the Vicar General who gave Bishop Finn a very small part of the story not indicted? Why was the principal who wrote the letter to Bishop Finn calling attention to Ratigan’s inappropriate acts not indicted? As a principal I believe she falls under the mandated reporting rules. It’s sickening that she saw these actions of Ratigan with a camera, heard from others that he did the same thing in front of them, and did not go the the authorities even simultaneously with the diocese and instead allowed her allegations to be stuck in Bob Murphy’s hands while Ratigan continued to abuse children.

    Where is the accountability from the people who are required to report these types of creepy behavior? There is no question that Bishop Finn was not vigilant enough in keeping the tainted from positions of authority (Murphy has had credible allegations of abuse). There also is no question that he did not act swiftly and decisively enough to segregate Ratigan at the moment he knew about these photographs. But I can’t figure out why he is indicted while the other main players are left alone. Bigotry and politics have to be considered as motives.

  15. All excellent questions Scott. Murphy and the principal would both have run afoul of the statute, along with any number of other people within the Diocese who had knowledge of the facts of the case. That the smaller fry were not indicted is an indication that the prosecutor wanted maximum publicity by targeting the Bishop, and she got the publicity she wanted. Ironically, as this plays out, I think she may have a hard time getting a conviction against the Bishop since she will have a more difficult time proving early direct knowledge on his part as opposed to people further up the information chain that led to the Bishop. Of course, all of this has very little to do with punishing an actual violation of the statute and everything to do with furthering the political career of Jean Peters Baker. I have spent the past 29 years at the bar, defended hundreds of people accused of crimes, most of them felonies, as private defense counsel, served as court appointed defense counsel in dozens of cases, and been appointed a special prosecutor in two cases. Based upon my experience, it is pretty obvious to me what is going on in regard to this prosecution.

  16. “Is presence of child pornography on a person’s Personal Computer considered prima facie evidence of that person’s being a child abuser?
    Just asking.”

    No. However mere knowing possession of child pornography on a computer is a federal offense and is subject to 5-20 years in prison. People need to be very careful who they allow to have access to their computers.

  17. Good points from Don and Scott. I also wondered why Monsignor Murphy, in particular, is not being prosecuted. Having followed this from the first reports it seems clear to me that he chose to be less than forthright with the information he passed to Bishop Finn. It seems to me the case against him is much stronger than it is against the Bishop. (Please note I AM NOT saying that Bishop Finn handled this properly).

    On a personal note I, once again, am very frustrated how hard the ecclesiastical authorities sometimes make it for the orthodox laity who Love and want to defend the Church. I understand the Church is a target but do we have to make it so easy to hit?

  18. “I understand the Church is a target but do we have to make it so easy to hit?”

    Well said Lance! When Bishop Finn became aware of the facts in this case he should have immediately contacted the authorities himself. That would have not only been the right thing to do, but the prudent thing to do. His failure to do so will only give enemies of the Church much fodder for their attacks, and dismay faithful Catholics. All very sad and all very unnecessary.

  19. “Would the Council of Trent ever taken place without the challenges Luther brought?”

    Councils generally are meant to address heresy. Heresy is always and everywhere wrong. If Luther remained a heretic and apostate even unto death, it would have been better that he had never been born. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

    You couldn’t have picked a worse argument there, Joseph.

    That being said, regardless of civil law (which may or may not be just) the bishop had a moral duty to protect his flock. It appears that the Bishop failed to meet this obligation and if he had then the consequences of civil law would not now be an issue. It is a sad commentary on the bishops that it is their moral failings and not their civil ones which have caused such great scandal.

  20. First let me start off with saying that I believe that Bishop Finn and the diocese screwed up big time on this by not going directly to the authorities but I think the article brings up some good points. IMHO, I think there was some politics involved. Let’s just say that criminals get away with murder in Jackson County. Literally. Unless Jackson County prosecutors have a slam dunk case they don’t file and people go free.

    In regard to the letter from the principle. That was a good 8 months before the porn findings came out and I believe the letter was more along the lines of, “this guy isn’t right” and “these behaviors aren’t really appropriate.” More along the lines of she saw red flags and was bringing it to someones attention so I don’t think she would have had to hotline it.

    My question, and maybe you have an idea about this, Donald. The crime occurred in Clay County, which is where the priest was charged and where he is sitting in jail. The chancery is in Jackson County. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the bishop would have been charged in Clay County since that is where the crime occurred?? I don’t know the answer to that.

  21. The venue for the non-reporting would probably be where the non-reporting occurred which is the site of the chancery.

    By not pursuing the small fry who had prior knowledge the prosecutor is allowing the Bishop’s defense team to raise numerous issues about the prosecutor playing games with the statutory report requirement, and only using it in this case to nail the Bishop who had no first hand knowledge of any of the facts. If the Bishop is guilty about not disclosing the computer porn in a timely fashion, why does the prosecutor not prosecute everyone else who had knowledge of it prior to the disclosure? The answer is obvious: Her target is the Bishop. Prosecutors have broad discretion as to whom to prosecute, but it is not unlimited. Courts can act if a prosecutor is obviously abusing her discretion. This is not an open and shut case, and there are numerous legal defenses of the Bishop in regard to the charge of not reporting. Stay tuned.

  22. While this prosecutor may be a ‘fanatic pro-abort’ as you say, you will remember the recent (and ongoing) vigorous criminal investigation into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is spearheaded by a devout practising Catholic.
    Given the times in which we live I say pray the rosary, be prudent in your judgements, trust in Almighty God, and let the chips fall where they may.

  23. A devout Catholic Philadelphia’s DA may claim to be but three decisions suggest to me that fairness and justice are not among his virtues: try everyone together so that Msgr. Lynn will be tarred with the same brush as the perpetrators, publish the grand jury report with fanfare so as to taint the jury pool, and make a very public request to put our past cardinals on the stand to bolster the impression in the pool of potential jurers that there is a grand conspiracy.

    These may be the tools of an ambitious DA but they are not the tools of an honest man.

  24. “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
    Applying this to myself, I resist the temptation to comment on any of the previous entries.

  25. [N]o Planned Parenthood affiliate has ever been successfully prosecuted for failure to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor…

    -Donald R. McClarey

    Okay, so the prosecutor is diabolical. (Kind’a tautological, that.) And I’ll grant you that the prosecutor has a deep problem with the concept of equal treatment under the law.

    Still, I don’t care for these Oh Yeah, What About Planned Parenthood (OYWAPP) comparisons. The Church is not called to match Planned Parenthood’s standards.

  26. Indeed not Michael! However, prosecutors should not be in the business of using the Church as a whipping boy while allowing Planned Parenthood to go on with business as usual, aborting underage minor girls, and never obeying mandatory sexual reporting statutes. I have little doubt that the only reason why Bishop Finn is being prosecuted is to further the political career of the prosecutor, and I attempt to call her out on this every chance I get, especially, as I expect, if the prosecution of the Bishop is sui generis in the manner in which this prosecutor deals with institutions that fail to report suspected abuse promptly.

  27. The hierarchy in this country has had this coming for a long time… I could have selected more worthy recipients of criminal prosecution (Bernard Law?), and certainly picking on a relatively “conservative” bishop has a smell about it. But the law is the law is the law, and these guys have known for years that the delay and coverup game is a dangerous one.

    With respect to the American church winking at clerical sexual deviancy, it’s high time that some serious housecleaning happened. I wouldn’t pick the civil authorities as my broom, but if the Pope won’t or can’t do it, well, what can we expect?

  28. I agree Mr. McKenna.

    When one is in a position subject to great scrutiny, one must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Surely, given the timeframe that these events occurred, the diocese knew that everything they did would be scrutinized. What in the world possessed them to do as they did?

    I suspect this is one of those things that looks clear from the outside but is much more convoluted from the inside. I suspect that, when the Bishop first heard of the matter, he assigned someone to look into it and sincerely prayed that it was other than it appeared. I can imagine him praying that the pictures related to girls of age and the diocese looking for outside confirmation that the images were, indeed, “child pornography” under the law before they absorbed another scandal and sacrificed another priest.

    I do not say this by way of excuse. It just strikes me that priests tend to view their brethren as something akin to family and may not behave in entirely rational ways where there remains any hope that the accused is innocent. This is precisely why Bishops must be leaders.

  29. Why did Bp Finn do what he did? I suspect it’s because he probably holds to liberal beliefs. On the 9/7/10 post on the Seeking Justice blog, he’s quoted as coming out against the death penalty. Opposition to the dp has always been a hallmark of liberalism. To the best of my knowledge, people who espouse this idea never hold it in isolation from other liberal beliefs. It’s part of a package of ideas common to liberalism. I suspect in the next few months we’ll discover he does have other liberal ideas.

  30. these guys have known for years that the delay and coverup game is a dangerous one.

    There was no cover-up, merely a delay in reporting that the man had been in possession of pornography.

    Where I live (a diocese which had a high accusation rate), the term ‘cover-up’ makes little sense in aught but a few cases, because the lapse of time between occurrance of supposed offenses and complaints to the bishop exceeded the statute of limitations.

    With respect to the American church winking at clerical sexual deviancy, it’s high time that some serious housecleaning happened. I wouldn’t pick the civil authorities as my broom, but if the Pope won’t or can’t do it, well, what can we expect?

    There are about 3,000 bishops worldwide. That is a lot of direct reports. The number of people employed by the Holy See (in all capacities) is in the low thousands. The Holy See can set standards and adjudicate some cases, but it does not have the manpower to repair the problem on its own.

  31. “Opposition to the dp has always been a hallmark of liberalism. To the best of my knowledge, people who espouse this idea never hold it in isolation from other liberal beliefs.”

    This would be absurd if you hadn’t added the phrase “[t]o the best of my knowledge.” I suppose that, if that statement represents the “best” of your knowledge, I can’t be all that upset with the characterization.

  32. “Finn and the diocese had reasonable cause to believe that the Ratigan may have abused a child but did not report it to authorities between Dec. 16, 2010, and May 11, 2011, the indictment alleged. The indictment said previous suspicions about Ratigan’s behavior around children and the discovery in December 2010 of hundreds of photos of children on Ratigan’s laptop were evidence of that concern.”

    “Those photos included images of a child’s naked vagina and upskirt pictures focusing on the child’s crotch.”

    “Finn and the diocese also must have had concerns about Ratigan’s conduct because they had restricted him from being around children after the laptop images were discovered, according to the charges.”

    Ummm, THAT’s the delay and coverup of clerical sexual deviancy at issue. More than “merely a delay” IMHO.

    As for Rome, they’ve known for DECADES who the offenders are amongst the bishops; certainly by the time the Boston Globe is doing exposes, you’d think Rome would already know of the problem…. or in Ireland, for another egregious example.

    No, for YEARS, beginning in the 80’s, Rome has steadfastly refused to take decisive action against the worst of the episcopal offenders. Result: an atmosphere where bishops reliably expect no consequences to the delay and coverup shuffle. It wouldn’t take more than one or two high-profile removals from important sees for the message to be sent. For whatever reason, Rome has chosen not to do it.

    Now our enemies will.

  33. Response was: pick one or two egregious offenders, they’re not hard to find in this day and age, and deprive them of their sees. It’s simple human nature that if the bishops feel no heat from above (i.e., that they risk their “careers” if they are not diligent in policing their priests) they will be lax. This is what has happened, but now, that they face the risk of prosecution, I’ll wager chanceries around the nation are taking a different and tougher look at these kinds of cases.

    Do you doubt that there is a culture of cover up? Try: http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/extras/coverups_archive.htm
    In Philadelphia, for example, the grand jury concluded:
    “In its callous, calculating manner, the Archdiocese’s handling of the abuse scandal, was at least as immoral as the abuse itself. The evidence before us established that officials at the highest level (read Cardinals) received reports of abuse; that they chose not to conduct any meaningful investigation of those reports; that they left dangerous priests in place or transferred them; that they never alerted parents to the dangers posed by these offenders; that they intimidated or retaliated against victims who came forward; that they manipulated ‘treatment” efforts in order to create a false impression of action and that they did many of these things to avoid civic liability.”
    Ummm, so what’s not responsive?

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