8 Jun 2011

Only one US bishop has resigned for neglect during decade of clergy crimes, Kansas City bishop unlikely to join him

Kansas City Star  -  Missouri   June 6, 2011

Despite uproar in diocese, KC bishop is unlikely to resign

By JUDY L. THOMAS and GLENN E. RICE  |  The Kansas City Star

As more details emerge about a priest charged with possessing child pornography, calls are escalating for the leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to step down.

But if history is any indication, it’s unlikely Bishop Robert Finn would resign.

Even during a national sex abuse crisis that came to light in the Roman Catholic church a decade ago — and calls for other bishops to resign — that kind of pressure has little effect.

“It’s extremely rare for a bishop to resign,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “During this entire sex abuse crisis, only one bishop has resigned because of his failure to properly deal with his priests.”

Finn himself could not be reached for comment Monday, but he has apologized publicly on at least three occasions, including in a statement read Sunday at parishes across the diocese. Last week, Finn acknowledged that he did not heed past warnings about the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s troubling behavior.

Finn also has supporters who have expressed passionately that he shouldn’t resign.

But Finn has come under sharp criticism for failing to respond to warnings about the priest now accused of possessing child pornography. Since news first broke last month about Ratigan’s arrest, a growing movement of irate Catholics has called for Finn’s ouster.

One man who was scheduled to be ordained as a deacon Saturday after years of training chose not to participate, instead issuing a statement that called the handling of the case “inexcusable.”

Other protests:

•A meeting at the Kansas City, North, Community Center last week organized by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests drew a standing-room-only crowd, with many expressing frustration at diocesan leadership.

•Hundreds of Catholics gathered Friday for a meeting with Finn at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in south Kansas City. Many of those attending said afterward that Finn could no longer lead them.

•On Saturday, about 20 Catholics protested across the street from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, calling on Finn to step down as an ordination ceremony for deacons was going on inside. (Twice as many showed up to support Finn.)

•A Facebook page called “Bishop Finn Must Go” has dozens of people calling for the bishop’s resignation, some urging prosecutors to investigate.

Finn’s statements and apologies haven’t satisfied those calling for his resignation.

“I think he has lost a lot of his effectiveness,” said Janice Andwander of south Kansas City, who attended the session Finn held at St. Thomas More and has been a member of the parish for 23 years. “There is not a lot of faith in his leadership.”

Andwander said the recent problem has diminished much of the good work the church and lay leaders have done in the Kansas City community and beyond.

“Things keep getting swept under the rug,” she said. “Now it is time to take away the rug.”

Those who gathered outside the cathedral during the ordination ceremony Saturday also didn’t mince words when talking about the bishop.

“I’m here because he dropped the ball,” said Phil Ways, of St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church. “He’s a bad role model, and he should resign. Period.”

Tom White, a former priest in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas — a separate diocese — displayed a sign that said, “We deserve a shepherd, not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Resign Now!”

Among those who were to be ordained as a deacon on Saturday was Jim McConnell, of Holy Family Catholic Church. But last week, after years of preparation, he changed his mind.

“After a great deal of soul searching, prayer and reflection, I have decided not to accept the call to Holy Orders that I have received,” McConnell wrote to parishioners of Holy Family in a note that was posted on the church’s website.

“Because of the recent disclosure of failures within the diocese to protect the people of St. Patrick Parish from harm, I cannot promise respect or obedience that is a part of the diaconate ordination,” wrote McConnell, who could not be reached for comment. “To me this breakdown in the system that was put in place to protect God’s children is inexcusable.”

Supporters of Finn have been vocal as well, with many posting encouraging words on the bishop’s Facebook page.

Jim Dougherty, a candidate for permanent diaconate in the diocese, said he supported Finn and believed the bishop would be able to weather the controversy and would work to improve conditions within the diocese.

“He is a good man and he is a holy man; he really wants to do the right thing,” said Dougherty, who attends St. Louis Catholic Church on Swope Parkway. “I am inspired by his holiness and his courage, and he is the kind of man I would like to be.”

Dougherty said Finn has worked to attract more men into the priesthood and has made positive changes within the diocese.

“In our faith, the ultimate test is when you go on the cross and you stand on your faith,” Dougherty said. “I think Bishop Finn has the heart and the head to run the church in this capacity. He has admitted he could have done things differently, and the bishop is the man who can clean it up.”

Earlier resignation

In 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, whose name became symbolic with the priest sex abuse scandal, resigned over his repeated failure to remove abusive priests from ministry.

Pope John Paul II accepted Law’s resignation, and Law was moved to Rome, where he is now in charge of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Reese said other bishops have resigned in the past decade, but those resignations were because of allegations of sexual impropiety against them, not because of how they handled cases involving their priests.

Only the pope can remove a bishop, said Reese, author of “Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.”

“The Vatican has to be convinced that what the guy did was egregious,” he said.

Just last month, Pope Benedict XVI removed an Australian bishop for suggesting that the church discuss ordaining women and married men.

As for Finn stepping down, Reese said, “My guess is this has not risen to the level where the Vatican would want him to resign. And it’s not likely to happen based on past experience.”

A woman who answered the phone at the Papal Nuncio’s office in Washington, D.C., on Monday said that any questions regarding Bishop Finn needed to be put in writing and mailed to the office. The Papal Nuncio is the pope’s representative in the United States.

She added, however, that “there’s not a place where (parishioners) can call and complain about the bishop.”

“First, you should contact the diocese directly.”

Finn has said he regretted that he didn’t take action earlier in the Ratigan case.

A principal of a Catholic school in Kansas City, North, warned the diocese a year ago about Ratigan’s inappropriate behavior around girls, and the diocese learned in December of images Ratigan had on his laptop computer.

But the diocese did not officially notify police until last month.

Ratigan, 45, of Kansas City, North, is charged in Clay County with three counts of possessing child pornography — photos taken while working for churches and schools in the area.

Ratigan has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody, with bond set at $200,000.

On Thursday, the parents of a minor child alleged in a federal lawsuit that beginning around 2006 and continuing through 2010, Ratigan took photographs underneath her clothing and while the child was nude.

The couple also alleged officials were warned in 2006 about Ratigan yet took no action.

On Thursday night, the diocese announced that Finn had removed another priest from his duties because of “credible reports” of sexual misconduct with minors.

The priest, the Rev. Michael Tierney, was accused in a civil lawsuit last year of molesting a 13-year-old Missouri boy in 1971.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, a lawyer representingTierney said his client had done nothing wrong.

Bishop Robert Finn
1979: Ordained a priest, serving as an associate pastor of two parishes in the St. Louis area.

1989: Received a master’s degree in education administration from St. Louis University and became administrator of St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon, Mo.

1996: Appointed director of continuing formation for priests in the St. Louis Archdiocese.

1999: Named editor of the St. Louis Review, the weekly diocesan newspaper.

2004: Named coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by Pope John Paul II.

2005: Succeeded Raymond J. Boland as bishop.

This article was found at:



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  1. Charge against Catholic bishop unprecedented in sex abuse scandal

    By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times
    October 14, 2011

    In charging the bishop of Kansas City with failure to report child abuse, prosecutors in Missouri have done something unprecedented in the long, troubling saga of the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church: hold a member of the church hierarchy criminally accountable for the alleged crimes of a priest.
    What remains to be seen is whether the indictment of Bishop Robert Finn will be an isolated event or will encourage prosecutors elsewhere to investigate allegations of coverup against members of the church leadership.

    Prosecutors announced Friday that Finn had been charged with a single misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse after he allegedly learned — but failed to tell authorities — that a priest in his diocese had a laptop computer containing hundreds of images of child pornography. Finn's diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was also charged.


    For years, victims rights groups have complained that the criminal lines of accountability in the scandal never climbed above the level of priests accused of sexually abusing children, despite evidence that bishops and archbishops knew about many of the alleged crimes and failed to call police. Prosecutors in Los Angeles spent years investigating Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former leader of the L.A. archdiocese, and other top officials before concluding last year that they lacked sufficient evidence to bring charges.

    David Clohessy, a spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, called the Finn indictment very significant. "It is the first time that any member of the U.S. church hierarchy has faced the possibility of jail time," he said. Clohessy said the indictment sent "two clear signals: One is that the church hierarchy continues to act carelessly and recklessly in terms of ensuring children's safety, and the second is that at least some in law enforcement are finally willing to vigorously pursue both the predators and their enablers."


    According to the indictment, Finn discovered sometime between last December and May that Ratigan's laptop contained "hundreds of photographs of children … including a child's naked vagina, up-skirt images and images focused on the crotch." Finn has acknowledged that he and other diocesan officials knew about the photos for five months but did not tell police.

    The diocese issued a statement Friday saying that Finn had pleaded not guilty. "Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement," the statement quoted Finn's lawyer, Gerald Handley, as saying. The diocese described steps Finn had taken to strengthen protections of children. The indictments, however, raised questions about the effectiveness of national standards put in place in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


    Clohessy, of SNAP, said he hoped the Finn indictment would embolden prosecutors elsewhere to bring charges against the church hierarchy as warranted. However, he said the case in Kansas City might stand alone. "I think what makes Kansas City different than coverup cases elsewhere is that the wrongdoing is so well-documented and so egregious, and actually had led to real harm to real kids," he said. "In other words, there are little girls in Kansas City whose naked images have been taken by a priest months after suspicions about him should have been reported to the police. This is not a case where theoretically kids might have been harmed."

    read the full article at:


  2. Accountability in Missouri

    New York Times Editorial October 20, 2011

    It has been seven years since the Roman Catholic Church’s investigative board of laity warned that, beyond the 700 priests dismissed for sexually abusing children, “there must be consequences” for the diocesan leaders who recycled criminal priests through unsuspecting parishes. American church authorities have done nothing to heed this caution.

    Now state prosecutors in Missouri have shown the courage the prelates lacked. They indicted Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for allegedly failing to notify criminal authorities about a popular parish priest who is accused of taking pornographic photographs of young parochial schoolgirls — despite community alarms and evidence submitted to the diocese.

    Bishop Finn, who professed his innocence under the indictment, had previously outraged church faithful by acknowledging that he knew of the photos last December but did not turn them over to the police until May.

    This occurred despite the requirements of state law — and the bishop’s own policy vows — that suspected crimes against children be immediately reported. The priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, continued to attend church events and allegedly abuse children until he was indicted this year on 13 counts of child pornography.

    Bishop Finn is only the first ranking prelate in the nationwide scandal to be held criminally liable for the serial misbehavior of a priest in his diocese. Investigations have shown that many more diocesan officials across the country worked assiduously to bury the scandal from public view over the years, despite continuing damage inflicted on thousands of innocent youngsters.

    In 2004, the nation’s bishops promised unqualified cooperation with law enforcement. They instituted zero-tolerance reforms for priests but failed to create a credible process for bringing bishops to account. Missouri officials deserve credit for puncturing the myth that church law and a bishop’s authority can somehow take precedence over criminal law — and the safety of children.


  3. Pope Benedict defrocked 400 priests in 2 years, document reveals

    Figures from 2011-12 show large increase in number of defrocked priests

    The Associated Press January 17, 2014

    In his last two years as pope, Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for raping and molesting children, more than twice as many as the two years that preceded a 2010 explosion of sex abuse cases in Europe and beyond, according to a document obtained Friday by The Associated Press and an analysis of Vatican statistics.

    The data — 260 priests defrocked in 2011 and 124 in 2012, a total of 384 — represented a dramatic increase over the 171 priests defrocked in 2008 and 2009.

    It was the first compilation of the number of priests forcibly removed for sex abuse by the Vatican's in-house procedures — and a canon lawyer said the real figure is likely far higher, since the numbers don't include sentences meted out by diocesan courts.

    The spike started a year after the Vatican decided to double the statute of limitations on the crime, enabling victims who were in their late 30s to report abuse committed against them when they were children.

    The Vatican has actually made some data public year by year in its annual reports. But an internal Vatican document prepared to help the Holy See defend itself before a United Nations committee this week in Geneva compiled the statistics over the course of several years. Analysis of the raw data cited in that document, which was obtained by the AP, confirmed the figures.

    Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's UN ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the statistics in the course of eight hours of often pointed criticism and questioning Thursday from the UN human rights committee. He said 418 new child sex abuse cases were reported to the Vatican in 2012.

    The Vatican initially said the AP report seemed to be a misinterpretation of the 418 figure. However, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, later issued a correction based on confirmation of the AP calculations by the Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor, Monsignor Charles Scicluna.

    Evolution in disciplining pedophiles

    The Vatican's annual report contains a wealth of information about the activities of its various offices, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases. Although public, the reports are not readily available or sold outside Rome and are usually found in Vatican offices or Catholic university libraries.

    An AP review of a decade's worth of the reference books shows a remarkable evolution in the Holy See's in-house procedures to discipline pedophiles since 2001, when the Vatican ordered bishops to send cases of all credibly accused priests to Rome for review.

    Before becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took action after determining that bishops around the world weren't following church policy and putting accused clerics on trial in church tribunals. Instead, bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials — or turn them over to police.

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  4. For centuries, the church has had its own in-house procedures to deal with priests who sexually abuse children. One of the chief accusations against the Vatican from victims is that bishops put the church's procedures ahead of civil law enforcement by suggesting that victims keep accusations quiet while they were dealt with internally.

    The maximum penalty for a priest convicted by a church tribunal is essentially losing his job: being defrocked, or removed from the clerical state. There are no jail terms and nothing to prevent an offender from raping again.

    The Vatican insists nothing in its church process prevented victims from going to police.

    According to the 2001 norms Ratzinger pushed through and subsequently updated, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviews each case sent to Rome and then tells bishops how to proceed, either with an administrative process against the priest if the evidence is overwhelming or a church trial. At every step of the way the priest is allowed to defend himself.

    Real number may be higher

    A total of 555 priests were defrocked from 2008 to 2012, according to the Vatican figures, though data from 2010 was not included.

    The Rev. Davide Cito, a canon lawyer at Rome's Pontifical Holy Cross University who has helped prosecute abuse cases for the Vatican, said the real number may be far higher. The reason? The figures in the Vatican's annual report only refer to the outcome of cases sent to the pope.

    Those are the slam-dunk cases where there was so much evidence against the priest that a church trial wasn't necessary, or cases where the priest himself asked to be relieved of his celibacy vow and position as a prelate because of the accusations.

    But individual dioceses can also remove priests from the clerical state as the result of a canonical trial in which the priest is found guilty, Cito said.

    "There can also be more without the intervention of the pope," he said. "They don't tell us the number, so there's no way to know."

    Victims groups said the spike in cases appeared to be the result of victims gaining the strength to come forward and denounce abusive priests. They demanded the Vatican start sanctioning bishops who covered up for the abuse, too.

    "Here's the number Catholics should remember: zero. That's how many Catholic supervisors have been punished, worldwide, for enabling and hiding horrific clergy sex crimes," said David Clohessy of SNAP, the main U.S. victims group. "The pope must start defrocking clerics who cover up sex crimes, not just clerics who commit them."

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  5. The Congregation started reporting numbers only in 2005, which is where the spreadsheet prepared for the Vatican delegation in Geneva starts.

    In 2005, the Congregation authorized bishops to launch church trials against 21 accused clerics, and reported that its appeals court had handled two cases. It didn't say what the verdicts were, according to the annual reports cited by the spreadsheet.

    In 2006, the number of canonical trials authorized doubled to 43 and eight appeals cases were heard. And for the first time, the Congregation revealed publicly the number of cases reported to it: 362, though that figure included a handful of non-abuse related canonical crimes.

    A similar number of cases were reported in 2007 — 365 — but again the Congregation didn't specify how many were abuse-related. Vatican officials, however, have said that it received between 300-400 cases a year in the years following the 2002 explosion of sex abuse cases in the U.S.

    By 2008, the tone of the Vatican's entry had changed. Ratzinger, by then Pope Benedict XVI, traveled to the scandal-hit United States that year and was quoted in the annual report as telling reporters en route that he was "mortified" by the scale of abuse and simply couldn't comprehend "how priests could fail in such a way."

    That year's entry was also notable for another reason: For the first time, an official Vatican document made clear that nothing in the church process precluded victims from reporting abuse to police.

    There was also another first in 2008, a critical year as abuse lawsuits in the U.S. naming the Holy See as a defendant were heating up. For the first time, the Vatican revealed the number of priests who had been defrocked: 68.

    A year later, the number of defrocked priests rose to 103. The total for the two years, 2008 and 2009, was 171.

    Another milestone in the sex abuse saga came in 2010, with hundreds of cases reported in the media across Europe and beyond. Some 527 cases were reported to the Congregation alone. No figures were given that year for the number of defrocked priests; instead, new church laws were put in place to extend the statute of limitations from 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday to 20 years.

    By 2011, with the new extended statute of limitations and the Vatican norms codified, the number of defrocked priests rose dramatically: 260 in one year alone, while 404 new cases of child abuse were reported. In addition, lesser penalties were imposed on 419 other priests for abuse-related crimes.

    In 2012, the last year for which statistics are available, the number of defrockings dropped to 124, with another 418 new cases reported.


  6. Pope Pressed on Bishop Who Supervised Pedophile

    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, New York Times February 14, 2014

    A group of Roman Catholics in Kansas City, Mo., and a priest with expertise in canon law petitioned Pope Francis this week to take disciplinary action against Bishop Robert W. Finn, who was convicted in 2012 of failing to report a priest who was an active pedophile.

    The parishioners wrote to Francis asking why he suspended a German bishop who spent tens of millions building his opulent quarters, but left in office a bishop who failed to protect children. They argued that Bishop Finn also broke church law and should be subject to a penal proceeding.

    “Your holiness, these past two years have been extremely painful for the Catholic community in this diocese,” wrote John Veal, one of the parishioners. “The anger and hurt is palpable among many who still attend Catholic liturgy, including many priests who feel helpless to speak out. Many laity have left the Church.”

    The Catholic church in the United States instituted policies in 2002 that require reporting suspected abuse to civil authorities, but the church has not resolved what to do about bishops who fail to do so. This month, a United Nations panel on children’s’ rights criticized the Vatican harshly for failing to hold bishops accountable, and the Vatican is discussing the issue, church officials said.

    Pope Francis is forming a new Vatican commission on child sexual abuse, and some of his advisers have said they are examining the issue of accountability.

    Bishop Finn, the first American prelate convicted in the long-running sexual abuse scandal, was found guilty on a misdemeanor charge for failing to inform authorities after he learned there were hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls on a laptop belonging to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan. Bishop Finn was given two years of court-supervised probation. Father Ratigan, who had photographed local girls as young as toddlers, was sentenced last year to 50 years in prison.

    Jack Smith, communications director in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said, “Bishop Finn has his supporters and his detractors, and people are free to have their own opinion about what happens here. We remain committed to fostering safe environments in all of our schools and parishes, and we’ve made great strides.”

    Mr. Smith said that Bishop Finn’s office had received a copy of the letters and other materials, which were sent Tuesday to the Vatican’s representative in Washington to be forwarded to Francis. The materials included letters from a nun and 13 parishioners in Kansas City, and a petition asking for Bishop Finn’s removal signed by more than 113,000 people worldwide.

    The request to the pope was initiated by the Rev. James E. Connell, a priest and a canon lawyer in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who belongs to a newly formed group of priests and nuns known as Catholic Whistleblowers.

    Father Connell cited Canon 1389 in the church’s Code of Canon Law, which says that a person who through “culpable negligence” harms another person by performing or omitting his “ecclesiastical power” is to be given a “just penalty.” Father Connell said he cited this canon because it was recently mentioned by Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief prosecutor, as a means of holding church officials accountable.


  7. Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to Pay for Failure to Report Abuse

    By JULIE BOSMANJUNE, New York Times June 30, 2014

    CHICAGO — A Roman Catholic diocese in Missouri has been ordered to pay $1.1 million to victims of sexual abuse for breaking its promises on improving the way it deals with abuse cases.

    An arbitrator ruled that the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is responsible for damages after concluding that, contrary to a prior agreement, it did not promptly report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic photographs of young girls, according to a filing in circuit court in Jackson County, Mo.

    The case grew out of a $10 million settlement with abuse victims in 2008, under which the bishop, Robert Finn, promised that he would report those suspected of child abuse to law enforcement officials in the future. At the time, Bishop Finn said in a statement that he agreed to rules “that should assure our community, our congregation and our families that the diocese will continue in its exercise of vigilance and in its devotion to training and education so that we may be confident that there will never, ever be a repeat of the behaviors, the offenses or the claims that have been associated with this matter.”

    But the 18-page court filing says that promise was violated in 2010 in the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a diocesan priest who was discovered with hundreds of photographs of girls, including so-called upskirt images, on his laptop. Although the presence of the computer images was reported to church officials, law enforcement authorities were not notified.

    In 2012, Bishop Finn was found guilty of one misdemeanor charge for failing to report Father Ratigan, who was arrested in 2011 and pleaded guilty the next year to child pornography charges. He was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison.

    Lawyers said the arbitrator’s ruling could provide a template for other victims of sexual abuse across the country who have reached settlements with the Catholic Church but feel church officials have not lived up to their assurances that they would improve procedures to stem abuse.

    “This is one way to at least have some form of continuing oversight,” said Rebecca Randles, a lawyer for the victims.

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  8. A lawyer for the diocese did not return a phone call seeking comment. Spencer Brown, a lawyer for Bishop Finn, declined to comment.

    In the latest ruling, victims in the 2008 case charged that Bishop Finn violated the terms of the settlement agreement requiring him to report sexual misconduct first to the police.

    Hollis Hanover, the arbitrator, wrote in the court filing that he believed the diocese “was and is constitutionally incapable of placing the preservation and protection of the clergy culture in a subordinate position to any other consideration, including the timely reporting of a priest involved in the use of diocesan children as pornography models.”

    Mr. Hanover also determined that the diocese was guilty of breaching other provisions: one requiring it to provide counseling to victims of sexual abuse and their families, and another banning the diocese from providing a reference or recommendation to a potential employer of clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

    Lawyers for the diocese have asked a judge to vacate the arbitrator’s decision; lawyers for the victims say they will ask the judge to approve it. The judge’s decision is open to appeal.

    But a prominent victims’ group said it was pleased that the church has been ordered to pay damages. David Clohessy, the national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called the decision “significant.”

    “It shows that even though the church hierarchy has dealt with this privately for centuries and publicly for decades, and even though all of America’s bishops pledged more than 12 years ago that they were going to reform,” Mr. Clohessy said, “this is a painful reminder that, in fact, there’s been painfully little reform.”


  9. Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn under Vatican investigation

    by Joshua J. McElwee | National Catholic Reporter September 29, 2014

    Update: When asked Tuesday about NCR's report that Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn is under Vatican investigation, Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said there was "no more response and no more reply" regarding the situation.

    A Canadian archbishop visited the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese last week on behalf of the Vatican to investigate the leadership of Bishop Robert Finn, the first Catholic prelate to be found criminally guilty of shielding a priest in the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.

    Ottawa, Ontario, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast visited the Midwestern diocese for several days last week, interviewing more than a dozen people about Finn's leadership, several of those interviewed told NCR.

    According to those who spoke with Prendergast, the main question he asked was: "Do you think [Finn] is fit to be a leader?"

    The communications officer for the Ottawa archdiocese, Sarah Du Broy, said the archdiocese did not a have comment as "the Archbishop considers it a private visit."

    The director of the Kansas City diocese's communications office, Jack Smith, originally told NCR that no one in the diocese had heard of Prendergast's visit. Smith then wrote in an email to NCR later Monday that Finn had been aware that Prendergast was in Kansas City.

    "He cooperated with the process and was obligated by the terms of the visitation not to speak of it to anyone, including his senior staff and communications director," Smith wrote.

    Smith said Finn is currently in Rome for deacon ordinations of several of the diocese's seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College.

    Prendergast, according to those who spoke to him, said he was visiting the diocese on behalf of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, which makes recommendations to the pope on the appointment of bishops around the world.

    Finn, who has led the Kansas City diocese since 2005, has come under sustained criticism in the diocese, especially following his conviction in September 2012 of a misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of a now-former diocesan priest who was producing child pornography.

    An investigation of a diocese by another bishop, known formally as a visitation, normally occurs when the pope or one of the Vatican's congregations have concerns about the leadership of the diocese.

    A former chancellor of the Kansas City diocese also confirmed to NCR Monday the ongoing investigation, saying he had helped in an effort to have a Vatican review of Finn's leadership.

    Jude Huntz, who served as the diocese's second-in-command from 2011 until last month, said he had given advice to several Kansas City-area Catholics who wanted to write to the Vatican's apostolic nuncio in Washington expressing concerns about Finn.

    "I hope that there is a leadership change in the diocese of Kansas City St-Joseph," said Huntz, who now serves as the director of the Chicago archdiocese's Office for Peace and Justice. "And that's been my hope for quite some time."

    Three people who said they spoke to Prendergast as part of the investigation independently confirmed details of the archbishop's visit but asked to remain anonymous because they had been told not to divulge details of their interviews.

    Prendergast's assignment, one of the individuals said, "was to determine whether or not Bishop Finn is fit to be a leader ... whether he had the qualities of leadership to run a diocese."

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  10. According to that source, the archbishop said he was going to speak to both those who were supportive of Finn and those who had concerns.

    "I didn't think he was fit to be a leader," the source said. "I told the archbishop I thought [Finn] was holy but didn't have the organizational skills for the diocese."

    The second person said Prendergast took time to listen to all concerns that were expressed and was "very receptive."

    "He just was so open to listen," the person said. "He was there to learn."

    The individuals said Prendergast told them he was going to make a report of his findings and send it to the Congregation for Bishops for review.

    "They may accept or reject whatever I suggest," Prendergast said, according to one of the individuals.

    A third individual, a layman and longtime Kansas City parishioner, said he met with Prendergast "and a priest taking notes" for about 30 minutes at a residence in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City.

    This person, who said he has already written to the Vatican's ambassador in Washington about Finn, told NCR: "[Prendergast and the priest] said they were there to evaluate and make a recommendation if there was a need to make a change in leadership" in the Kansas City diocese.

    Finn and his diocese have been under scrutiny for several years, particularly surrounding the handling of sexual misconduct by Shawn Ratigan, a former priest who was found guilty in federal court in September 2013 of producing child pornography and sentenced to 50 years in jail. Ratigan was laicized in January.

    In September 2012, Finn was found guilty in one Missouri county court of the misdemeanor count. Earlier, in November 2011, he made an agreement with prosecutors in another county to suspend misdemeanor charges as long as he agreed to give prosecutors there immediate oversight of the diocese's sexual abuse reporting procedures.

    The Kansas City diocese has also been facing a number of lawsuits for sexual abuse claims and has made a number of large financial settlements in recent years. In 2012, the diocesan paper estimated the diocese had spent $1.39 million for the bishops' legal defense and almost $4 million for other claims.

    The cumulative amount spent by the diocese on sexual abuse claims and defense is a "staggering figure," Huntz said. "[The Vatican] needs to see those numbers and recognize it for what it is."

    Huntz also said that to offset expenses, the diocese had raised parish assessments, the money the diocese collects from parishes, with some "going up 33 percent." Huntz attributed higher operating costs to increased insurance payments.

    "A parish can't afford those things," he said. "It's really hurting a lot of the parishes from a financial point of view."

    Likewise, the number of Catholics in Kansas City has declined, Huntz said.

    "Ten years ago ... when Bishop Finn came to Kansas City, the diocese had 165,000 Catholics," he said. "This past year, I submitted our official statistics to Rome, and we only had 128,000 Catholics. That's a 25 percent decline."

    News of the Kansas City investigation follows reports last week that the investigation of a diocese in Paraguay led to that bishop's removal. Pope Francis removed Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of the diocese of Ciudad del Este on Sept. 25, following a visitation to that diocese by Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, archpriest of Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major.

    Huntz said the situation in the Kansas City diocese is "something everybody should care about."

    "We are all united in the larger church, and to see a diocese go downhill like it has should make everybody concerned."


  11. Robert Finn Missouri Bishop Convicted of Shielding Pedophile Priest, Resigns


    Pope Francis accepted the resignation on Tuesday of Bishop Robert W. Finn as head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, heeding pleas from parishioners and priests that the bishop had lost the credibility to lead after being convicted three years ago of failing to report a priest who took pornographic pictures of local girls.

    It was the first time that Francis had taken action against a bishop who neglected to protect children from pedophiles in the priesthood. Although the Vatican did not state why Bishop Finn resigned, the circumstances were clear-cut because Bishop Finn had received international notoriety as the first Roman Catholic prelate ever criminally convicted of shielding an accused priest.

    Now Francis faces a much tougher call: whether he will take concrete steps to keep bishops worldwide accountable for protecting the children in their flocks from sexual abuse by clerics and church workers. In the long history of the abuse scandal, the Vatican says it has defrocked more than 850 priests and penalized at least 2,500 more, but the matter of discipline for bishops has remained the great unfinished piece of business and the pressure to act is only growing.

    In just the last month, Francis has faced bitter protests from Catholics in Chile over his decision to install Bishop Juan Barros in the diocese of Osorno despite claims that the bishop witnessed abuse years ago and did nothing.

    And on Tuesday, Marie Collins, a member of the Vatican’s special commission on clergy — which Francis appointed to advise him on handling sexual abuse — said that the group has presented him with a plan for instituting standards and procedures to keep those in the hierarchy accountable.

    “The commission has put forward a proposal to the Holy Father to advance bishop accountability, not just of bishops, but of all church leadership,” Ms. Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse.

    Though she declined to reveal details, she said that the proposal is supported by the entire commission, which includes priests and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who also serves on a separate cardinals’ advisory board to the pope.

    “It’s with the Holy Father, so it’s basically up to him now what he decides on that proposal,” she said, adding: “We await his response.”

    She also described the resignation of Bishop Finn as “good news” that “has taken too long, obviously, but is the way that anyone, I think, who is concerned about child protection wants to see things go.”

    Parishioners and priests in Bishop Finn’s diocese had been petitioning the Vatican for three years to remove him. In September 2014, the pope sent a Canadian archbishop to Missouri to investigate, and several local Catholics and priests said afterward in interviews that the archbishop had asked them whether they felt that Bishop Finn had lost the confidence of the faithful. Speculation that Bishop Finn would be removed grew when he was absent last week for a confirmation, and was then spotted in Rome.

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  12. Such a resignation is extremely rare when a bishop is not ill or close to the retirement age of 75. Bishop Finn is 62 and has served in his diocese just short of 10 years.

    The Vatican announced the resignation in a brief note in its daily news bulletin Tuesday, and did not give a reason. But the Vatican cited a provision in church law under which a bishop is “earnestly requested” to resign because of ill health or “some other grave cause.”

    In a statement released by the diocese, Bishop Finn said, “It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith.” Francis appointed Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who leads the archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, to administer Bishop Finn’s former diocese but did not name a successor.

    Bishop Finn was convicted in 2012 on a misdemeanor charge involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest who Bishop Finn had been warned was behaving inappropriately with children. When Father Ratigan took his laptop computer in for repairs in December 2010, a technician immediately told church officials that the laptop contained what appeared to be sexually explicit photographs of young girls.

    After Father Ratigan attempted suicide and was sent for treatment, Bishop Finn reassigned him to live in a convent and ordered him to stay away from children. But Father Ratigan continued to attend church events and take lewd pictures of girls for five more months, until church officials reported him to the police in May 2011, without Bishop Finn’s approval.

    The bishop was convicted after a bench trial, and sentenced to serve two years court-supervised probation.

    Jeff Weis, a parishioner who helped to lead the petition campaign pushing for Bishop Finn’s removal, said in a statement, that with the resignation, “the prayers of this hurt community have been answered.” But he added: “The damage done is immeasurable. The time necessary to heal will be long.”

    Christopher M. Bellitto, an associate professor of history at Kean University in New Jersey, said, “It’s two steps forward for credibility, but one step back because it took too long.”

    The removal of Bishop Finn will put pressure on Pope Francis to act against Bishop Barros in Chile, said Anne Barrett Doyle, a director of BishopAccountability.org, an advocacy group that maintains an online database of sexual abuse cases. She said that, as with Bishop Finn, no pope has ever confirmed that the reason for a bishop’s removal was negligence in handling child abuse cases.

    “We urge Pope Francis to issue such a statement immediately,” Ms. Doyle said. “That would be unprecedented, and it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun.”


  13. MO KC bishop is ousted, a tiny step forward

    SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Press Release: April 21, 2015

    Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, davidgclohessy@gmail.com)

    Finally, more than two years after his conviction, Bishop Robert Finn has been ousted. This is a tiny but belated step forward.


    After centuries of abuse and cover up done in secrecy, and decades of abuse and cover up done somewhat in public, one pope has finally seen fit to oust one bishop for complicity in clergy sex crimes. That's encouraging. But it's only a very tiny drop of reform in an enormous bucket of horror.

    Finn's departure will, in the short term, make some adults happier. By itself, it won't, in the long term, make many kids safer.

    Keep in mind that dozens of Kansas City Catholic employees are concealing or have concealed clergy sex crimes. So it's irresponsible for anyone to get complacent. Protecting predators and endangering kids is a deeply-rooted and long-standing pattern in the Catholic hierarchy. It didn't start with one man and won't stop with one man.

    There were dozens of church staff who could and should have stopped Fr. Shawn Ratigan's crimes by simply calling 911. But they protected themselves and their jobs by staying silent. They too should be ousted by the Vatican.

    But the scandal in Kansas City goes far beyond the Ratigan crisis. In the early 1990s, we declared that it was one of the most mean-spirited in the US regarding how it treats survivors, especially those who seek justice in court.

    It still is. Finn continues to exploit several legal technicalities to protect child molesting clerics and deny victims their day in court.

    Virtually no KC Catholic employee has had the courage to speak up when Finn:

    -argues in court that he's not responsible when a priest sexually assaults a child on private property (And Finn has won on this claim.)



    – let his priests try to violate the privacy of child sex abuse victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and advocates by subpoenaing personal mail and email going back decades.


    Virtually no KC Catholic employee has had the courage to speak up when:

    – in the weeks after the Fr. Ratigan crisis exploded, five other KC area clerics were accused of or suspended for alleged sexual misconduct. (Fr. Michael Tierney, Fr. James Urbanic, Fr. Bede Parry, seminarian Nicholas Pinkston and Msgr. Robert Murphy. All but Parry and Pinkston were in active ministry when they were accused.)

    –it was disclosed that KC church official paid for a serial predator priest, Msgr. Thomas Reardon, to become a licensed counselor, even after several credible abuse allegations against him were made.


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  14. Virtually no KC Catholic employee has had the courage to warn a single parent or parishioner about:

    --Fr. Thomas Cronin of Nevada, who is involved with a homeless women's shelter in Nevada despite a pending civil lawsuit in Kansas City that charges him with sexually violating a young woman.


    –-Bishop Joseph Hart of Wyoming who, as a priest in KC, molested at least six boys. (They have sued and those suits have settled.)

    Virtually no KC Catholic employee spoke up when Finn:

    --kept Fr. Tierney on the job for six months even after he'd been named in two child sex abuse lawsuits,

    –“outed” three abuse victims


    – ousted Fr. Jorge Ramirez last fall from a KC parish citing unspecified complaints.



    Virtually no KC Catholic employee spoke up on behalf of brave whistleblowers like Margaret Mata or Larry Probst or joined us to challenge Finn for keeping Fr. Glenn Gardner in a KC parish despite having stolen from churches in Wisconsin:


    So to us it's clear: despite new promises, pledges, panels, protocols and procedures - and new scandals - in the Kansas City diocese, no one in the church hierarchy is really reforming.

    There have however, been a few brave and compassionate church staff in Kansas City in recent years, individuals like Jim McConnell who confronted Finn and quit on the eve of his deaconate ordination because of the Ratigan scandal and Sr. Jean Christensen who has been outspoken in her advocacy for kids and victims. There have been several secular heroes, including Detective Maggie McGuire and prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

    But the overwhelming majority of current and recent Catholic employees in Kansas City who knew of or suspected clergy sex crimes and kept quiet should be ashamed of themselves and should be at least suspended – or more likely fired – by the next KC bishop.

    There are now, according to BishopAccountability.org, 25 publicly accused Kansas City area child molesting clerics. That's a fraction of the real total. Finn alone did not enable, ignore and conceal their crimes. Sadly, he has had and still has plenty of help continuing the cover ups.

    So vigilance, not complacency, is needed now. It's crucial that those who see, suspect or suffer clergy sex crimes and cover ups in KC keep finding the strength to get help, protect kids, call police, expose wrongdoers, deter wrongdoing, and start healing.


  15. KC priest criticizes prosecution of Bishop Robert Finn, and prosecutor fires back

    By JUDY L. THOMAS, The Kansas City Star May 6, 2015

    As the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese tries to move past the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, a priest has roiled the waters with a letter alleging that the criminal charges against Finn were politically motivated.

    The prosecutor who filed the case, Jean Peters Baker, this week responded with a strongly worded letter of her own.

    Her letter, sent Monday to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and to members of Christ the King parish in Kansas City, said the document distributed last week by their pastor, the Rev. Gregory Lockwood, contained “misinformation” and “misstatements.”

    “I run this office as a prosecutor, not a politician, and I have sought convictions for those who have harmed our community,” Baker wrote, adding that while everyone has a moral duty to report abuse, others are required by law to do so.

    “Having the courage to stand up to those in power and hold dangerous criminals accountable for their behavior is a necessary component of the position of prosecutor,” she said. “…As your prosecutor, I am guided by this truth: no one is above the law, no matter our position or title. Children especially need this to be true, and abused children’s lives may depend upon it.”

    Finn was convicted in September 2012 for failing to notify authorities about a priest who later pleaded guilty to production of child pornography. That priest, Shawn Ratigan, was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison and has since been removed from the priesthood.

    Finn stepped down as leader of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on April 21, nearly three years after he became the most senior U.S. Roman Catholic prelate convicted of criminal charges related to the church’s child sexual abuse scandal. Neither Finn nor the Vatican provided a specific reason for the resignation, but the Vatican said that Finn cited the code of canon law that allows bishops to resign early for illness or some “grave” reason that makes them unfit for office.

    Baker sent her letter by email to the parish and to Naumann, said Michael Mansur, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. Naumann is serving as the diocese’s temporary leader until the Vatican names a replacement for Finn.

    Mansur said Wednesday that Baker had not yet received any response. When asked why Baker took the extraordinary measure of writing to the parish and the archbishop, Mansur said, “I think the letter speaks for itself.”

    Lockwood did not return a call requesting comment. Naumann responded in a statement on Wednesday:

    “I am disheartened that some have chosen to respond to Bishop Finn’s resignation, not by moving forward, but to continue public attacks upon him and the Church,” Naumann said. “On the other hand, Father Gregory Lockwood and others have also passionately defended Bishop Finn. While everyone has a right to free expression, in my opinion it serves no good purpose at this point to rehash a story that has had so many tragic consequences. There is nothing to be gained by picking at old wounds and speaking uncharitably about one another.

    “My prayer is that when the new Bishop arrives he will find a Catholic community united and eager to work with him in making the love of Jesus more alive and tangible in our community.”

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  16. In his letter which was inserted into parish bulletins, Lockwood said that Finn was a longtime friend and that his resignation “comes after a long, bitter, nasty campaign by many of our brothers and sisters, who, for whatever reason, were convinced that he needed to go.”

    Lockwood blamed Finn’s critics — not the Ratigan scandal — for the resignation. His letter highlighted a rift between conservative and progressive factions within the diocese that intensified when Finn became bishop in 2005.

    “For the instigators of this unfortunate event, the issue was never the Ratigan affair,” Lockwood wrote. “There were definitely mistakes made in handling the situation by people who, it turned out, were in over their heads, but there was never any malice, or impulse to cover up anything.

    “If this had happened on another, more popular bishop’s watch, the aftermath we have seen would not have occurred, because the motivation for the mob-scene that ensued was Bishop Finn’s fidelity to a classical concept of the church, not the cover-up of any misconduct.”

    Lockwood said that those who were celebrating Finn’s resignation did so not because of the Ratigan case but because they viewed the bishop as an “arch-conservative.”

    “One of the most disturbing things I have seen in my years as a priest is the glee and meanness of many of our brothers and sisters in the aftermath of Bishop Finn’s resignation,” he said. “Champagne corks popped, celebrations begun, more mean and vicious things said by people whose Lord Jesus said to them, ‘Love one another.’”

    There was no forgiveness, Lockwood said, “for this man who pled no contest to a politically motivated charge filed by an ambitious prosecutor with strong ties to the abortion industry, so that he might save his local church the pain and cost of a public trial.”

    The statute under which Finn was charged, Lockwood said, “was not even applicable to what happened, but such is our legal and political society.”

    He told parishioners that “we have become mean, low and self-involved.”

    “No one has won anything here; we’ve all lost,” he said. “An honorable man has been unjustly disgraced, and we have sacrificed his dignity and our own in a rush to punish and destroy…”

    In her response, Baker said she was raised in the Catholic faith and attended Catholic schools run by nuns who “guided students by their own demonstration of accountability and commitment to our education.”

    “My church parish was blessed with many talented priests,” she said, “but the notion that no one is above the law was infused in me by these strong women.”

    Baker said Lockwood was “factually inaccurate” in saying that Finn pleaded no contest to the charge of failing to report suspicions of abuse.

    “On September 6, 2012, a Jackson County Judge heard the facts of the case and found him guilty of that charge,” she wrote. “You should also be aware that on September 12, 2013, Shawn Ratigan, a former priest, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for related photographic images of children.”

    Lockwood’s letter has created a stir as it has circulated throughout the diocese. Some parishioners and victims’ advocates were incensed at its tone and content and said it was insensitive to priest sex abuse victims.

    “Look what it’s doing to the victims,” said Sister Jeanne Christensen, who served as the diocese’s victims’ advocate from 2000 to 2004. “To say Bishop Finn’s resignation had nothing to do with Ratigan? This victimizes them all over again.”