Missouri Catholic bishop seeks dismissal of cover-up charge

KANSAS CITY, Missouri Thu Feb 16, 2012 2:15pm EST

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic bishop in Kansas City has asked a court to dismiss charges he failed to report suspected child abuse by a priest on grounds he was not mandated to do so.

Bishop Robert Finn, leader of the 133,000-member Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, is scheduled to go on trial in September in Missouri's Jackson County Circuit Court on charges he failed to inform authorities for months that Father Shawn Ratigan had child pornography on his laptop computer.

Ratigan pleaded not guilty to felony child pornography charges last year. Finn, the highest-ranking Catholic official ever to face U.S. criminal charges in a child sexual abuse case, and the diocese both pleaded not guilty in October. The cover-up charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Missouri law requires clergy, teachers and others in positions of authority involving children to report suspected child abuse. A grand jury in October charged Finn and the diocese for failing to abide by the mandatory reporting law.

But in motions filed late on Wednesday, Finn's attorneys argued that under the law a religious organization designates someone to report child abuse, and Finn was not one of those people. The responsibility instead belonged to a response team created by the diocese to review abuse complaints, they argued.

"Bishop Finn was not the diocesan designated reporter," the court filing said. "As such, Bishop Finn had no statutory duty to report."

No member of the diocese's response team is charged with knowing about Ratigan's pornography, which was discovered on his laptop by a computer technician who informed a church.

Ratigan was arrested in spring 2011 and accused of possessing hundreds of images of naked children and to have taken sexually explicit photographs since 2005 of at least five young girls, aged 2 to 12 years.

Finn has headed the diocese since 2005.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker will oppose the defense motion, which was not a surprise, and has 15 days to respond, the prosecutor's spokesman, Michael Mansur, said on Thursday.

In addition to seeking dismissal of the case, Finn is asking that he be tried separately from the diocese.

Over the past decade, the Catholic church in the United States has faced numerous lawsuits demanding compensation for abuses by clergy, mostly involving sexual molestation of boys by priests. The suits frequently accuse the church hierarchy with covering up abuses and transferring offending priests to unsuspecting parishes.

The church has paid out more than $2 billion in settlements to victims and taken steps such as creating protocols for officials on how to respond to abuse charges. But critics have charged the church's response is inadequate, and that the abuses continue.

(Editing by Andrew Stern and Paul Thomasch)

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Comments (5)
Let me get this right…
Contraception for women-H*LL NO!!!
Child molestation-No one passed a law saying I had to report it!

Catholic Leadership=DOUBLE FAIL

Feb 16, 2012 2:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
jblee726 wrote:
Doesn’t the Catholic church know the concept of command responsibility. I’m amazed that they are always in the front line when finding faults on government policies that takes care of citizens’ welfare to be at fault but when it comes to their own transgressions, they seems to forget that as good citizens, they have a duty to disclose when a crime is committed.

Feb 16, 2012 2:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
SNAPJudyJones wrote:
“Bishop Finn was not the diocesan designated reporter,” the court filing said. “As such, Bishop Finn had no statutory duty to report.”

You have got to be kidding? Didn’t he admit to this early on? Just who is Finn putting the blame on for not reporting Ratigan’s crimes? Isn’t Finn the head of this diocese?

It is hard to imagine that any judge would accept his claims, and it is pretty clear that Finn really does not give a hoot about victims or protecting kids. He will use any technicality his lawyers can come up with, to keep himself in power and out of jail.
This is extremely hard for victims and family members to accept or understand.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
“Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 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 and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Feb 16, 2012 3:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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