Chicago priest abuse attorneys are taking note that a grand jury in Missouri has indicted Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for not taking steps to notify authorities about child pornography discovered on a priest’s computer. The Bishop and the diocese pled not guilty to the charge of failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor, according to USA Today.
This criminal charge makes Finn the highest ranking Catholic official in the United States to be charged with trying to cover-up possible sex abuse of minors by a priest. Under Missouri law, church officials are required to report any form of suspected child abuse.
The indictments come from a grand jury convened in Jackson County after the U.S. Department of Justice charged Rev. Sean Ratigan earlier this year with child pornography possession. The prosecutor handling the case has stated that the fact that the charge is a misdemeanor should not lessen the importance of this case. The Bishop could face up to a year in prison and a $1000 fine. The highest fine for a corporation is $5000.
A spokesperson from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that this is the first time they can recall a Bishop being indicted on this type of charge. The charge also represents a major setback for the Vatican in their effort to try to put sex abuse scandals behind them, according to the Washington Post.
According to the indictment issued on October 6, the Bishop and diocese had reasonable cause to believe that the Rev. sexually abused children.
The Post is also reporting that by 12/16/2010 school officials have notified supervisors of concerns about the Priest’s actions with children, and church officials located hundreds of photos of children, some sexual in nature, on his computer. Finn has reportedly admitted that he was told of the inappropriate photos last year.
But despite this knowledge, the church did not report to local authorities until May 2011, according to prosecutors. That same month the priest was charged with possession of child porn.
It has not reported if Ratigan continued to have ongoing contact with children during the period of time where the Bishop and diocese failed to report the suspected sexual abuse to local police.
CBS News is reporting that an internal memo was written in May of 2010 stating that several people had complained about Rev. Ratigan taking pictures of children, allowing them to sit on his lap and reach into his pocket for candy. This memo was reportedly given to a Monsignor, who also served as the diocese’s vicar general. The Monsignor then talked to Ratigan about setting appropriate boundaries with children, and then allegedly gave the Bishop a summary of the memo and his meeting with the priest.
CBS goes on to report that months later a computer technician working on the priest’s laptop found the inappropriate images of children, most of them fully clothed but focusing on the crotch area. There was also a set of photos of a 2 to 3-year-old girl with her genitals exposed.
The computer was turned over to the diocese, and church officials allegedly failed to report the collection of photos to the police, and the laptop was actually later returned to a relative of the priest.
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