Arizona sex abuse attorneys recently learned that a Missouri grand jury has indicted Robert Finn, the Catholic Bishop of Kansas City. Also indicted was the Catholic diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, this according to USA Today. The charges stem from church officials failing to notify proper authorities about sexual images of children found on a priest’s computer. Finn has pleaded not guilty to the allegation of failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor.
These allegations make the Kansas City Bishop the highest ranked Catholic church official in United States to be charged with a crime related to attempting to cover up alleged sexual abuse of a minor by a priest. Church officials have a duty under Missouri state law to report suspected abuse. The October 6 indictment alleges the Bishop and the diocese had reasonable cause to believe that priest had committed a form of sexual abuse against a child.
A U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson has said that they believe this is the first time a Bishop has been charged with this type of crime. The charge is a significant setback for the Catholic Church in its efforts to move past the sex abuse scandals of recent years, the Washington Post reported.
A Jackson County grand jury issued indictments after the US Department of Justice brought charges this year against Rev. Sean Ratigan for his alleged possession of child pornography. The prosecutor for the government’s case has said that the significance of the case against the Bishop should not be diminished because it’s a misdemeanor charge. Finn could possibly face up to one year in prison and a $1000 fine. $5000 is the maximum fine for a corporation.
The Washington Post went on to report that in December, 2010 school officials had notified diocese officials about concerns over Ratigan’s behavior with children, and that hundreds of images of children, some sexual, were found on his computer.
The Bishop has allegedly admitted that he was informed of the photos last year. The church failed to notify police of the alleged abuse and took no action until May, 2011, the same month the priest was criminally charged.
Whether the priest had ongoing contact with children during the time diocese officials took no action has not been reported.
It is also being reported by CBS News that a May 2010 memo was written stating that there were several complaints about the priest taking inappropriate photos of children. The memo was allegedly tendered to a Monsignor who was the vicar general. The Monsignor then allegedly spoke to the priest about his behavior and then reported to the Bishop about the memo and the meeting.
Months later, according to CBS, a computer tech discovered the child images on the priest’s computer. Most of the children were fully clothed, but many photos focused on the crotch area. There was allegedly also photos of a female toddler showing her genitals.
The computer was turned over to church officials, who in turn failed to report the extent of the photo collection to the authorities, and the computer was then returned to the priest’s relative.
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