Saturday, October 15, 2011

At long last, a "churchie la femme" has been busted ...

Finally, after more than a quarter of a century, a Roman Catholic bishop in North America may finally be held to account in the courts -- the legal courts, not the canonical ones.

The sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church has had a relatively common denominator -- more often than not bishops have played the game of musical chairs, moving an accused priest to another county or even to another diocese all together to evade prosecution.    This is of course obstruction of justice, a crime in itself.    I do say "more often than not" because many bishops have refused to game that way and cooperate fully with prosecutors, police and child welfare authorities.    The usual means for the Vatican to deal with this has been to give a threatened bishop a passport issued by Vatican City or even more rarely by the Holy See itself (the inner cabal of the Pope and his most senior allegedly "celibate" advisers) to give that bishop diplomatic immunity.

This time, the Vatican didn't act fast enough, and thank God.    The bishop in question here is Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, who has been charged with failure to report child abuse.  The Diocese itself faces a separate criminal charge and will be tried as a corporation with the potential appropriate penalties there.     (The respective penalties are pretty minor -- Finn faces a year in jail and a fine of  $1000, the Diocese a fine of $5000.)

Earlier this year, Finn outraged his flock when he admitted that he knew one of the priests under his command, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, had taken pornographic pictures of minor females as early as December of last year but did not report this to authorities until May of this year.    (The photos, which besides forced poses also included "upskirts," were discovered on Ratigan's laptop by a computer technician and immediately turned over to the diocese office.)      Finn ordered Ratigan to hole up at a convent for a time (after a suicide attempt, the day after the discovery) and to stay away from minors but was still going to such events as Easter egg hunts and even spending weekends with families well within reach of minors.

Even more bizarre is that Finn had previously pledge such cooperation as part of a $5 million class action settlement with Kansas City victims three years ago.

Incredibly, it was only last year that the Vatican finally joined the rest of its sister churches in requiring allegations of abuse to be reported immediately to secular authorities.       And the only known example of a conviction of a bishop for obstruction in recent memory was one in France.

Hopefully, this is a sign that authorities have finally had enough of giving the largest church in America a free pass.    But we need more indictments and convictions.    As for Finn, it is obvious he should resign.   The West-Central and Northwest of Missouri deserves better than this.    Even six months is way too long of a delay as was the case here.   The standard should be what the law is, which is immediate reporting to the police.

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