Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses on “Bishop Robert Finn — hidebound prelate of Kansas City-St. Joseph.”
Now, three more questions need to be addressed.
1) Why did Finn apparently fail to review the pornographic photos found in the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan’s laptop?
2) Why did Finn choose not to report Ratigan or turn the evidence over to police for five months?
3) Should Finn resign or be fired?
First, the diocese’s handling of the evidence.
I think we can safely assume that Finn did not review any of the images personally. If so, that is a complete dereliction of duty.
In his statement, released Friday afternoon, after coming under a blizzard of criticism, Finn said:
“In mid December of 2010, I was told that a personal computer belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan was found to have many images of female children. Most of these were images of children at public or parish events. I was told that there were also some small number of images that were much more disturbing, images of an unclothed child who was not identifiable because her face was not visible.
“The very next day, we contacted a Kansas City, Missouri, police officer and described one of the more disturbing images. At the same time, the diocese showed the images to legal counsel. In both instances we were told that, while very troubling, the photographs did not constitute child pornography, as they did not depict sexual conduct or contact.”
Now, ask yourself, what should have been Finn’s first words after hearing about such photos?
“Let me see them for myself.”
Right? Of course.
But, no, he chose to avert his eyes, turn his head and see no evil.
Why? The answer, I believe, lies in the answer to the second question that needs to be addressed. So, on we go…
Finn’s failure to call police about the photos, mostly up-skirt images of clothed girls 12 and younger. (The Star’s Saturday story, said, however, that at least one nude photo focused on a girl’s genitals.)
As everyone knows, Finn is a very conservative bishop — one of those that the late Pope John Paul II and his successor, Benedict XVI, have stacked the deck with. In turn, the ranks of conservative bishops have placed the most conservative priests in the biggest churches so they can set the desired tone and reach the most people.
The renegades, i.e., the liberal priests, have been relegated to the hinterlands of the diocese, for the most part. Many of those priests are simply trying to hang on until they reach retirement — not so differently than many long-time reporters and editors at The Kansas City Star.
Ratigan was in a prominent Northland parish, St. Patrick’s. What was his philosophy? I don’t know personally, but listen to what former KC Star reporter Mike Rice said in a comment regarding Friday’s post:
“I don’t know Shawn Ratigan but do know of people who stopped attending Mass at St. Patrick’s because of his religious ideologies, which I hear are similar to Bishop Finn’s. I cannot help but wonder whether Bishop Finn held back on going to authorities because he considered Father Ratigan an ideological ally.”
That evidence might be a little thin regarding Ratigan’s ideology, but I think it certainly stands the test of common sense and believe it’s safe to assume that Finn and Ratigan are fellow conservatives.
And just as it could well be more difficult for a liberal bishop to turn in a liberal priest, it seems to me that Finn, as Rice suggests, shirked his managerial responsibility because he just couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger on a like-minded soul.
Same goes for reviewing the pictures. It was a lot easier for Finn to determine that the photos did not constitute pornography when he merely had them described to him rather than view them himself. He washed his hands of that responsibility in his statement, you might have noted, when he said that the photos “did not depict sexual conduct or contact.”
So, the answers to questions one and two, in my opinion, is one and same: Finn was giving Ratigan a huge, undeserved benefit of the doubt and trying to shield him as long as possible.
Finally, should Finn resign or be fired?
I’ll let an eloquent commenter to Friday’s post, concernedcatholic, make the case.
“Finn must resign. I hope that the media holds his feet to the fire on this. We, as Catholics, cannot tolerate this.
“Finn’s lack of judgment demands that he no longer serve as bishop. Ratigan was only reported to the police after he disobeyed the bishop’s order to stay away from children. It is not illegal to disobey the bishop. If Ratigan’s activities warranted police investigation in May, they certainly deserved investigation back in December.
“When the photos of little girls were discovered on Ratigan’s computer, how could Finn not wonder what else Ratigan might be doing? Did Finn not wonder if the photos were the tip of the iceberg? Did the parents of these children not deserve to know that their children had been exploited?
“Please join me in demanding that Finn resign. His actions are indefensible.”
Powerful stuff…especially, to me, the line about parents deserving to know that their children had been exploited. That’s the real horror in the non-reporting for five months: Justice has been delayed for the victims, and other potential victims were exposed to the creep who was running around loose.
In any other arena, Finn would be out of a job today. Even Warren Buffet let his top guy go after an ethical transgression.
But it doesn’t work that way in the Catholic Church. It keeps making noise about the importance of sniffing out abusive priests and protecting the children. But it just doesn’t happen.
It would shock me to the core if Finn resigned. And, by the same token, Pope Benedict, who is also guilty of covering for abusive priests, certainly won’t be a hypocrite and fire him.
Expect the merry-go-round to keep on turning, then.