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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Diocese and Bishop Are Still on the Hook

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - A Jackson County judge refused to dismiss misdemeanor charges accusing the Kansas City Diocese and its bishop of shielding an abusive priest.

Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with failing to report suspected child abuse.

Prosecutors said Finn and the diocese are mandatory reporters of abuse under state law.

Defense attorneys claimed the law is unconstitutionally vague, and that Finn was not the diocese's designated reporter.

Finn is the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official criminally charged for shielding an abusive priest, The Associated Press reported.

Finn has acknowledged that he was told in December 2010 about hundreds of images of small children, some of them pornographic, on the computer of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, and that a parish principal raised concerns about Ratigan's behavior around children as early as May 2010.

But the diocese failed to turn over a disk containing the photos to local police until May 2011, after the church received reports that Ratigan had violated orders to stay away from children, according to the AP.

Finn and the diocese were charged with failing to report suspected child abuse.

"This court finds and concludes that persons of ordinary intelligence have no difficulty understanding the meaning of 'immediately report,'" Circuit Judge John Torrence wrote.

Torrence also denied a request from attorneys for Finn and the diocese to have the cases tried separately, granted two defense motions to quash subpoenas and one to extend the deadlines before the trial, which is set for Sept. 24.

Finn has claimed that Vicar General Robert Murphy and a diocese review board were responsible for reporting suspected images of child pornography to the state. Prosecutors claim Finn was a mandatory reporter and admitted as much before a grand jury.

Ratigan is in jail, charged with three state child pornography counts and 13 federal counts of producing, possessing and attempting to produce child porn. He has pleaded not guilty.

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