For the first time since the priest sex abuse scandal burst into the public consciousness 25 years ago, a serving U.S. bishop, as well as his diocese have been indicted for failing to report suspected child sex abuse, the New York Times is reporting.
A Jackson County, Mo., grand jury has indicted Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Mo.) for failing to report that Fr. Shawn Ratigan was suspected of possible child sex abuse. The diocese discovered child pornography on Ratigan's computer and ultimately moved him out of his parish, but never notified prosecutors.
“This is a significant charge,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said at a press conference, according to the Kansas City Star. “To my knowledge, a charge like this has not been leveled before.”
Ratigan was eventually indicted in Jackson County for possession of child porn, as well as by a Federal grand jury, for possession, distribution and manufacturing child pornography, the Star reported.
In a statement, the diocese denied any wrongdoing and said its official were cooperating with law enforcement investigations as well as with its own internal investigation.
“Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement, the grand jury, the prosecutor’s office, and the Graves Commission. We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter,” Gerald Handley, counsel for Bishop Finn, said in the statement.
According to the Times, Finn has already faced criticism from his parishioners for moving the diocese to comply more closely with his more traditional view of the Catholic faith and in keeping with his membership in Opus Dei. Opus Dei is a conservative Catholic group. Finn is one of just a small number of active bishops who are also members of Opus Dei.
A separate catholic jurisdiction, the archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is not linked with these action and is separate from the diocese that covers the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area.