David Gibson filled us in about this case months ago. Today the creepiness hit the fan.
The child pornography case involving Fr. Shawn Ratigan, 45, a priest in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, under the direction of Bishop Robert W. Finn, was shocking enough in the first version, as reported by NCR– disturbing images of young children on Ratigan’s computer, a perfunctory, at best, examination of the material, a secret transfer of the priest to a convent, no subsequent action or notice when Ratigan attempted suicide last December, and no notification to the review board. And then only this month suspending the priest after extensive files of child pornography were discovered on his computer and he was arrested.
Now it turns out — thanks again to NCR (bravo, Joe Feuerherd!) — that a full year ago the principal of a Catholic elementary school wrote to Bishop Finn’s vicar general, the second-ranking diocesan official, with a clear warning about Ratigan’s suspicious behavior with children and detailed examples. Ratigan apparently received a talking to by a top chancery official, but nothing further was done and no one outside the chancery was alerted.
Finn’s spokesperson, Rebecca Summers, told NCR that the bishops 2002 charter says diocesan review boards should be convened only “when you have a specific allegation of abuse” by a priest or other person in diocesan ministry.
“We did not have that,” said Summers. “The charter did not address a situation such as this.”
Um…not to pile on here, but I can’t believe that this actually came out of a spokesperson’s mouth. Technically, perhaps the situation regarding possession of child pornography isn’t addressed in the charter, but neither is logical common sense.
In terms of the sinfulness of his priest’s behavior–wouldn’t Bishop Finn admit that even looking at child pornography would be a form of abuse? Isn’t Fr Ratigan cooperating with evil simply by looking at these pictures and isn’t the sicko who’s taking lewd pictures, an abuser of children by definition?
Technically, Fr Ratigan is an abuser, once removed. Bishop Finn and Msgr Murphy twice removed.
What I find most appalling is that many people think that Bishop Finn and his Vicar General Msgr Murphy turned a blind eye towards Fr. Ratigan because of his staunch conservatism and his commitment to the pro-life cause.
Jimmy CSays–a blog by a former KC Star Reporter has that take:
The fact that they have more than a passing relationship could well indicate that after lewd photos of young girls were found in Ratigan’s laptop computer, Finn was loath to turn in a priest whom he knew quite well and who shared his pro-life stance. That’s been my conviction ever since Mike Rice, a former KC Star reporter, wrote a comment on this blog May 20, saying that he knew of people who had stopped attending Mass at Ratigan’s Northland parish because of his conservative ideology.
Regarding the Finn-Ratigan relationship, Morris and Rice dug up records revealing that in January 2007, Finn joined Ratigan and 40 high school students from St. Joseph for a bus ride to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life rally.
Now in fairness, because I am king of fairness, the Bishop was probably just traveling with his diocesan delegation and did not decide to go because Fr. Ratigan was going. So this isn’t necessarily about two conservative priests sticking together because of ideology—however, a Bishop protecting one of his own, in any case, is simply immoral and it does sound like that’s what happened.
In any event, I hope justice is served. Kansas City deserves better. Before this guy came along, they were a model diocese for lay ministry and he threw it all down the can.
I don’t think that the law will go easy on him if the Bishop and his Vicar General are indeed found to be guilty. And so we need to pray for the church, that they can overcome the deep failings of their leadership and we should pray for victims that they might see justice. And we should pray for the Bishop and his Vicar General as well–I’m sure that they are grieved by this and the fear of going to prison has got to be much to bear–especially for a crime of this nature.
May peace be paramount, justice given and retribution be fair.
And one final word…may stupidity cease in all these instances.