October 16, 2011

Missouri Grand Jury Indicts Catholic Bishop for Failing to Report Child Abuse

Catholic child abuseHere at Atheist Revolution, reporting on the many crimes perpetrated by clergy has never been a big part of what I do. There are at least two reasons for this. First, there are others who specialize in highlighting the depravity of many religious leaders. They do a more thorough job of it than I could do. And this brings me to the second reason you do not see more of it here: I just don't have the stomach for it.

That said, there are stories about clergy crime I consider important enough to highlight here because of their nature or the larger implications they have for the status of religion in our culture. This is why I want to tell you about a big indictment handed down last week by a grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri.

Robert Finn, a Catholic bishop, was indicted for child endangerment after he allegedly learned of - but did not report - suspected child abuse perpetrated by one of the priests under his supervision. The Catholic diocese for Kansas City was indicted on the same charge.

While the charge itself is merely a misdemeanor, it strikes me as an important signal that prosecutors may finally be fed up with the conspiracy of silence the Catholic Church has been practicing for some time. According to KCTV, this is the first time a bishop in the U.S. has been charged with failing to report a priest suspected of child abuse.
The indictment says the diocese and Finn "had reasonable cause to suspect a child may be subjected to abuse due to previous knowledge of concerns regarding Father Ratigan and children; the discovery of hundreds of photographs of children on Father Ratigan's laptop, including a child's naked vagina, upskirt images and images focused on the crotch; and violations of restrictions placed on Father Ratigan; and knowingly failed to immediately report such suspected abuse to the Missouri Children's Division."
I hope that this case does in fact signal a willingness for prosecutors to go after the church hierarchy when they suspect that church officials are concealing crimes. If so, we might finally see some of the reforms necessary to protect children from predatory priests.