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Conviction of Catholic bishop gives child-abuse victims hope

Published: Sat, September 15, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

A member of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy has been convicted of protecting a pedophile priest — finally. It has taken a decade after the first stories broke about the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests and the concerted effort by their superiors to sweep the issue under the rug, for a bishop to be held responsible for the ever-growing scandal that has rocked the church. More than 5,000 priests have been accused of abusing 12,000 children and teenagers. The Catholic Church in America has paid out more than $2 billion to settle lawsuits.

But through it all, the bishops who protected the pedophile priests have gone unscathed. Until now.

Last week, Bishop Robert W. Finn of the diocese of Kansas City was convicted on one misdemeanor charge of failing to report the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls, according to the New York Times. Finn was sentenced by Judge John M. Torrence in Jackson County Circuit Court to two years of court-supervised probation.

“I am pleased and grateful that the prosecution and the courts have allowed this matter to be completed,” the bishop said in court. “The protection of children is paramount.”

And yet, as the court proceedings revealed, Finn sent Father Ratigan for treatment after he attempted suicide, reassigned him to a convent and ordered him to stay away from children. But the Times reported that the priest continued to attend church events and take lewd pictures of girls for five more months, until church officials reported him in May 2011 to the authorities — without the bishop’s approval.

Father Ratigan pleaded guilty in August to federal child pornography charges and is awaiting sentencing.

But while the conviction of a bishop has grabbed the attention of public because it seemed the church’s hierarchy was bullet proof, the sentence of probation is lenient to a fault.

Consider this paragraph in the Times’ story about how the priest was caught:

“The case began when The Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest who had previously attracted attention for inappropriate behavior with children, took his laptop computer in for repairs in December 2010. A technician immediately told church officials that the laptop contained what appeared to be pornographic photographs of young girls’ genitals, naked and clothed.”

Sense of urgency

The sense of urgency displayed by the technician was certainly not reflected in Bishop Finn’s attitude. Indeed, case after case in this sordid tale of betrayal by men of God has revealed a concerted effort by the church’s hierarchy to cover up the sins of its priests.

That attitude was on display in a letter signed by the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican who cited “the good of the universal church” as justification for his refusal to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children.

The letter was written by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who today serves the church as Pope Benedict XVI.

In addition to expressing concern for the “universal church,” the then cardinal warned of the “detriment granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful.”

This is the attitude that has permeated the Catholic Church in America, which is why a prison sentence was called for in Bishop Finn’s case.


1tdm900i(3 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

5000 clergy represents 1.1 percent of the clergy population so it's hardy 'widespread' is it! Yes it's very sad that a small entity of bishops decided to put the reputation of the Church before the welfare of children and indeed justice, and we all hold that as reprehensible. Unfortunately pedophiles get everywhere and that is a sad fact, thankfully the Church, as with many other institutions, is now aware of this and has taken serious action to prevent it happening again. Also, the so-called letter by Ratzinger is massively mis-interpreted by an atheist agenda.

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2cambridge(3931 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Everyone that is part of the clergy knew of these crimes and keep their mouths shut and protected these pedophiles for generations. Everyone of them from the pope on down belong in prison.

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3tdm900i(3 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

The above comment by 'Cambridge' is ill-informed. Clearly only very few people knew about these crimes which is why they went un-punished for so long. This speak about putting the Pope in prison belongs to a totalitarian atheism that is completely intollerant.

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4cambridge(3931 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Defending the pope and the rest that looked the other way and shuffled child rapist from one area to another is what is "completely intolerant."

I don't hold it against you. You've been duped by voodoo. I spent twelve years in catholic school and was an alter boy, but now I'm cured. At the very least more than 50% of the clergy I came in contact with ranged from creepy to scary.

My take is that the congregations are made up of some of the finest people you will ever meet and I could say the same about any other religion. I could make the voodoo comparison about the leaders of any other religion as well.

You're probably a good person and I used to make fun of people that think like you but that was wrong. Now i just feel bad for you.

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5tdm900i(3 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

You are brainwashed by an atheist idiocy that seeks to place blame where blame does not exist in order to further the atheist ideology. You cannot prove any of your agressive statements at all, your comment shows that. As for your typically atheistic condescending attitude towards me, it is I who feels very sorry for you. Your 'Voodoo' comment just highlights your complete ignorance. My last comment as I have better things to do!

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