Friday, April 6, 2012

Judge won’t dismiss misdemeanor charges against Kansas City Roman Catholic bishop, diocese

Judge won’t dismiss misdemeanor charges against Kansas City Roman Catholic bishop, diocese

By Associated Press, April 5, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Missouri judge refused Thursday to dismiss misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City diocese and its bishop, who is the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official criminally charged with 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 say each is a “mandatory reporter” under the state law. Defense attorneys argued the law is unconstitutionally vague, and that Finn wasn’t the diocese’s designated reporter.

“This Court finds and concludes that persons of ordinary intelligence have no difficulty understanding the meaning of ‘immediately report,’” Circuit Judge John Torrence wrote in his ruling....

Finn has acknowledged he was told in December 2010 about hundreds of images of small children, some of them pornographic, found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s computer - several months before the diocese turned over a disk containing the photos to local police. The bishop also has acknowledged that a parish principal raised concerns about Ratigan’s behavior around children in May 2010, half a year before the photos were found....

Finn in turn sent Ratigan out of state for a psychiatric evaluation. When the priest returned to Missouri, Finn sent him to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, where he was to say Mass for the sisters and be away from children.

The diocese went to police with the photos last May after the church received reports Ratigan had violated orders to stay away from children.

Ratigan was charged that month with three state child pornography counts. He was then charged in June with 13 federal counts of producing, possessing and attempting to produce child porn. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed.

Finn has claimed Vicar General Robert Murphy and a diocese review board - not the bishop - were responsible for reporting suspected images of child pornography to the state.

But prosecutors insist that as the diocese’s top manager, Finn not only was a mandatory reporter, but acknowledged as much before a grand jury.

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