A U.S. bishop and a Catholic diocese in Kansas City have been indicted for failing to report suspected child abuse allegedly committed by a priest. Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were charged, and both entered not guilty pleas. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said, "This is a significant charge. To my knowledge, a charge like this has not been leveled before," and the NY Times reports, "The indictment is the first ever of a Catholic bishop in the 25 years since the scandal over sexual abuse by priests first became public in the United States."
Earlier this year, Finn admitted he mishandled the situation with Father Shawn Ratigan, who was accused of taking, possessing and distributing child pornography—photographs of a young female parishioner. The Kansas City Star says, "In 2008, the lawsuit alleges, Ratigan took photographs and visual images of the girl in her bathing suit, focusing on her vaginal area and buttocks. Around 2009, Ratigan photographed the girl while she was sleeping and fully clothed, the lawsuit says. Those photos indicate Ratigan moved the girl in order to pose her in a sexually suggestive manner, the lawsuit alleges. Ratigan then uploaded the sexually explict photos to his computer and sent them out over the Internet, according to the lawsuit." Numerous images of the girl and other young girls were found on a parish computer as well as "on compact discs found during a search of Ratigan family members’ homes after his arrest in May, the lawsuit says."
While Ratigan was arrested in May, Finn admitted knew about the disturbing images back in December 2010 but didn't turn them over until the arrest. Also, a teacher had complained about Ratigan's behavior in May 2010, but nothing was done. Finn and the diocese had promised to report any suspected child abuse as part of a 2008 settlement with 47 victims of sexual abuse.
Finn's lawyer said, "Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement... We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter." The Times adds, "Bishop Finn, who was appointed in 2005, alienated many of his priests and parishioners, and won praise from others, when he remade the diocese to conform with his traditionalist theological views. He is one of few bishops affiliated with the conservative movement Opus Dei."