Bishop Finn bobs and weaves

This is not going to end well, even if Bishop Finn gets off. Coverage of a motion to dismiss, via Reuters:

In a preview to the upcoming trial of Bishop Robert Finn of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, a lawyer for Finn asked Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence to dismiss the charge against him because he said there was another Diocese official who should have reported the priest to police."Bishop Finn had no statutory duty to report. We believe that this is clear," said attorney J.R. Hobbs in arguing for Judge Torrence to dismiss the case against Finn.Judge Torrence said he would take the matter under advisement and likely rule on the matter next week.Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic leader to face criminal charges in the United States related to alleged abuse by a priest.His case marks what some observers see as a key turning point in assigning accountability to an organization that has a long history of protecting priests who abuse children.The priest in this case, Father Shawn Ratigan, has been charged with 13 counts of child pornography, some of which he kept on a church computer, and is jailed awaiting trial.Bishop Finn and others in the Diocese became aware of the pictures in December 2010 but Finn never made an official report to authorities even though he did send Ratigan for psychological evaluation and ordered him to stay away from children.Another Diocese official finally reported the situation to police in May 2011.

Finn's lawyers argue that Monsignor Robert Murphy was the "designated reporters" so Bp. Finn did not have the technical legal responsibility. Perhaps that argument could work legally, and the bishop has hired a team of the best lawyers in the state. But will that fly in the court of public opinion?PS: Mark Silk notes that in the similarly-themed Philadelphia trial of Msgr. William Lynn, the guy who oversaw priests for the archdiocese there and is accused of covering up abuse cases, defense lawyers are taking the opposite tack and saying Lynn should be excused because the archbishop was where the buck stopped:

Lawyers do what lawyers are paid to do, of course, and in these cases it is to get their clients off the criminal hook. But it's hard to imagine a better way to drive Catholics further away from the church than by such denials and shifting of responsibility. Sure, over the past decade many apologies have been made and new rules and vetting procedures put in place. What's clear from Philadelphia and Kansas City, however, is that when push comes to shove, the apologies can turn out to be lip service and the rules are honored in the breach.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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