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Bishop Finn: guilty.

A judge has convicted Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph on one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspicion of child endangerment, making him the highest-ranking U.S. church official -- and the first U.S. bishop -- to be convicted in the sexual-abuse crisis. More from the Kansas City Star:

The charges stemmed from the churchs handling of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, on whose laptop a diocesan vendor found hundreds of lewd photos of young girls in December 2010. Finn's second-in-command at the diocese, Monsignor Robert Murphy, did not report the photographs to police for five months.


Finn and the diocese had been scheduled to start a jury trial in less than three weeks, but in a surprising move Wednesday, the matter was reset for trial in front of Torrence only. Lawyers limited the case to a narrow range of facts, which were expressed in 69 paragraphs submitted to Torrence at the hearing. Torrence listened to about 25 minutes of summary from attorneys then took a half-hour break before finding Finn guilty based on those facts.

Those facts included an acknowledgement from Finn that he is a mandated child abuse reporter under Missouri law. The stipulation also contained a long recitation of the now-familiar facts of the case with a few new insights.

Read the rest here.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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How long before he resigns his episcopate or is dismissed from it?

This is The Question, it seems: what to do with him now?

Eugene, surely you jest.Sentence of two years unsupervised probation. Suspended.This is the Church of Rome.Only those bishops who are open to women's ordination, etc. are suspended from their episcopal duties.

Rocco's Page 3 (Twitter @roccopalmo) reminds us of French Bishop Pican who stayed in office 9 years after his 2001 conviction for failure to report. Let us see if the Vatican does better this time.

...and if all goes hunky-dory during this period, Finn's record will be expunged.All's well that ends well.After all, the guy's a faithful bishop!

Will he get a letter of warm support from Rome, as the one Bp. Pican received in 2001 from Cdl Castrillon, then head of the congregation for clergy, for not denouncing an abusive priest? "I congratulate you on not denouncing a priest to the civil authorities. You have acted wisely, and I am delighted to have a fellow member of the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of other bishops, would prefer to go to prison rather than denounce his priest-son For the relationship between priests and their bishop is not professional but a sacramental relationship which forges very special bonds of spiritual paternity."

Well, the ball is rather in the Vatican's court now. Since the Church thinks in centuries, don't hold your breath until it is returned.

I'm no big city lawyer, but doesn't the fact that his defense team agreed to this trial-before-judge thing more or less mean that they anticipated the verdict and sentence?

On the other hand... I have been thinking about my initial reaction. I live in the most de-bishoped diocese in the country. Our second disappearing bishop -- he has since died -- was whisked out of here for an ancient sin of a sexual nature, which he confessed and for which he had tried to atone, even before his priests had a chance to say maybe we can work something out. Which was their first reaction to his outing. That bishop did not have a rabbi in the reddest parts of the hierarchy. He was, however, a good pastor while he was here. So maybe the real point to watch is who "up there" likes or dislikes Bishop Finn.

I suspect Bishop Finn is fine with Rome. Moving him would be a severe loss of face for the culturewar (TM). In a way, it may be a rougher punishment for the man to leave him in office for the next umpteen years. He will have a long time to rebuild his shredded reputation. And if he doesn't it will be a very long purgation for him indeed.Many of my Kansas City friends will be furious he got off "easy," but there is no easy road for this man. He will continue to be surrounded by sycophants. He has relationships to reconstruct with his clergy, especially his experienced pastors (even the "orthodox" ones). He still has money to raise for a new high school. Parents will be bitter, and resentful Catholics have long, long memories.Heck, I'm glad I don't have to function as a parent of a girl who once considered Shawn Ratigan "her favorite priest of all time" and as a staff member in one of the parishes there. I have friends who feel deeply betrayed, and I might be liable to say something publicly there lining up with them, against the bishop, or even my pastor. And as a minister, I have no idea how I would proceed with healing in my parish and diocese, were I still there. No doubt it's needed. And if I were there, God would put something in my hat to be part of the reconciliation. But I struggle with my own inner fury on this one. No idea what I'd be able to offer anyone there.I think the diocese is relieved that they've dodged a circus of a trial. This pill is not so bitter. And they get a one-month start on the necessary healing process. Pray for them all. Bishop Finn dodged a serious bullet, and if he had done this with a child rapist, it would have been catastrophic for all.

What has happened to Msgr. Murphy, the one reported in the news story as sitting on the allegations for five months before reporting to police? Surely he also is a mandated reporter? Have any charges been filed against him?

Bp. Finn himself could voluntarily offer his resignation, out of concern for his diocese.

I find it sad that people here are so venomous in having Bishop Finn banished.Msgr. Murphy was the one who handled everything and saw everything, but the prosecutor, Jean Peters-Baker, gave Murphy a pass and went after the "big fish," Bishop Finn, and won (or at least batted .500).SNAP will surely have a field day over this, but keep in mind that SNAP's David Clohessy - who worked for nearly a decade for ACORN before joining SNAP - did NOT call the police when he knew in the early 1990s that his brother Kevin may have been sexually molesting innocent boys. Hypocrisy? Absolutely. very sad day, indeed.-

Just for the record, ACORN, which Fox placed in a category with Lenin and Nancy Pelosi, and which a Republican Congress eagerly seized on a solution to its problems, was never a hotbed of sin and corruption and a training ground for hypocrites. In fact, on balance, it did a lot of good for people who can't afford lobbyists until it was prevented from doing further good

Simple: if he had been a high-ranking LAYMAN, do you think he would have gotten the same sentence? Harder?Yes, I know that is a silly question, but humor me."Bp. Finn himself could voluntarily offer his resignation, out of concern for his diocese."Claire, please reply to me offline and let me know what you are toking. It gives you GREAT fantasies.

Recovering alcoholics and drug abusers must make personal amends "WHEN POSSIBLE AND WHERE SUCH WOULD HEAL AND NOT DO ADDITIONAL HARM" Are the bishops and pedifile priests doing this?

DPierre, if this were not coming after numerous cases of unpunished episcopal cover-ups of sexual abuse cases, the reaction would be different. But unaccountability and injustice are angering those who have not given up. Like Msgr Lynn's condemnation, this gives hope to those who are thirsting for justice. It, at least, formally establishes the legal responsibility of Bp. Finn. It serves as a warning to other bishops and will make them more careful in their handling of sexual abuse questions. As to Bp. Finn himself, if his congregations could be polled, and if they voted to keep him in his current position, that would be fine with me. I just don't think that that's the case, but I'd be fine being proved wrong.

DPiere mentions " people here are so venomous' hell.. they never even mentioned his semi-secret Opus Dei connection.. so I will.

DPierre: Please explain, preferably without a link to a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper or TV station, why David Clohessy should atone for having worked for ACORN.

"Msgr. Murphy was the one who handled everything and saw everything, but the prosecutor, Jean Peters-Baker, gave Murphy a pass and went after the big fish, Bishop Finn ..."Not quite. Where clergy matters were concerned, Bishop Finn kept this own counsel. If he was convinced of the virtues of a particular priest or seminarian, he would buck the advice of his closest counsel and do as he thought best.I know Msgr Murphy fairly well; he was in residence in our parish for two years while he began his tenure as VG. He's a fairly experienced pastor and I don't think he would have been hoodwinked by Shawn Ratigan as easily as the bishop was.It's possible Msgr Murphy blundered in this case. But a judge found Bishop Finn liable. He's in charge, and everyone in the diocese knows it.

About criminal trials before judges...One common reason is the belief that a judge will dispassionately weigh the evidence in a high profile case, while a jury might be more inclined to be swayed by events or other information from outside the four corners of the courtroom. Sometimes the gambit works sometimes it doesn't.

"Am I correct in rating it a slap on the wrist, and is that commensurate with what Finn was found guilty of?'I think it is commensurate; failing to report someone else's bad act seems like it should be a lesser crime than the bad act itself. It feels appropriate to me that it's a misdemeanor, and I don't think probation is overly lenient for a first-time misdemeanor conviction. I guess the question is whether the penalty is an effective mechanism to ensure mandated reporters carry out their duty.

Understandably, commenters here are focused on the verdict. I'm also curious what folks think about the sentence. Am I correct in rating it a "slap on the wrist", and is that commensurate with what Finn was found guilty of?

Can I ask, what is the legal obligation of parents who suspect abuse? Would a parent be subject to prosecution if they didn't call the police if they suspected their child was being abused? Do parents have the same obligation to report that professional caregivers have?

Finn told the court "I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt these events caused. From his defense counsel: "The diocesan process and procedures as previously existed failed to adequately identify the necessity .". They see impersonal events, process, and procedures as sources of the troubles, not people. Note that, in 24 years between ordination and episcopal consecration by then-Abp. Burke, Finn appears to have never held the responsibility for a parish as pastor, according to diocesan and Wikipedia bios. Earlier, he spent critical formative years in a preparatory seminary, avoiding facets of the major maturing transition from boyhood to young manhood that most males experience. Perhaps he is unequipped by background for the position he holds as shepherd of a flock, notwithstanding various commendable appointments in St. Louis. (Wikipedia - Robert Finn)

Grant Gallicho: Check out the legal fees that the Kansas City - St. Joseph diocese paid out, as reported at NCR online. The amount is breathtaking.

Finn dramatically established his approach to management of his diocese on arrival when he brought it "to a screeching halt and sent it veering off in a new direction ". An overview of his first two years in office describes an extraordinary implementation of his personal vision of what his local Church should be. Expecting more from him than the minimum that his lawyers can safely ensure seems highly unlikely. His present entanglement merely adds to an already extremely tumultuous situation with unclear prospects.

At a press conference in May 27 2011, Finn said he was given a brief verbal summary of the letter written in 2010 by Julie Hess, the principal of the parochial school about Ratigans behavior. Finn said that he had read the letter in its entirety for the first time the night of May 26, 2011. That letter contained details of Ratigans behavior, not only observed by the principal but also by teachers and parents in the school. As far as I can determine, she did not get a response to that letter. That a teachers observations would be treated with such disrespect is the part of the story that really outrages me. Has Bishop Finn apologized to her?This bishop is irresponsible. I refer him to this excerpt in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults: Each bishop works in his particular diocese in a priestly, shepherding and teaching role . He is also the chief shepherd of the diocese and so is responsible for compassionate and loving governance of the people entrusted to him.

Given all the hoopla in recent years about clerical sexual abuse in the Church of Rome and its coverup/etc by the hierarchs, I think it is absurd to suggest that a slap on the wrist is (still) appropriate for a bishop, especially in a case so very, very recent. It's quite apparent that Finn demonstrated a rather cavalier attitude regarding the case in question. Any guy with his head screwed on straight and with any sense of the moral outrage in the U.S. Catholic Church over numerous revelations of wrongdoing by certain clergy and hierarchs --- one would think such a bishop would take extra care in responding to such reports and not just leave it to "subordinates" to handle.Finn got off lucky.And the People of God in the KC-St Joe diocese got royally (or, rather, judicially) screwed!!!

There are frequent comments about how unfair it is that ordinary Catholics must fund the sex abuse settlements entered into by their bishops. "Thursday's historic guilty verdict for Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn comes as a new report commissioned by his diocese estimates the costs of its legal fees in its criminal cases to total about $1.39 million."Can we all agree that Bishop Finn should not require the members of his diocese to pay any portion of those elegal fees and instead he should pay those fees personally?

IMHO, despite being convicted of a failure to report the sexual exploitation children, Finn will probably remain as bishop in KC until it is determined that he seriously undermines the hierarchs' bottom line - at which time he will probably be promoted to do important work dusting library shelves at the Vatican.Some of the musing about Finn's future pastoral effectiveness as bishop here on this blog are amusing, even quaint. To paraphrase Mae West: [Pastoral effectiveness] "has nothing to do with it." Like all politicians, the hierarchs are chiefly motivated by power and greed.David Gibson has already posed the pertinent question: "What to do with him [Finn] now?" I think the hierarchs' solution will be guided more by what FDR famously once said: "He may be a bastard, but he's OUR bastard!"

From here on in, when His Lordship sashays into one of his parish churches in full autocratic regalia, the local choir can burst into his new anthem:Would you be free from the pesky need to lead?Theres power in control, power in control;Would you oer pastoring a victory succeed?Theres wonderful power in control.RefrainThere is power, power, self-serving powerIn control of the lambs;There is power, power, self-serving powerIn total control of the lambs.Would you enjoy your passion and pride?Theres power in control, power in control;All those pretty gowns that come with the ride;Theres wonderful power in control.RefrainWould you be attired in raiment all aglow?Theres power in control, power in control;Guilt stains are ignored no matter where you go.Theres wonderful power in control.RefrainWould you avoid service to the flock that you lead?Theres power in control, power in control;Would you have them daily your praises to sing?Theres wonderful power in control.(with credit to There Is Power in the Blood by Lewis E. Jones --

Joe McFaul - since I'm one of those people who comment about that, I'll weigh in. My short answer is, I'm not sure. The Finn case is a criminal case, whereas abuse settlements come about via civil litigation. Is that a distinction with a difference? Also, you're comparing fees for legal representation to what amounts to punitive damages - again, a distinction with a difference? I'm not sure of the answer to either question.Personally, I wouldn't want my diocesan donations to have to pay Finn's legal fees for these criminal charges but believe it's part of the deal, just as it's part of the deal for stockholders that their assets (liquid assets of the corporation they own) defend corporate officers when criminal charges are filed against the latter. Because it's a customary practice doesn't make it right, but it is customary. If donors to Finn's diocese want to make a point of expressing their displeasure at incurring over $1 million in legal expenses, I don't see anything wrong with that.

Thanks, Jim, I appreciate your thoughts."I believe its part of the deal, just as its part of the deal for stockholders that their assets (liquid assets of the corporation they own) defend corporate officers when criminal charges are filed against the latter."In many cases, a corporation's payment of defense costs would be improper and the shareholders could sue to recover those funds.The vast, vast majority of the payouts have been settlements, not verdicts. There is no punitive damages component to settlements. There are insurance and other consequnces if the settlement involves payment of punitive damges claims. But your main point is correct. When any corporation settles a lawsuit, the shareholders, in essence, pay the settlement through corporate assets owned ultimately by shareholders. The result is no different when a diocese pays a settlement for traffic accidents or child abuse cases--the "innocent parishioners" pay for diocesan liabilities through donations. It's just part of the deal (except parishioners have no claim to the assets-all assets belong to the bishop, legally).Although there are similarities between shareholders and parishioners because both are, in a sense, stakeholders in the sucess of the organization, parishioners are not exactly analogous to shareholders. Shareholders have rights of acccess to corporate records that parishioners do not have. Shareholders can also call a meeting and summarily fire the directors and officers and, if necesary, sue them for incompetence or malfeasance. Parishioners' options are far more limited. That could be changed by a bishop's word without any change in doctrine, church structure or canon law, but we all know that won't happen.There's another big big difference between a corporation and a diocese. In a corporation, shareholders would know exactly what was paid for defense fees. In the case of a Catholic diocese, parishioners cannot know how much was paid for defense fees. This also can be changed by a single word of the bishop. We all know that won't happen either.As this case indicates, the defense fees are in the many millions of dollars. In fact, I suspect that defense fees are a very substantial portion of the amounts paid in settlement. It is my experience that denfse fees in agiven matter are usually about a quarter to a third of the settlement amount in the same matter. I suspect in sex absue cases it's even higher than typical. It would seem that settlement costs may be part of the deal, but defense costs are not. They are avoidable and controllable. They should be directly paid by the wrongdoer who necessitated those costs--the bishop.I do not know why people complain about settlement payments, which are at least made to people injured through no fault of their own, but make no similar complaint about payments of defense costs.Is there not a Catholic lawyer or firm willing to handle these cases pro bono?I expressed my displeasure years ago. No donation to the Catholic Church. Zero. What funds I used to give to the Church are diverted to SNAP (as penance), Rachel's House and the local Catholic Worker.Any Catholic donating money today must know that they are paying very substantial (but concealed) defense costs and some public settlements. They are free to voice their displeasure all they want but, really, nobody cares. The bishops certainly don't.

When any corporation settles a lawsuit... diocesan liabilities ...But the case against the diocese is separate from the case against Bp. Finn, isn't it?

I've just slapped myself upside the head in a "lightbulb moment":Finn is officially associated with Opus Dei, one of the wealthiest organizations in the Catholic Church."Step forward, OD people, and support this poor bishop who's incurred more than he'll ever be able to repay in legal bills. Act of charity. Help this guy get his you-know-what out of the proverbial sling. Step forward one and all! Give your shekels to the lawyers. And a heartfelt thanks to all!"Yesirreee --- Opus Dei is THE solution.It was there all along, just like my nose.Just have to look close enough.

Somebody up there got it right. This was a criminal conviction. That opens the door for the civil lawsuits. The diocese is only beginning to pay the tab. When Bishop Skylstead of Spokane, who was equally a power man and equally a fool, screwed up in his diocese, the cost was in the multiple millions.

NYT Saturday details more of Finn's indefensible actions during the cover-up. How anyone who has the nerve to keep on doing more of the usual obfuscating defense is beyond hope.With the Church turmoil now, the bishop must be seen as traitor to Christ and his defenders/minimizers are as guilty as he. Probation in civil law and a pass on canon law. Phew phew. Harsh talk but appropriate and needed.

Finn is a Knight of St. Peter Claver, of Columbus, and of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (OESSH). The latter may be particularly important since the presence of 250 members in the Kansas City Missouri area is specifically pointed out by the Grand Prior of its Northern Lieutenancy. The legend on its OESSH Vatican home page speaks eloquently: "To live in an affluent society and freely give from one's wealth, to support the powerless and those in need of protection and to tirelessly struggle for justice and peace". Where do the honored Orders stand on having a convicted criminal among those invested for their conspicuous piety and nobility of Christian life or largess and contributions for the Church and Apostolic See?

"Where do the honored Orders stand on having a convicted criminal among those invested for their conspicuous piety and nobility of Christian life or largess and contributions for the Church and Apostolic See?"Finn? Finn?? We don't know no stinkin' Finn!Hey, we are talking the mother's milk of Catholicism here: Money. Moola. Luchre. Charitable donations from the blessed sheeple.

"That servant who knew his masters will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his masters will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more (Luke 12:47-48).

The scriptural quote, btw, is from the U.S. bishops' official website.

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