Scandal without End, Part You-name-it

By David Gibson
May 27, 2011

The child pornography case involving Fr. Shawn Ratigan, 45, a priest in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, under the direction of Bishop Robert W. Finn, was shocking enough in the first version, as reported by NCR – disturbing images of young children on Ratigan’s computer, a perfunctory, at best, examination of the material, a secret transfer of the priest to a convent, no subsequent action or notice when Ratigan attempted suicide last December, and no notification to the review board. And then only this month suspending the priest after extensive files of child pornography were discovered on his computer and he was arrested.

Now it turns out — thanks again to NCR (bravo, Joe Feuerherd!) — that a full year ago the principal of a Catholic elementary school wrote to Bishop Finn’s vicar general, the second-ranking diocesan official, with a clear warning about Ratigan’s suspicious behavior with children and detailed examples. Ratigan apparently received a talking to by a top chancery official, but nothing further was done and no one outside the chancery was alerted.

Finn’s spokesperson, Rebecca Summers, told NCR that the bishops 2002 charter says diocesan review boards should be convened only “when you have a specific allegation of abuse” by a priest or other person in diocesan ministry.

“We did not have that,” said Summers. “The charter did not address a situation such as this.”

Well, maybe common sense and concern for the welfare of children should have filled in those gaps in the charter. But this snowballing scandal, and under the watch of one of the more outspoken conservatives in the U.S. hierarchy, should certainly give the bishops impetus (if they didn’t have enough after the Philly grand jury revelations) to take some serious action when they meet next month in Seattle. That will require surrendering some degree of control. Can it be done, politically and theologically?

UPDATE: NCR reports that at a press conference today Bishop Finn said he was given a “brief verbal summary” of the principal’s letter by Father Murphy, the vicar general, a year ago and had only read it in its entirety for the “first time” last night. So he was aware of Ratigan’s problem months before he was told about the questionable photos of children on Ratigan’s computer. Father Murphy certainly doesn’t come off well, but the bishop knew about Ratigan’s history and there must have been a personnel file with this info when Finn made his first discreet inquiry to a police officer.


1. catarinasdaughter 05/27/2011 - 10:28 am
Suspected child abuse should be reported directly to civil authorities. Bishops do not have the training or qualifications to do an investigation into child abuse, and the people who are qualified and who do get it are a phone call away.
If the bishops want credibility, they should amend their documents to say that the ONLY right way to report abuse or suspected abuse is to call child protection agencies and/or the police immediately, and they should understand that they will be notified of an investigation when the civil investigators come to their doors. They should pledge to cooperate fully at that time. Anything else is just more talk.
2. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 10:34 am subscriber contributor
The problem is they already have that policy in place, and the Vatican recently reaffirmed that they should report. But sometimes they don’t. So what then? That seems to be the problem.
3. Molly Roach 05/27/2011 - 10:38 am
Then they should be charged with endangerment of children.
4. Claire 05/27/2011 - 11:02 am subscriber
I read the letter from the school principal to diocesan officials. It convincingly showed that there was something weird, and even slightly creepy, about Fr Ratigan, and that there was a risk he might commit pedophile acts. However at that point he had not yet done anything illegal. The red flags were there, but there was no crime (yet). It seems to me that there was neither abuse nor suspected abuse, but indicators of a high risk of future abuse. Imagine they had reported that to the police. What could the police have done?
What should the bishop have done? He couldn’t very well write a letter to the parents of the school: “Beware, Fr Ratigan is creepy”. He of course could have moved him to a parish with no school. He could have made him associate pastor, and have warned the pastor and DRE about him. But it’s not really their job to be keeping watch over a suspected future pedophile. So, what else could have been done at that point?
5. Mary 05/27/2011 - 11:04 am
What Molly said.
I’m bothered that the principal seems to have thought contacting the diocese discharged her obligation. “I seek to fulfill my responsibility as school principal in relaying a growing body of parent and teacher concerns regarding Pastor Shawn Ratigan’s perceived inappropriate behavior with children,” she said. Why (other than fear she might lose her job) didn’t she cc the letter to the police? Her responsibility didn’t stop at the chancery’s in-box.
Even if there was no “specific” allegation, just a whole lot of skeevie behavior, to have it on record that she had notified the police would have been the responsible thing to do, even if the cops wouldn’t have been able to act at that time. Later, when the diocese had an informal conversation with a cop, in which one photo was described, if the cop had been made aware of or had seen a report from the principal regarding red flags, I wonder if the cop’s opinion would have been different.
Also, the NCR story says a parent saw a pair of children’s underwear at the priest’s home–why did that parent not pick up the damn phone?? There’s a pattern of deference and passing the buck (what’s up with the Sisters taking him in?) that is really disturbing.
6. Mollie Wilson O’Reilly 05/27/2011 - 11:05 am contributor
Very interesting to note that the principal’s letter (online as a .pdf here) connects the concerns parents and teachers have raised with the mandatory Virtus training they’ve received. The training is working, in other words: people have learned to identify “red flags,” and they know what to do when they spot them. And the training and child-protection policies gave the principal a specific vocabulary to explain her and others’ concerns: it wasn’t just “Fr. Shawn is kind of creepy,” it was “Fr. Shawn refuses to comply with the boundary regulations we have all been taught.” Signs of progress — but unfortunately, all that can only go so far if the diocese drops the ball.
7. R.M. Lender 05/27/2011 - 11:16 am
Claire is right: Had this been reported directly to the police, prosecutors would have been at a loss what to charge Fr. Ratigan with. You can’t hold him without a charge, and you certainly can’t try him without one. It *would* create a paper trail for potential future use, I suppose, but that’s it, if there’s nothing more.
Mary’s also right: The principal’s role in this is curious as well. She made no further followup? The chancery might well wonder how serious the problem really is if the principal seems so little motivated to pursue the matter.
The Ratigan case is a curious “grey area” case, because the law and the rules don’t clearly speak to it. Perhaps they should. It’s good to punish abuse, but better to prevent it – at least if we can do so without stripping away all the rights of the accused (yes, even priests have rights). The chancery and principal seem to have followed the letter of the rules rather than the spirit; perhaps a serious investigation and psychological exam would have been in order, and even a transfer to a posting where. Certainly I’ve known of priests committed for examination for far less, even petty matters. And after his suicide attempt – certainly something ought to have been done.
8. catarinasdaughter 05/27/2011 - 11:18 am
David Gibson–parents, teachers, principals, anyone who is concerned should report without talking to the church hierarchy at all. That is what I meant. Don’t take it to the church, period. Take it directly to the cops.
9. Jim Pauwels 05/27/2011 - 11:18 am subscriber
“Suspected child abuse should be reported directly to civil authorities. Bishops do not have the training or qualifications to do an investigation into child abuse, and the people who are qualified and who do get it are a phone call away. If the bishops want credibility, they should amend their documents to say that the ONLY right way to report abuse or suspected abuse is to call child protection agencies and/or the police immediately, and they should understand that they will be notified of an investigation when the civil investigators come to their doors. They should pledge to cooperate fully at that time.”
All of the above should happen: DCFS, the police AND the appropriate venue in the diocese should all be contacted immediately.
Here is the problem with contacting law enforcement but not the diocese: reading the letter from the principal (which is horrifying), it’s clear that this guy was a master at skirting around the edges of what is illegal and what is inappropriate. Had she contacted DCFS and the police (which, in my opinion, she should have done as a mandated reporter, but I don’t want to blame her for this situation – the priest is the bad guy here, and the bishop and diocesan authorities certainly failed egregiously as well), it’s entirely possible that the civil authorities, assuming their investigation confirmed the allegations in the letter, may have concluded that no laws were violated. If not for the child pornography images, he might still not be charged with any crimes.
Do you see how that scenario would let the bishop and the diocese off the hook?
I’m not a canon law expert, but my belief is that bishops have wide latitude to suspend priests, even outside of the provisions of the Dallas Charter. Because possession of child pornography doesn’t violate the Charter doesn’t mean that the bishop’s hands were tied.
Here is what should have happened (in my inexpert opinion):
10. catarinasdaughter 05/27/2011 - 11:21 am
R. M. Lender–the police are not the only option. There are child protection agencies. When they do an investigation, they may find something actionable, and their very involvement may force the church to get a clue. If child welfare advocates had been interviewing parents and had gone to the church, maybe they could have gotten that computer to the cops sooner.
Ultimately, I think the only hope is a church where priests and bishops are chosen by the laity according to tough standards. But in the meantime, having civil authorities involved early on is better than just starting the Coverup Shuffle by reporting to the bishops.
11. Jim Pauwels 05/27/2011 - 11:23 am subscriber
I apologize, in my 11:18 comment, for reiterating what had already been said by other commenters about reporting to civil authorities. There was an hour+ gap between when I wrote it and when I edited it (imperfectly, hence the extraneous tail at the end :-)) and when I submitted it.
12. Gerelyn 05/27/2011 - 11:26 am
Why (other than fear she might lose her job) didn’t she cc the letter to the police?
The fear of losing a job is enough to deter many/most people from making waves.
Sexual abuse is only one type of abuse: economic abuse is another. Imho, the fear of being out of work, with no insurance, no hope of future employment, with threats of no letters of recommendation, etc., explains why many/most priests are afraid to report fellow priests who are abusers, and why principals and teachers are afraid to call the police.
13. Jim McK 05/27/2011 - 11:28 am
The principal’s letter should have gone to the diocesan review board, even though it contained no allegations of misconduct.
This is an expansion of the review board, but it apparently is needed. The diocese has to respond to marginal, inaccurate, and “fuzzy” allegations all the time. The only way to prevent them from being mishandled is greater oversight, ie the review board should know when an allegation is judged not credible or insufficient. This gives them a better insight into allegations that are deemed credible when they have to deal with those.
More bureaucracy. More paperwork. But it seems like it is the only way to protect children and to keep the Church from dying out.
14. Irene Baldwin 05/27/2011 - 11:29 am
In NYS, teachers and daycare workers are mandated reporters.
I’m not certain, but if this were NY, I think the school would have been required to submit a verbal report immediately to a central hotline and a written report within 48 hours to the local child protection agency who would then investigate. I imagine this system has flaws (we read in the papers of those poor children who fall through the cracks), but it seems like a better approach than reporting it to the local bishop.
15. R.M. Lender 05/27/2011 - 11:34 am
Hi Catarina,
That’s a fair point about child protection agencies – although not the one some people were arguing for. The hope is that an investigation turns up something more actionable – like the child pornography. Maybe it would, especially if he cooperated.
But bishops do have broad latitude in where they can post their priests, and my thought is that there’s enough here in the initial letter to say, “Well, he hasn’t violated the Charter or broken the law that I can see, but it’s suspicious, and maybe it’s time to pack him off to a institute for examination for the next six months.” That didn’t happen, unfortunately.
16. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 11:37 am subscriber contributor
Yes, it’s easy to say the principal should have gone to the cops, but if there was no hard evidence — as seems to have been the case — it seems unlikely the investigation would have gone anywhere. And yes, it’s tempting to say that she should have pressed this further, but it’s also very possible she would have been fired or penalized, and it’s too easy to demand someone else be a martyr.
The real problem seems to me that nothing was ever reported to the review board, which would be a good clearinghouse for such suspicious information, which could then trigger more vigorous action later. But this all went into the black hole of the bishop’s office.
The scandal here is that even when the initial photos came to light that the bishop and his staff did not take all the information to police immediately. They were the only ones who knew the full story and series of red flags.
Again, my question is what to do when bishops do not take action?
17. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 11:40 am subscriber contributor
I’d second what Jim KcK and Gerleyn wrote as I was writing my comment above, but again the flaw in any system will always be accountability for bishops. If they do not pass information on to review boards, if whistleblowers cannot be protected, then the best review board in the world can’t take action because they won’t have the info.
18. Jack Barry 05/27/2011 - 11:40 am
Robert Finn is a threat to public safety as demonstrated by his judgment and performance. The clothes he wears, the name of his job, and the place he lives in don’t excuse what appears to be known without question. Most of the world’s daily activity goes on with prudential judgments about questionable people without waiting for a definitive felony. The police routinely wallow in uncertainty and are trained and experienced in handling it. Finn is obviously unfamiliar with two basics most people absorb at some point: 1. Don’t hurt little kids 2. Don’t let others hurt little kids. Whatever the explanation, he and his apparently like-minded principal deputy clearly belong far from any place where judgments affecting children’s welfare may possibly arise. The Pope has recently showed how to remove a bishop. What does it take to motivate the Pope?
19. Bob Nunz 05/27/2011 - 11:49 am
As Joe Fuierhard has passed to the Communion of heavenly saints, I thought it was just another example of his paper doing the job of breaking out secrets that might otherwise be suppressed – and, causing us to look further into how things should be doner -not what canon law allows.
In the thread on tweating below, it’s said that unless there were lawsuits, many things evil would have been kept under wraps; Jim P. argued that more lawsuits (from extending SOL) would just create more secrecy.
I think that speaks volumes about the institutional problems at the top, but, more, that Catholic journalism today needs to go further in peeling away veils of secrecy for the (coomon) good of the Church!
20. Mary 05/27/2011 - 11:52 am
There has to be protection for whistle blowers and I wouldn’t put the blame on the principal–she obviously felt that informing the diocese would result in concrete action. Regardless of whether the police could have done something there is a benefit to a paper trail. I do think there the letter should have been copied to the review board and some civil authority (police, child protection agency)–it’s isn’t a matter of either the diocese or the cops, but both/and. When a teacher or principal faces retaliation for doing the right thing parents and parishioners have a moral obligation to speak out in support. David is right that the real question is what is done when the leadership screws up. We know the church can act–recent stories about the Salesian father superior in the Netherlands being fired for supporting a pedophile priest and the Vatican booting Cistercians from Santa Croce Gerusalemm in Rome just two instances where canon law/authority steps in when there’s motivation. What will it take to break the circle the wagons pattern of American bishops when one of there own blows it?
21. Irene Baldwin 05/27/2011 - 12:05 pm
“Again, my question is what to do when bishops do not take action?”
Indict them?
22. Mark 05/27/2011 - 12:22 pm
I am as from a fan of the bishops and their abuse policies as can be but I think we need to be very careful here in terms of language.
I’m interested in the first part of the story – the principal’s letter.
The principal’s letter – according to NCR – was not to “the bishop’s office” or “the chancery” – it was to a specific person – the Vicar General, a Monsignor Robert Murphy. There is no evidence presented that Murphy passed this information on to Finn. The report is that he had a conversation with Ratigan himself – and that was the end of it.
Murphy was the gatekeeper and for some reason he protected Ratigan.
The bishop had nothing to do with this part of the story.
And as for the second part – considering Finn reported the images to authorities and is saying that the policies indicating that this kind of case does not belong before the review board should be reviewed and sent Ratigan off and banned him from having contact with children…I fail to see how he is the devil in this.
Except to those for whom he already is the devil of course.
So. What about this Murphy guy? Why did he just give Ratigan a talking-to and that’s it?
23. Gerelyn 05/27/2011 - 12:30 pm
Fear. Everyone is afraid. And with good reason.
1) I knew of tradesmen in the good old days in Kansas City who supplied goods and services to parishes. Their bills were never paid. They had no recourse.
2) I knew of parochial school teachers in Kansas City whose pastor decided that instead of paying them at the end of each of the nine months of the school year, he would pay them at the end of each of the twelve months of the calendar year, thereby making sure they had income during the summer following the school year. (?) In August, a new pastor took over. He refused to issue the end-of-August check, saying he had never heard of teachers being paid BEFORE the school year started. When they tried to explain . . . he threatened to fire them all. They buckled, of course, and lost 1/12th of their previous year’s minuscule salary.
3) In this case, I wonder why Girl Scouts were shown the priest’s bed and stuffed animal. Given the history and sociology of the parish, it seems that someone would have . . . . said/done something.
4) The principal said the priest spent a LOT of time at the school and on the playground. And the bishop said he had too much time on his hands at the convent. Wouldn’t it be nice if priests had jobs? Wouldn’t that solve some of the problems?
24. Mary 05/27/2011 - 12:32 pm
Didn’t we learn after Philly that folks like Murphy are required by canon law to report to the Bishop anything that could give scandal? I might be remembering wrong.
Get facts straight: Finn did not initially make a formal report to the “authorities”–there was an informal conversation in which ONE of many photos was described–not shown–to a police officer who serves on a diocesan committee.
25. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 12:33 pm subscriber contributor
Mark, I’m sure Bishop Finn will appreciate that generous reading of his role, though I’m not sure how you know that Bishop Finn had no knowledge of the earlier complaints against Ratigan. The Vicar General is the No. 2 in the diocesan curia, and it is hard to believe that when Finn made the initial cursory phone consultation with the officer on the diocesan board (six months after the school’s complaints) that he had not consulted Murphy or vice versa.
In any case, that such serious problems, after so many years of scandal, would not be connected in some forum — a review board if not the chancery — then that is a scandal on its own.
26. Claire 05/27/2011 - 12:36 pm subscriber
Molly had a great point about the specificity of the complaints “Fr. Shawn refuses to comply with the boundary regulations we have all been taught.” For lay people, what are the consequences of not complying with those rules? The logical action would have been to subject Fr Ratigan to those consequences as well.
27. Mark 05/27/2011 - 1:04 pm
Mr Gibson says:
“Mark, I’m sure Bishop Finn will appreciate that generous reading of his role, though I’m not sure how you know that Bishop Finn had no knowledge of the earlier complaints against Ratigan”
I’m going by what’s reported. As are all the rest of the commenters. The report in the National Catholic Reporter makes no mention of Finn in the first set of incidents. As far as the report goes it discusses a correspondence between the principal and the Vicar General and then the VG and Ratigan.
Is it “generous” to refuse to read an involvement that isn’t even mentioned? Or just trying to stick to the facts as presented?
(Which are perhaps not all the facts. But as they stand – it doesn’t seem that Finn was brought into the loop before the photos were found.)
“The Vicar General is the No. 2 in the diocesan curia, and it is hard to believe that when Finn made the initial cursory phone consultation with the officer on the diocesan board (six months after the school’s complaints) that he had not consulted Murphy or vice versa.”
Of course. But why assume that Murphy told the truth?
Why assume the worst about Finn and the best about Murphy?
In the David Gibson reading Finn knew everything about Ratigan since the beginning and did nothing about it. I fail to see how that is supported by the story in the National Catholic Reporter at this point.
28. ed gleason 05/27/2011 - 1:04 pm subscriber
I think you all are missing a key fact. Finn never interviewed the priest, a priest who is under vows of obedience to Finn. ,Finn was busy with political matters? Finn will now spend a lot more time dealing with this than the one hour questioning Ratigan with the principals letter and the computer contents on the desk, also with a person reeding questions and answers.
Finn will be busy for months with that stare into space look his photo shows. Phew
29. Jack Barry 05/27/2011 - 1:08 pm
Mark –
Re Vicar General, he is legally defined by Canon Law, which I leave to the experts to explain. Meanwhile, one interesting canon says:
“Can. 480 A vicar general and an episcopal vicar must report to the diocesan bishop concerning the more important affairs which are to be handled or have been handled, and they are never to act contrary to the intention and mind of the diocesan bishop.”
It is hard to imagine that a very long, substantive letter reporting that one of the bishop’s priests repeatedly gives many indications to many people of tending toward felonious (and sinful) behavior would not be covered by Canon 480. The bishop has well-defined responsibilities, as does the Vicar General by appointment, with respect to his priests. The language of their law matters to them.
30. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 1:11 pm subscriber contributor
Mark, I’m not portraying it in such an unambiguous light at all. All those things you say are true, though why assume Murphy is a liar when you don’t know that? That doesn’t seem to be fair. Based solely on the initial report on the Ratigan case — failures that Finn apologized for — the bishops raise serious concerns. Now that there were earlier detailed suspicions sent to his No. 2 that were not acted upon, for whatever reason, there seems to be an undeniable problem with the system, such as it is. No?
31. Helen McDevitt-Smith 05/27/2011 - 1:13 pm
Re your comment: “In August, a new pastor took over. He refused to issue the end-of-August check, saying he had never heard of teachers being paid BEFORE the school year started.”
Don’t parents (and/or students) pay tuition before the school year or (class) begins?
32. Gerelyn 05/27/2011 - 1:27 pm
(Yes, but teachers’ paychecks were issued at the end of the month. In those days, parochial school teachers, including nuns, often/usually taught without certification, thus saving the parishes money. They could not complain when they were abused economically, because where else would they find a job? Public schools wouldn’t hire uncredentialed teachers, so the parochial school teachers were at the mercy of their abusers. Not sure how it works today, but I think/hope the teachers are certified. I think this principal tried to do the right thing, maybe thinking that with all the details she supplied, some action would be taken.)
33. ed gleason 05/27/2011 - 1:41 pm subscriber
The principal will be fired when the time is ripe. How many times were principals fired for ‘outspokeness’ . How many dioceses? 300? that’s a start on the number.
34. Ann Olivier 05/27/2011 - 1:47 pm subscriber
It seems to me that one of the problems in all this is the ambiguous function of the various players — bishops, review boards, and police. On the one hand, bishops are said to be obliged to report credible accusations *immediately* to the cops. On the other hand they are also required to report them to the review boards. Why report to the review boards if the cops are already operating in the mix?
Should the review board have as their function to handle not hard accusations of wrong-doing but, rather, *suspicions* of wrong-doing? Should the police be informed of suspicions-only, as in the Ratigan case? If they refuse to investigate — or if they do — should the bishop not investigate? Should the review boards investigate or not?
In other words, it seems that the functions of bishop, board, and police are not as clearly spelled out as they need to be.
35. Ann Olivier 05/27/2011 - 2:02 pm subscriber
About suspicions of wrong doing ==
If there are reports of suspicious behavior by a priest, doesn’t the bishop have to consider the credibility of the person making the report? For instance, there are some crazy old ladies out there (I’ve known more than one) . What action should be taken in those cases when the accuser is known to be unreliable?
There comes a point, I think, when prudence (which can also be a scapegoat) must play some part in some proceedings.
However, it seems to me that the general principle that must ALWAYS obtain, is: when there is some rational doubt about a report, give the benefit of the doubt to the children’s side and investigate anyway..
36. Joseph Jaglowicz 05/27/2011 - 2:17 pm subscriber
So far this thread contains a few references to a “diocesan review board”. I checked the KC-St Joe website a few days ago and found the name and phone number of a “Coordinator” by clicking a link to “Protecting Children”. The new page, in turn, has five links to general information published by the USCCB and non-sectarian organizations.
So, if a parent wants to contact a member of the diocesan review board, how does a parent do so? Go through the Coordinator who, I presume, is employed by the bishop? Are the names and phone numbers of review board members available to Catholics in the diocese w/o having to go through the Coordinator?
37. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 2:25 pm subscriber contributor
Joe J: Very good questions. That seems like something that should be part of a uniform child protection policy.
38. Mary 05/27/2011 - 2:31 pm
Not to advocate adding another layer of bureaucracy, but I almost wish each diocese had something like an ombudsman.
39. Jimmy Mac 05/27/2011 - 2:51 pm subscriber
As Blessed Ronald Reagan the Great said: “there you go again!”
“Well, maybe common sense and concern for the welfare of children should have filled in those gaps in the charter.”
This is ecclesiastical weaseling at its best. You want common sense AND concern as well? This isn’t a democracy or a congregational form of government. You takes what you gets and, like all good sheep, bahs back: yes, your Grand Poobah Excellency; whatever you say.
Bullroar at its very worst!
40. Ann Olivier 05/27/2011 - 2:52 pm subscriber
Mary –
Good idea. Make the ombudsman part of a regional legal system that llows bishops to be tried using other bishops as jurors.
Or maybe Catholic theology wouldn’t require that *all* accusations against bishops be judged by their peers. If the issues are not theological (e.g., do not involve the bishop being a heretic), I don’t see why the *facts* of a bishop’s malfeasance couldn’t be judged by any sort of jury Such facts or purported facts are not part of dogma.
Yes, it should be possible to try bishops for serious malfeasance.
41. Jimmy Mac 05/27/2011 - 3:03 pm subscriber
“But it’s not really their job to be keeping watch over a suspected future pedophile.”
Uh, wrong!!! Reasonable suspicion calls for at least reasonable caution, particularly where children are involved.
“Her responsibility didn’t stop at the chancery’s in-box.” Amen! See Mt 27:24 and Psalm 26:6.
42. Mary 05/27/2011 - 3:04 pm
I’m irked by the part of the story about parents/teachers saying to the kids some version of “now, now, Billy, it’s not appropriate to reach into Father’s pocket” in the hopes that the priest would get the hint. If folks (WE) aren’t courageous enough to take the priest aside and say, “Father, the way you were behaving with the kids is not appropriate,” or “Father, can you tell me why there’s a pair of kiddie undies in this planter?” then what hope is there that we’ll demand bigger changes, express a no-confidence vote in the bishop, boycott masses, picket a chancery, demand access to the review board? The blame lies with the leaders but the laity has to stop being so cowed.
43. Claire 05/27/2011 - 3:10 pm subscriber
Jimmy, I mean, it’s not their profession; they might keep an eye on him but they wouldn’t be constantly keeping track of where he is or what he is doing.
44. William Logan 05/27/2011 - 3:32 pm
The statement by the diocesan spokesperson that situations such as these were not envisioned by the Charter seems obfuscatory if not wrong. In any event, in this case the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph had a really good sexual misconduct policy (last revised in 2003) that was either not followed or else outright ignored. You can find it on the diocese’s website at:
(Click the link on that page to read the PDF document)
Here are some sections that are relevant in light of Fr. Ratigan’s case:
1.3. Sexual Abuse. Sexual abuse, as used in this Policy, is conduct or interaction with a minor or an adult that qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation of the Sixth Commandment. To be objectively grave, the act does not need to involve force, physical contact or a discernable harmful outcome.
1.5. Sexual Abuse of a Minor. Sexual abuse of a minor includes sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a minor and other behavior by which an adult uses a minor as an object of sexual gratification.
1.6. Sexual Misconduct. Sexual misconduct includes sexual abuse and any other sexual conduct that is inappropriate under civil or moral law.
[It should be obvious that the photos found on Fr. Ratigan's laptop in December 2010 constituted acts of sexual abuse of minors on his part. I'd consider the May 2010 letter of the school principal to be an allegation of sexual misconduct since that includes not just sexual abuse but morally inappropriate conduct.]
4.2. Compliance and Cooperation. . . . Priests, religious and lay persons working in the Diocese are expected to cooperate with the letter and spirit of this process consistent with their particular status within the Diocese. All persons associated with the Diocese who are impacted by the process are expected to act with good will, understanding and sensitivity for the goals of this Policy.
[In light of what's come out, there was no compliance with either the letter or the spirit of the diocese's sexual misconduct policy.]
4.7. Receipt of Information. The Vicar General as administrator of the Response Team will generally respond to telephone calls and any other initial communications regarding alleged sexual abuse and other sexual misconduct. In the case of any claim or other disclosure of sexual abuse or other sexual misconduct by personnel of the Diocese, the Vicar General shall report the fact to the Response Team and to the chairperson of the Independent Review Board.
[So upon the discovery of the computer images in December 2010, which would qualify as "other disclosure" of sexual abuse,
the diocesan response team and the chairperson of the diocese's review board should have been notified. If you think the May 2010 letter constituted an allegation of sexual misconduct (as I do), then the response team and review board should have been notified then also.
The vicar general may have been wearing too many hats since he's on both the response team and the review board. The same would apply to the victim's advocate, although we don't know if she was ever notified about Fr. Ratigan.]
4.9. Initiating an Allegation. Allegations that a priest, deacon, religious, lay teacher or other personnel of the Diocese engaged in sexual abuse or other sexual misconduct may be reported to the Diocese either by telephoning, writing or meeting in person with the Vicar General or any other member of the Response Team.
[So the school principal acted properly in meeting with the Vicar General and submitting a written letter to him.]
45. Mary 05/27/2011 - 3:43 pm
Re what Claire and Jimmy are saying…
What kind of “supervision” was it to dump him with the Sisters? Telling him he’s forbidden contact with kids is one thing, but that location in Independence MO isn’t the boonies; he wasn’t confined to the property and it’s not as if he had a minder. I really want to know what the Sisters were told in advance. If they had knowledge, then they took on a measure of civil liability, so they’re lucky if no kid was molested on their watch.
Morally, I believe they had a responsibility to ask the bishop questions in advance about why this priest was being sent to them and to clarify with the diocese regarding roles and responsibilities, including their obligation to report to civil authorities if need be. I hope that conversation happened.
Ultimately, I wish the LCWR and CMSWR would issue statements offering guidance to their member congregations regarding their roles when requested by a bishop to take on a troubled priest. They certainly are not required to agree. And it’s not like having a NIMBY policy from the sisters would be risky–whatta the bishops gonna do, call for a Visitation?
46. Joe McFaul 05/27/2011 - 4:26 pm
“Murphy was the gatekeeper and for some reason he protected Ratigan.”
and Murphy’s superior should have already gotten a new gatekeeper. If neither Murphy or his superior can’t now read the principal’s gruesome letter and realize what they did was seriously wrong, then both should be terminated from their positions.
A wide man once said, “The buck stops here.” I don’t think bishops grasp this concept.
47. Jim Pauwels 05/27/2011 - 4:39 pm subscriber
“It seems to me that one of the problems in all this is the ambiguous function of the various players — bishops, review boards, and police. On the one hand, bishops are said to be obliged to report credible accusations *immediately* to the cops. On the other hand they are also required to report them to the review boards. Why report to the review boards if the cops are already operating in the mix? Should the review board have as their function to handle not hard accusations of wrong-doing but, rather, *suspicions* of wrong-doing? Should the police be informed of suspicions-only, as in the Ratigan case? If they refuse to investigate — or if they do — should the bishop not investigate? Should the review boards investigate or not? In other words, it seems that the functions of bishop, board, and police are not as clearly spelled out as they need to be.”
Forgive the lengthy quote, but Ann asks a number of important questions that I’d like to comment on.
We’ve learned from the Philadelphia blow-up that a weak link in the review process is: if the review board isn’t informed of the allegations, then it literally has nothing to investigate – it can’t investigate what it’s unaware of.
That dynamic seems at play here as well. Clearly, Murphy should have informed the diocesan review board, and pretty clearly, he failed to do so.
My thought is, the diocese must NOT be allowed to filter what is reported to the diocese and what isn’t. The function of the review board is precisely to determine which accusations are credible and which aren’t. The diocese shouldn’t, and mustn’t, be allowed to pre-assess which accusations get filtered through to the review board.
Every diocese has a website these days, and most people these days have web access. On the home page of every diocese should be a toll-free telephone number and an email link to allow anyone to report instances of abuse or suspicion of abuse, and those should go DIRECTLY TO THE REVIEW BOARD. In the interest of transparency, the review board’s response to those reports should be measurable and auditable.
Why not wait for the cops to conduct their investigation: in my view, the police should investigate, and so should children’s services, and so should the diocese. They all have different but complementary interests and spheres of responsibility, and there is no reason that the three investigations can’t proceed concurrently. As I commented above, there is a real policy that this perpetrator may not be prosecuted or convicted by the civil authorities but still should be removed from ministry.
48. Jim Pauwels 05/27/2011 - 4:41 pm subscriber
I wrote: “the diocese must NOT be allowed to filter what is reported to the diocese and what isn’t. ”
What I meant to write: “the diocese must NOT be allowed to filter what is reported to the review board and what isn’t. “
49. ed gleason 05/27/2011 - 5:06 pm subscriber
When I asked A/B Levada in San Francisco 2003 why the review board members were secret, he said ‘it was to protect them from harassment by survivors[he said victims]
I can assure you they are all good people’ [Board Chairman later resigned citing cover up]
I pointed out that all state judges, all Federal district court judges all 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges were listed in the phone book with tel# and address.. O.. by the way Archbishop, they are dealing with Hells Angels in a recent conspiracy case. If the board chooses anonymity get new people.”
He gave no answer but he scribbled a note. He did name them in a month. He later went to Rome to help with abuse cases!!!
50. Jimmy Mac 05/27/2011 - 5:13 pm subscriber
Rule #1 of senior management (and bishops are senior managers): all that happens on your watch is your responsibility. You need to know what is going on and who is/is not doing what.
You make sure that your direct reports are forthcoming, and fire those who aren’t!
Or, as we sang in Boy Scouts: If you don’t bear the cross then you can’t wear the crown!
51. Jeanne Follman 05/27/2011 - 6:03 pm subscriber
Suggestions of toll-free telephone numbers, reports of instances / suspicion of abuse going directly to the review board, notification of child welfare services and police, etc. mean one thing: power to handle cases of sexual abuse will no longer be in the control of the bishops. Yet per the USCCB, review boards are only advisory. And according to the Vatican’s newest set of guidelines, independent lay review boards “cannot substitute” for the authority of individual bishops.
The thing standing in the way of really dealing with this issue is the autocratic power of the bishops. It always comes down to that. That’s why it’s a scandal without end.
Many if not all of the suggestions mentioned above were laid out in the **1992** Bernadin report on sexual abuse, issued in Chicago almost 20 years ago.
The answer to David’s question of what to do when bishops do not take action is this: nothing. Nothing can be done when bishops do not take action until Church structures of governance are reformed.
52. robert hoatson 05/27/2011 - 6:37 pm
Why do we need all this pontificating about what structures should be in place or policies developed regarding clergy sexual abuse? The simple fact is: bishops (Finn) and their advisors/staffs (Murphy) think they are above moral, ethical, legal, and canonical laws. What should happen in Kansas City is exactly what happened in Philadelphia. The district attorney should conduct an investigation and if these men obstructed the law in any way, they should be arrested and tried for their crimes. Finn and Murphy need to resign or be removed and await the results of the grand jury that should be convened to determine whether criminal laws were broken.
The only way this scandal will end is when bishops are paraded out of their chanceries in handcuffs.
53. Judy Jones 05/27/2011 - 6:40 pm
Finn kept this from police, parishioners, and the public for over a year. That is totally against everything the church officials try to make us believe about how they care about protecting kids.
The most mind boggling part of this tragedy is that their own diocesan “Children’s Safety Curriculum and Training” (which the bishops set up to look like they care about the safety of children), was actually trying to work. Those employees who go through this training process, that is forced upon them by the bishops, were doing their job.
BUT.. Bishop Finn flat out ignored his own policy and procedures.
The Kansas City diocese needs to have a Grand Jury Investigation, just like the recent grand jury investigation done in Philadelphia.. which resulted in the arrest of 3 predator priests, 1 teacher, and 1 high ranking priest for “Child Endangerment” ( covering up sex crimes against children )..This is the only way to expose the truth and therefore protect kids.
The Philly diocese is NOT unique in the horrible way they handle child sex abuse.
If you have been harmed by Ratigan or any clergy, employee, volunteer, etc, do not report it to the diocese, it is a crime, so we urge you to please report it to the police.
..And keep in mind you are not alone..
Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
“Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy
54. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 6:53 pm subscriber contributor
Does anyone know if state reporting laws (which vary widely) include mandates regarding child pornography?
55. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 7:34 pm subscriber contributor
I just updated the post with the latest, that at a press conference today Bishop Finn said he was given a “brief verbal summary” of the letter from the principal by Father Murphy, the vicar general, a year ago and had only read it in its entirety for the “first time” last night. So he was aware of Ratigan’s problem months before he was told about the questionable photos of children on Ratigan’s computer. Father Murphy certainly doesn’t come off well, but the bishop knew about Ratigan’s history and there must have been a personnel file with this info when Finn made his first discreet inquiry to a police officer.
This scandal appears to be worsening by the hour. Yet if there was no criminality in the failure to report Ratigan, what could be the consequences?
56. Jack Barry 05/27/2011 - 7:39 pm
David G.’s question that started this off should be taken as rhetorical in 2011: “That will require surrendering some degree of control. Can it be done, politically and theologically?”
Fr. Tom Doyle wrote in 2010 “A Short History of the Manual” about the report on abuse he co-authored in 1985 for the US bishops. Noteworthy today, in addition to a look back 25 years, is a 1992 response by Archbishop Pilarczyk, then-President, NCCB/USCC to a Doyle letter (p.21). Pilarczyk dismissively points out that the report contributed nothing new since the bishops had already known and done so much (and other institutions were just as bad in child sexual abuse). Continuing revelations since then make one wonder what Abp. Pilarczyk had in mind when he said in 1992: “it has never been our intention either to hide the problem or to walk away from the problem”. Ten years later, Boston erupted and Law left, thanks to the Boston Globe.
Many constructive suggestions for improvement have been mentioned here. What is lacking is any identification of either the motivation or the mental and moral capacity in the episcopal ensemble to do what is seen by many as obviously necessary. The supreme power of the bishop in his domain has deep roots in the Church, felt by the individuals in office. The circular letter on guidelines issued May 16 re-confirms them again. Looking for a group of older men with lifelong reinforcement of these values and priorities to make any moves in the direction of democracy or modern management strikes me as wishful thinking.
Ombudsman was mentioned by Mary. Consider what that calls for in a newspaper. The publisher and editor each have to find the courage and wisdom to agree on hiring a sage, experienced, brave expert and directing him or her to publish in their paper a description of what’s wrong or needs improvement in that paper. Hard to imagine a bishop doing that.
The activities of concern are criminal, or near-criminal, or would-be criminal except for technicalities, or flagrantly “inappropriate” by generally accepted community standards. They are infringements of public safety, which is a primary responsibility of our ciivil government. A major part of revitalization, given all that’s known, needs to consider what Irene Baldwin asked about (12:05PM) – Indict them? Robert Hoatson is right (6:37PM). The clothes they wear and titles they adopt should mean nothing in this context.
57. Bill deHaas 05/27/2011 - 7:40 pm
David – state reporting laws can be very different esp. when you drill down to issues such as pornography.
Think it might help to take a step back and enlargen what we know about Finn before commenting on what others may or may not have done.
Here is an article about Finn when he became bishop of KC – it connects some of the dots in terms of earlier comments; what the principal knew, may have feared, etc.
One aspect of this was Finn’s unilateral decision to cut back on the diocese’s Bolivian mission work (of course, he told no one of this):
Finally, insights into Finn’s leadership style (or lack thereof) and why many might be fearful of any contact with him. He falls into the “single issue” bishop cohort:
Some highlights that might shed light on this abuse event:
“Finn, 53, a priest of the St. Louis archdiocese and a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, was named coadjutor of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in March 2004. The diocese comprises 130,000 Catholics in 27 countries of northwest Missouri. He succeeded Bishop Raymond Boland as ordinary on May 24, 2005. Within a week of his appointment he:
Dismissed the chancellor, a layman with 21 years of experience in the diocese, and the vice chancellor, a religious woman stationed in the diocese for nearly 40 years and the chief of pastoral planning for the diocese since 1990, and replaced them with a priest chancellor.
Cancelled the diocese’s nationally renowned lay formation programs and a master’s degree program in pastoral ministry.
Cut in half the budget of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry, effectively forcing the almost immediate resignation of half the seven-member team. Within 10 months all seven would be gone and the center shuttered.
Ordered a “zero-based study” of adult catechesis in the diocese and appointed as vice chancellor to oversee adult catechesis, lay formation and the catechesis study a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.
Ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publishing columns by Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien.
Announced that he would review all front page stories, opinion pieces, columns and editorials before publication.
By most accounts, he reached these decisions without consulting any of the senior leadership of the diocese or the people in the programs affected. Virtually no one on the chancery staff knew of the changes until they were announced at a news conference two days after his appointment. Many parish staffs and priests would first learn of the changes when they read about them in the local or diocesan newspaper.”
“We are at war!” thundered Bishop Robert Finn in a keynote address to the Gospel of Life Convention six weeks ago. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway,” a clear reference to the new Obama administration. Finn sees a less proximate enemy at work. “Our enemy is the deceiver, the liar, Satan. Because of his spiritual powers he can turn the minds and hearts of men. He is our spiritual or supernatural enemy when he works to tempt us, and he becomes a kind of natural enemy as he works in the hearts of other people to twist and confound God’s will.”
Too bad that the single issue of abortion is more important than the abuse of children; following the Dallas Charter; etc.
Classmates who taught both Finn (and Sheridan in Colorado Springs, CO) at Glennon/Kenrick seminaries in St. Louis, said that neither were outstanding students; they did not stick out from the others; they basically just went through seminary life. They stated that there was no evidence of this type of conservative reactions in their lives in the seminaries. So, what changed?
This type of arrogant, hierarchical and domineering style of management leaves no room for listening – only commanding.
58. Claire 05/27/2011 - 7:45 pm subscriber
Just in from NCR, more details unfolding: Bp Finn, he says, got a brief verbal report from Msgr Murphy about the letter but did not ask to see it and did not see it until now.
Let’s suspend disbelief for a minute and assume that he is telling the truth. Then, depending on the tone of that brief verbal report, one or both of them did something seriouly wrong. In that case, Bp Finn needs to either fire Msgr Murphy or offer his resignation.
Of course that’s not going to happen. Not that it matters much. This only reinforces what I already know about bishops: that they cannot and must not be trusted.
59. Jimmy Mac 05/27/2011 - 8:24 pm subscriber
The idea that “independent lay review boards “cannot substitute” for the authority of individual bishops” is simply business as usual. There are NO lay boards of any kind whatsoever (Finance Councils, Parish or Diocesan Councils, etc.) that have a role other than that of advisor. The bishop or pastor getting advice is absolutely free to do whatever he chooses/doesn’t choose to do with this advice. And the laity’s choice? shut up, put up or quit. And, of course, continue to pay and pay and pay.
In any other form of relationship this would be called co-dependency.
60. Judy Jones 05/27/2011 - 8:27 pm
“Again, my question is what to do when bishops do not take action?”
Now Bishop Finn is claiming that he just now read that letter yesterday? WHY? did he not demand to read that letter 5 months ago when he got the child porn photos?
A criminal investigation, charges, and penalties against every church staffer, from the bishop on down, who endangered kids, tampered with evidence, and allowed Fr. Ratigan continue, needs to be done in the KC diocese.
Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
“Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy
61. Carolyn Disco 05/27/2011 - 9:17 pm
Jeanne Follman, Jack Barry and others note the church governance structure is autocratic, period. That’s the reality, so get used to it. Finn excels in that department, as Bill deHaas’ links make clear. He is among the worst kind of bishop.
I have long held that the only way to change church structures, behavior, and patterns of thought is to make use of outside law enforcement and legislative options to force compliance with meaningful child protection measures.
Suggestions: Whoever is DA in KC needs to impanel a grand jury immediately, subpoena documents, interview all personnel involved, and discern if there is sufficient evidence to return indictments of child endangerment against Finn and Murphy. Who knows what is hidden in the secret archives? There is probable cause for a probe, given the extensive record of US dioceses.
This time maybe bishops cannot hide behind SOL laws that protect predators because the cases are more recent. Examine corporate criminal liability statutes for instances to avoid the “but I didn’t know nonsense.” NH’s AG can be a valuable resource on this.
Issue a report to the public, no matter the outcome, with recommendations to change legislation if needed.
(I know, Phila’s report did that, but Rigali et al blocked legislative initiatives and ignored recommendations. If voters care enough, they can persist. Too many legislators and laypeople are at the beck and call of a bishop to kill legislation, but at least there is a chance in a democracy.)
If there is no mandatory reporting law, get one passed. Get SOL window legislation passed, and I believe cases would come out of the ethers to expose criminal negligence by those in the chancery.
It’s not as though we are without precedent, given Phila, NH AG, and similar investigations.
Internal accountability is a myth, so the of use external accountability in our democratic system is the only alternative I see.
Full release of diocesan files, by whatever means that can be achieved/mandated by court order, legislated or whatever—go for it.
Watch how fast bishops change their procedures when criminal conviction, incarceration, and punitive legal damages are genuine threats. Still, Rome provides a refuge, but somehow make it so unbearable for bishops, that the elites respond.
Patience is exhausted, children are at risk, and still we hear from Wuerl, Dolan et al how great the church’s new leaf is.
Drivel. Let the hammer fall where it must to protect our children. And that means those of all ages, unhindered by face saving hyper-distinctions.
I understand child pornography is a federal felony. It was finally added to the list of grave delicts by the Vatican last July, so it is covered in the Charter. Too bad it took so many years for that to happen.
Nail the criminality this time. Yes, Finn, this is war, but you have shown yourself to be the enemy. Trust? Not a chance.
But what does it take to get the laity energized? Lord, I wish I knew.
62. Claire 05/27/2011 - 9:18 pm subscriber
Here is a copy of a letter I just wrote to Bp. Finn to ask him to resign.
Please also note that if you know anyone from the diocese, you can tell them that on the diocesan web page they have the opportunity to fill in an anonymous survey with open-ended comments where they are able to also ask for a resignation.
To : The Most Reverend Robert Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, 300 East 36th St., P.O. Box 419037, Kansas City, MO 64141-6037
Cc : His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City State, 00120 Italy
Your Excellency,
The news of the scandalous behavior of Father Ratigan in your diocese are still unfolding. As of this writing, we know that the principal of Saint Patrick school wrote a letter to your Vicar General Msgr Murphy in May 2010 with a detailed report of Father Ratigan’s inappropriate behavior, raising many red flags. We know that Msgr Murphy gave you a brief verbal report of the letter, but that you did not ask to see it. We know that Msgr Murphy had a talk with Fr Ratigan but otherwise left him in his dangerous position at the school. We know that “upskirt” pictures of children of the school were found on his computer six months ago, including a nude picture. We know that you, still without looking at the principal’s report, verbally described the nude picture to a police officer serving on a diocesan committee, who said it did not fit the technical definition of pornography. We know that Father Ratigan attempted to commit suicide, that you moved him to a home for religious sisters, ordered him to stay away from events where children were present, that he did not obey, and that Msgr Murphy finally contacted the police in May 2011. The police found pornographic images and has arrested Father Ratigan. Throughout the intervening year, the diocesan review board was never consulted.
It is clear that the diocesan measures to protect our children are insufficient. The report and pictures indicated that Father Ratigan was probably a disturbed man sexually attracted to children. Leaving him in a position where it was possible for him to harm them was an irresponsible decision. You are lucky that he has not physically assaulted a child between May 2010 and May 2011!
Msgr Murphy, the Vicar General, has shown a lack of prudence and recklessness that render him unfit for that office. The delays in his actions are causing great scandal. I respectfully request that you dismiss him.
As the recent guidelines from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith state, “The responsibility for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors belongs, in the first place, to Bishops or Major Superiors.” The case of Father Ratigan was dealt with in a dangerous manner. One is left to wonder why, after hearing Msgr Murphy’s report in May 2010, you did not ask to see the letter; why, upon hearing about suspicious pictures found on his computer, you did not review his file and the principal’s letter; why you neither asked the diocesan review board for advice, nor filed a police report until this month; and why you left him in a position to potentially cause harm. This accumulation of missteps is dismaying. You did not take the steps that were necessary to prevent abuse from occurring. In 2006 the Holy Father asked the bishops or Ireland “to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again,” he would say the same thing to the bishops of the US. In his 2009 letter to the Catholics of Ireland, he wrote: “Grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.” Sadly, that is now also the situation in your diocese.
According to Can. §2, “A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.” The events that are now coming to light have undermined your credibility to the point where, for the good of the Church, it would be better if you were replaced by a bishop without such a heavy past. I humbly beg you to offer your resignation to the Holy Father and let him decide what is best for the future of our Church.
Kissing the sacred ring,
63. David Gibson 05/27/2011 - 9:34 pm subscriber contributor
As far as I can tell, there are few mandated reporting laws on child porn. Canada (yeah) recently enacted a mandated reporter law and Oregon just beefed up its statute, but there seem to be few others and those target principally IT techs and ISPs that come across this stuff.
One librarian in California even got fired for reporting this crime!
So I’m not sure what criminal liability there may be, and what if any steps law enforcement can take.
64. catarinasdaughter 05/27/2011 - 9:59 pm
Carolyn Disco, I think many who would be energized have left by now. That leaves a higher proportion of those who are in denial or who just don’t care.
65. Mary 05/27/2011 - 10:02 pm
@David, I think you’re right about child porn and mandatory reporting. The dots have to be connected. When I was digging around looking for the answer, I kept running across the stat that 40% of child porn arrests are “dual offender” cases, where the possessor also has committed a separate instance of child sexual abuse. Where there’s smoke there’s napalm.
In MO (which has mandatory clergy reporting for sex abuse and btw I believe also indemnifies reporters against being sued for making good faith but unfounded reports), the argument would be that on the basis of the photos and principal’s letter there was “reasonable cause to suspect a child has been or might be subjected to sexual abuse.” However, I think you and others are right in pointing out the criminal liability may very well be a stretch (obviously the diocesan attorney was consulted to answer the “do we HAVE to report this?” question). That’s where JimP’s point is so important–the canon law process has to kick in where civil law doesn’t. Beyond that, as Claire’s letter emphasizes, it’s offensive that Finn would fall back on what civil law requires, or the letter of Dallas, rather than doing what is clearly and obviously right. It shouldn’t be about what they are made to do.
66. Bill deHaas 05/27/2011 - 11:02 pm
Finn has been through this type of situation before – in 2006.
Here is an article about Rev. Pileggi who was investigated by the Missouri State Police. During this period, Finn moved him from his parish and transferred Pileggi to Our Lady of Lourdes, Raytown, MO.
From the Missouri State Police report – (public document)
According to the police report:
2-a. Father Pileggi is attracted to same sex and has viewed numerous pornographic images of the same sex. He is sexually attracted to the same sex and preferred younger men. He gave the example that a heterosexual male of his same age would be attracted to a younger female the same way a homosexual male would be attracted to a younger male of legal age. He preferred to view younger male subjects because they look better. He considered himself homosexual or gay and understood it was not right in the eyes of the Catholic Church and that he would have to deal with the church. He added that he hasn’t had a same sex sexual relationship for several years. He has visited many male pornographic websites in the past to include… (four sites were listed which featured young males, possibly teenagers, engaging in sodomy).
2-b. …He [Pileggi] does communicate with [name edited], a personal friend in Rich Hill, Missouri, and has made sexual comments to him regarding the same sex. They often communicate via the Internet.
3. I asked Father Pileggi if I could view the pornographic tapes that he had in his possession. He recovered the tapes from a bedroom near the rear of the residence. I asked him if I could search the residence for evidence of child pornography and he agreed. While searching the residence, I located a box on the top shelf of the closet in the bedroom that he identified as his primary bedroom. In the box were additional video tapes. All of the tapes were pornographic and all except one were male pornography. He stated that he had forgotten they were in the closet.
Treatment professionals diagnosed Fr. Pileggi as a homosexual who liked young males. This treatment report was given to Finn who then sent a letter:
“….According to the Bishop’s letter it seems their was nothing
wrong with appointing Pileggi as pastor of a parish and school as long
as the parents did not know of his past. Would a “good” bishop do such
a thing?
If your neighbor was an active homosexual who was sexually
attracted to younger males and spent hours a day viewing pornography
would you allow your child to spend time there? Of course not. But the
“good” Bishop Finn believes that type of person is good enough to care
for the souls of your loved ones as long as you don’t know of his past.
Finn has been down this road before but seems to have learned nothing.
67. Claire 05/27/2011 - 11:06 pm subscriber
[Bishop Finn] said he spoke with an officer who told him that the image of a naked young girl found on the computer was not pornography because it didn’t depict sexual conduct or contact. [...] Finn said he did not personally see the images at that time.
(Read more:
So Bishop Finn is asking us to believe that he was concerned enough to describe an image to an officer, yet was not concerned enough to look at the pictures himself. I’ve been trying to suspend disbelief, but that is really stretching it!
68. Mary 05/27/2011 - 11:33 pm
The Pileggi case is different because it does not involve child pornography or child sexual abuse.
The result of the criminal investigation and psych evaluation was that Pileggi had not committed any crime, was not a pedophile, and was not at risk of abusing minors. This is a good example of a matter for the Church to address from the standpoint of sin, failure of chastity, and possible violation of his vow of celibacy. That the priest was homosexual is not relevant–the Church should deal with his pornography viewing and any lapses in celibacy no differently than if he were a heterosexual priest, in my opinion.
I do agree that judgments about what parishioners are told about a priest’s past are complicated. I’m not certain, given his case didn’t involve crime or child abuse, of what his new parish was entitled to know. Do I like the idea of my parish priest being a consumer of porn? Of course not, but given the stats of male use of pornography, I sadly suspect it’s not rare among clergy–straight or gay.
69. Todd Flowerday 05/28/2011 - 12:52 am
From my time in the diocese, I can relate that Bishop Finn seems to keep his own counsel on clergy matters. One pastor related to me that a seminarian rejected in two other dioceses (labeled “poison” by another VG) was welcomed to KC-SJ against the objections of Msgr Murphy and others. When Bishop Finn wants something, he is not easily dissuaded. I don’t know, but I can see Hess’s letter being casually dismissed.
The letter was serious enough that Msgr Murphy should have advocated for Fr Ratigan’s immediate removal. Even at the cost of his job. But as someone above said, it’s easy to suggest someone else be a hero or martyr.
Bishop Finn as a conservative is no problem for me. I’ve met the man and he is courteous and pleasant enough. A big improvement over his predecessor. Alas, he combines two unfortunate (and for him, tragic) qualities: inexperience and ideology. He didn’t even know he pink-slipped the chancery official responsible for Charter implementation in 2005. The diocese wasn’t in compliance at the time of the next report.
I don’t mention these caveats as a defense of Bishop Finn or Msgr Murphy in any way. They both performed very poorly in this. They are clearly over their heads. They’ve allowed a sex addict to groom them and play them like fiddles. They’ve allowed an adolescent approach to ideology to turn their diocese into a playground of fear. They’ve played right into the hands of all sorts of manipulators.
I think the millstone has been fitted, and it would be a mercy if Bishop Finn were forced out. His first pastoral letter and first pastoral initiative was against porn. I applaud that. But clearly, he doesn’t learn from his own teachings. Will anyone other than a blind supporter ever trust another letter he writes, another initiative he undertakes? And any clergy assignment in the diocese will come with questions, especially if it’s off the six-year cycle.
My daughter and her classmates (children I knew) were among those hundreds of children Fr Ratigan photographed over the past several years. My wife and I are deeply angry about a man we considered a family friend, whose photograph had been on our kitchen fridge for years with other priests, other friends.
I’ve also witnessed the dismantling of a diocese in the name of the gospel of ideology. The leadership there is pitiable. That’s about the best word I can put on it.
70. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 12:54 am subscriber
Mary –
Given that bishops are required by the new directives from Rome and the Dallas Charter to report all credible accusations to the police, I keep wondering what the function(s) of the review boards should have.
You might have hit on it: Their function should be to handle cases of sinful actions that are not illegal or which the police have investigated but decided for whatever reason not to prosecute. The cases for the boards would include such matters as
– Inappropriate behavior that falls short of abuse,
– Legal sexual behavior with adults, male or female. This would include consensual sex , but in some cases the clergy do take advantage of vulnerable adults, e.g., persons being counseled.
– Cases that the state has prosecuted, but the priests is not convicted for whatever reason.
Not every priest who sins sexually, it seems to me, should be tossed from the priesthood, but some should. Let the boards have power to investigate them whether the bishop agree or not, though, I’m sure, final decisions would always be made by the bishops.
Perhaps there should be a review board comprised of bishops whose function it would be to investigate their brother bishops when the laity or clergy presents the review board with credible accusations of enabling. The enabling is a separate problem from the abuse and requires a separate structure to handle it. (We can dream.)
71. Mary 05/28/2011 - 1:28 am
Ann, you said,
“Given that bishops are required by the new directives from Rome and the Dallas Charter to report all credible accusations to the police, I keep wondering what the function(s) of the review boards should have.” I’d say the board should be the bishop’s reality check on what constitutes “credible.” He shouldn’t make the call about what’s credible all by his lonesome. ALL allegations should go to the review board and if the bishop doesn’t think something is credible but the board does, it gets reported.
72. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 2:24 am subscriber
Hmm. Yes, that might be a function too.
It looks like I keep trying to find something for the boards to do, and it’s true. It seems to me that the very presence of a board in a diocese let’s the bishop know *he’s* being watched. No, not all bishops need watching, but some do.
73. Carolyn Disco 05/28/2011 - 3:28 am
I believe a Review Board makes recommendations whether there is probable cause to proceed with a full investigation, based on a standard of “semblance of truth.” Also, it assesses what actions should follow the investigation, as far as treatment, removal, placement, and so forth.
RB’s offer input on what the sexual abuse policy should contain, and how it might be revised. NH’s RB used to do its own audits, but they lacked as much substance as the USCCB audits. Bishop and RB audits parroted each other in effect. It took the AG independent audits to show the utter failure of church reviews.
The AG kept saying the RB needed to find its backbone in effect, and take more responsibility for the functioning of the compliance program.
Todd Flowerday’s post about Finn is more than sobering, especially with the involvement of his daughter and her friends. Please submit strong op-eds locally to get some traction there; speak out publicly again and again. Who else will, if parents do not?
As NH awaits the appointment of McCormack’s successor, we are not heartened by the quality of recent appointments. Remember, Burke, Rigali, Law, Levada and another American whose name I forget (Harvey?) are the ones to vet candidates.
McBrien is right: the worst crop of bishops in this country in a very long time. Is the nuncio, Pietro Sambi, offering anything germane to Rome? My sad conclusion though is it makes no difference as to resignation or removal. Still, silence is not an option.
74. Mark 05/28/2011 - 8:24 am
For anyone who may believe the principle didn’t go far enough, or believes the bishops hands were tied because Fr Ratigan did not YET break the law (which he in hind site, already had done having child pornography) I ask this question:
How is it a priest can be swiftly removed from ministry for simply publicly questioning celibacy or homosexuality or SPEAKING of ordination of woman to the priesthood…yet when a priest acts in grossly inappropriate manner with children, the bishops claim their hands were tied because Father did not break the law???? Only then do we forgo church law and now want to rely on civil law.
I recall ready about an Australian bishop recently sacked by the pope simply because he raised these issue and said they should be explored…what laws did he break? There have been many priests swiftly removed from ministry when they have strayed from church moral teaching…it is crystal clear, the sexual abuse or exploitation of children is simply not one bishops take seriously.
If we want this to stop there is simply only 1 way…Civil laws (not church law) must be put in place to hold these predators and those who will protect them accountable. Tell your law makers to GET TO WORK protecting our children! The Church is NOT WILLING to do it.
75. Claire 05/28/2011 - 10:27 am subscriber
I don’t know, but I can see Hess’s letter being casually dismissed.
I can just imagine the conversation between Msgr Murphy and Bp Finn:
“- We have received a letter from Ms Hess, the principal of St Patrick’s school, raising concerns about Father Ratigan.
- What is she complaining about?
- His behavior with the children.
- What? Did he commit sexual abuse?
- No, no sexual abuse, but inappropriate behavior.
- What do you mean, “inappropriate”?
- Well, they say that the last straw was when he let a child sit on his lap and lay back against him.
- What? Well, if that’s the worst thing they can say, that’s ridiculous. Don’t waste my time with those petty internal fights between school staff. You deal with it. Talk to Father Ratigan and Ms Hess, and get this settled. I don’t want to hear about it.
- Very well, Bishop Finn.”
76. Gerelyn 05/28/2011 - 10:43 am
Shawn (pictured with his mother) at a Boy Scout event.
77. Todd Flowerday 05/28/2011 - 11:02 am
An interesting link, Gerelyn. It keeps piling on. One of the featured priests admitted a sexual encounter with a woman in his care. Another had multiple accusations of abusing young boys.
78. Gerelyn 05/28/2011 - 11:11 am
Hart’s on that PDF, too.
79. Mary 05/28/2011 - 11:11 am
Yup, and interesting that one of them is Vicar General Murphy.
80. Jim Pauwels 05/28/2011 - 11:52 am subscriber
“Suggestions of toll-free telephone numbers, reports of instances / suspicion of abuse going directly to the review board, notification of child welfare services and police, etc. mean one thing: power to handle cases of sexual abuse will no longer be in the control of the bishops. Yet per the USCCB, review boards are only advisory. And according to the Vatican’s newest set of guidelines, independent lay review boards “cannot substitute” for the authority of individual bishops.”
Hi, Jeanne, you’re correct that I’m proposing that reports of abuse (the *input* to the review board) should and must be independent of the bishop and the diocesan apparatus. This front-end filtering by the diocese is, apparently, a major reason for the current scandal in Philly and the burgeoning one in KC. The diocese must not be allowed to determine what does and what doesn’t get presented to the review board.
But note there is nothing in what I’m proposing that would impinge on the bishop’s authority in any way. The review board would still conduct its investigation and make its recommendation to the bishop; the bishop would still take the board’s advice into account and make the final decision. The board’s *output* to the bishop would still continue as before. I believe what I’m proposing would be very much in line with both the spirit and letter of the Dallas Charter.
Regarding reporting to the police and child-protection agencies: that’s already the policy today in our archdiocese for clergy, teachers and others covered by mandated-reporting laws. The diocese expects us to do that, and has given us training on the specifics of how to do it. The bishops ceded that control (which really wasn’t rightfully theirs anyway) long ago.
Beyond those covered by mandated-reporting laws, I’d encourage *anyone* who witnesses anything that could reasonably be construed as abusive behavior to children by *anyone* to report it to the police and to the appropriate child-protection agency.
81. David Gibson 05/28/2011 - 11:57 am subscriber contributor
Todd, many thanks for your comments and information about the diocese and Bishop Finn. That’s very charitably and powerfully put. I really think that many of these men are captives of their own culture, a very small world. Hence the need to take such decisions out of their hands in some fashion.
82. Gerelyn 05/28/2011 - 12:00 pm
Yup, and interesting that one of them is Vicar General Murphy.
I missed that one.
I wonder how he could have read the principal’s letter and not done more than he did. The principal explains how when she tried to talk Shawn out of his behavior, he interrupted to tell her that kids need . . . blah blah blah.
(I find the doll clothes shaped tea towels odd, too.)
The letter:

83. Jim Pauwels 05/28/2011 - 12:02 pm subscriber
Judy Jones of SNAP wrote: “If you have been harmed by Ratigan or any clergy, employee, volunteer, etc, do not report it to the diocese, it is a crime, so we urge you to please report it to the police.”
With all due respect to Ms. Jones and SNAP, this is bad advice. Report any abuse by clergy to:
* the police
* child protection agencies
* the diocese
All have their own spheres of responsibility and all must be given the chance to discharge their obligations. We’ve learned in this thread that the church falls down, egregiously, from time to time. The same is true of the police and child protection agencies.
We’ve learned, from this thread and from what has happened in Philly, that if the church isn’t informed, then the process that the church has in place – of which the review boards are the key piece – has absolutely no chance of doing what it needs to do: investigate the charges and, if credible, recommend to the bishop that he be removed from ministry.
84. Gerelyn 05/28/2011 - 12:15 pm
Interesting points made by Jim Fitzpatrick on his (great) blog:
85. Jeanne Follman 05/28/2011 - 12:57 pm subscriber
Jim says: “But note there is nothing in what I’m proposing that would impinge on the bishop’s authority in any way. The review board would still conduct its investigation and make its recommendation to the bishop; the bishop would still take the board’s advice into account and make the final decision. The board’s *output* to the bishop would still continue as before. I believe what I’m proposing would be very much in line with both the spirit and letter of the Dallas Charter.”
Jim, what you propose doesn’t solve David’s problem of what to do when bishops do not take action. There are structures that can be implemented that solve the problem, but they involve impinging on the existing power of the bishops, which is why they haven’t been implemented and which explain the title of this thread. I don’t see any way however, that they can be avoided if we really want to solve the problem. Something’s got to give. Autocracy cannot co-exist with authentic transparency and accountability.
86. Joseph Jaglowicz 05/28/2011 - 1:12 pm subscriber
Mr. Logan, thank you for providing the link to relevant information on the diocesan website yesterday.
Why did I miss it? Why did Mr. Gibson apparently miss it?
I don’t know for sure, but being the visual person I am, perhaps it had to do with the page arrangement: lighter blue on the left and darker blue (including Coordinator’s info) at center and right of linked page. Just guessing.
Did anybody else on this thread miss this information that was in plain sight on the “Protecting Children” page linked by Mr. Logan? Willing to admit it :-) ???
87. Jack Barry 05/28/2011 - 1:15 pm
Jim P. –
I agree with your reporting advice (12:02PM). However, one observation needs further work – “the review boards are the key piece”.
CNS on May 23 described 7 review boards that they said are working well. That leaves about 170 not heard from. A few we have recently heard about were neutered by the bishop, leaving them unknowingly as facades while the bishops and monsignori proceeded unfettered and, more important, unilluminated.
Inevitably, occasions arise, not foreseeable in detail, when the seasoned judgment of women and men embedded in the culture outside the walls is essential in assessing and dealing wisely with a Church situation such as possible priestly sexual abuse of youngsters. In theory, the purpose of a review board is to provide that wisdom in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity. Current and traditional allocation of authority and obligations between the bishop and others, reinforced by the living hierarchy over decades, offers little hope for constructive change except under extreme duress. Recent public statements by Rigali, Finn, and others and a review of what remains unaddressed since 1985 indicate more persuasion is required to bring about essential change.
(Among the unsung saints of the day are the board members who keep trying because children matter to them, notwithstanding suspicions or convictions about what is actually going on behind their backs.)
Jeanne F.’s comment immediately above said it better.
88. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 1:18 pm subscriber
Mark –
There is an important reason why priests who challenge orthodoxy are removed quickly while those who “just” sin are not. It is the very function of the hierarchy.. a basic reason for their existing at all, to preserve the truths of the Faith (as they seem the Faith). So it is quite right that they occasionally clamp down on heresy and quickly. And note: heresy is usually easier to identify than hidden sins.
On the other hand, the identification of hidden sins is much more difficult to judge than simple heresy which is spoken out publicly. So bishops — and the rest of us too — should be careful of accusing priests of sinning. (All priests have rights, and sometimes the laity seems to forget this.)
Unfortunately, in cases of child abuse, the matter of due process for accused priests becomes problematic because there are children involved, and children, unlike priests, are essentially defenseless. A great deal of this whole mess is concerned with due process for priests v. due process for the children. We *should* be concerned with due process for the priests, and the problem really is psychologically worse for the bishops who have to decide against their “sons and brothers”. Unfortunately for the *wrongly accused* priests (and no doubt there are a few of them), fairness to the children outweighs fairness to the innocent priests because the little ones are helpless.
This same sort of conflict of rights is raging politically right now in the U. S. — I mean the problem of due process for suspected terrorists who might be plotting to bomb New York. I think we rightly allow weakened standards of due process in their cases because of the great potential damage they might do. Same with the suspected priests — their targets are helpless innocents, and when the priests’ rights conflict with the rights of the innocent children, we correctly give preference to the rights of the helpless.
Is this fair? Not entirely. What I’m saying is that the rights of the known innocent must prevail over the rights of the only *possibly* innocent. The alternative is even less fair.
In both sorts of cases, a basic ethical principle “do not do evil to accomplish good” has to be violated in order not to do a worse wrong.
89. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 1:29 pm subscriber
Carolyn –
About hope of help from Rome. It seems that right now Italy is going the way of the U.S., Ireland, and Belgium. There seems to be a snowballing of reported cases of priest abusers, and, according to John Allen, Benedict is clamping down on such priests in Italy. Allen even calls it a revolution. It doesn’t extend to the enabling bishops, but we can hope, I think, that as the Italians start to see the complexity of the problems more clearly, so will the Pope. Let us pray that Benedict, or the next pope, will finally see the crucial role the bishops have played in all this and the need to reform the hierarchy.
90. Bob Nunz 05/28/2011 - 2:30 pm
My predictions:
In a short time, the Finn case wil die down (except locally in KC for a while).
The beleivers of the 60’s-70?s caused the crisis wil continue to beleive that.
Donahue and his acolytes will blather on about homosexuals as the problem.
The USCCB wil meet in June, issue more boilerplate but make sure nothing substantial is done to bishops who screw up and that their prerogatives are intact.
Things wil go on as before until there’s a new headline(s) and new blog pieces. ,media coverage, etc. will roli the pot again, but
nothing substantial wil happen as long as canon law rules.
91. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 2:36 pm subscriber
All this talk about review boards seems to be directed towards getting some force within the system that we call “the Church” that will be a sure counter-force to the bishops (our “shepherds”/” guardians”) who choose not to do their duty. But there is no such thing as a sure system of guardians –as Plato asked, who will guard the guardians? If we just supply more guardians, then we will just have guardians all the way down.
More and more I think that structurally the thing to do is to have the counter=force to the do-nothing shepherds come from within the level of the shepherds themselves. Why? Given human nature, there is always competition and conflict in any group, so I’m quite certain that there will always be within the ranks of the bishops other bishops who are willing (and in some cases even eager) to taken their fellow shepherds down when it sees fair and necessary. Sad, but true.
So I say have review boards composed of bishops with the power to investigate credibly accused enablers and also have the power to demand that Rome remove the enablers.
92. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 2:42 pm subscriber
Oops — “… to taken their fellow shepherds down when it sees fair and necessary…” should be:
“to take their fellow shepherds down when they think it is fair and necessary”.
93. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 2:59 pm subscriber
P. S, The review boards made up of bishops would not necessarily eliminate the lay diocesan ones. In fact, diocesan ones could be extremely useful to the national one when it is necessary for the national board to act. Think how useful it would be right now to have a national review board to handle the Rigali, George and Finn cases.
The national board composed of bishops might also include ex officio the chairpersons of the relevant diocesan boards — e.g., if the bishops’ board actually investigated C. Rigali, Ms. Catanzaro from the Philly review board might also be a member of that investigative team. But maybe not.
94. Mary 05/28/2011 - 3:08 pm
“I’m quite certain that there will always be within the ranks of the bishops other bishops who are willing (and in some cases even eager) to taken their fellow shepherds down when it seems fair and necessary”–AnnO
That’d be nice–but so far they aren’t even willing to insist their brethren must agree to mandatory audits. I’d worry there’d just be more of the thin red line–don’t dig up my dirt and I won’t dig up yours. Before your idea, Ann, I’d want to see if they have the moral fiber to denounce Philly and KC-StJoseph. If they can’t condemn obvious errors that are now virtually beyond dispute, I doubt they’d be willing to throw a brother Bishop other under the popemobile on stickier judgement calls in each other’s turf. As JeanneF keeps pointing out, until they give up some power real change can’t happen.
That the agenda items for the USCCB meeting seems so far to comprise stating the obvious (duh, porn; duh, abuse of mentally impaired adults), as if without putting it in writing a bishop shouldn’t be expected to exercise common sense, doesn’t do much to inspire confidence that they’re willing to wrestle with the real issues.
95. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 4:06 pm subscriber
Mary –
I agree with you that the current American bishops are hopeless. Even though there might be a few willing to act, they see that the vast majority of them aren’t willing to police themselves, so why should they stick their necks out.
Aristotle (him again :-) observed that the best, most efficient system of government is a good monarchy, but ONLY when the monarch is both competent and virtuous. There have been a few truly great popes who have been, and they have benefited the Church enormously. Is it possible there will be another one? Hope is always possible when the Holy Spirit is with us. Even Benedict seems to be a vast improvement over JP II. So do not despair.
We know there are a couple of cardinals willing to speak out. Who knows, they might persuade others to do so, and one of them might even become pope.
Since reading the Kennedy profile of typical American bishops, I’ve reversed my understanding of what motivates them. I no longer think that most of them power-grabbers, I think that most are very weak, convention-bound men who summon up enough courage to act only in groups, if then. But with a few saintly leaders, they too might develop some spine, With a truly saintly pope, there could be some radical changes. But the rest of us have to keep the issue alive, and that takes some courage from us too sometimes.
96. Jimmy Mac 05/28/2011 - 5:11 pm subscriber
Irene poste above: “Again, my question is what to do when bishops do not take action?”
Indict them?”
One thing we know that gets the attention of bishops, the Vatican and the church in general is money. Big contributors’ donations open doors, get private phone numbers and private meetings, etc. Well, most of us don’t fit that category.
But – we can use this unholy attraction to money to our advantage.
Sue the bejeepers out of those who have the power and authority to take action and don’t. Hurt the dioceses in the pocketbook. Will that hurt others? Yes, but the finances are too intertwined to do otherwise. Until and unless the average people in the pews come to their senses about what is and isn’t happening, the marbles will all be in the bishops’ pockets.
My parish has refused to contribute to the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal for about 10 years (any privately designated contributions were paid as requested, but no general parish funds) because of the funding and positions the California bishops have taken regarding matters affection LGBT people. There have been innumerable conversations between the Archdiocese and the parish and only last year did we agree to pay going forward (no making up the $500k arrears) but only to Catholic Charities, not the Archdiocese. We also pay our rental income tax to selected parish schools, not the Archdiocese.
Where this is a will there is a way — but there has to be a will, and courage, and the willingness to stand your ground.
Maybe people can learn to accept short term pain for longer term gain.
97. Jack Barry 05/28/2011 - 6:16 pm
On looking for internally initiated improvements dependent on bishops as suggested above:
Nicholas Cafardi, a veteran of the initial NRB, describes in “Fraternal Correction” (3/12/10) the US bishops’ parallel to Ireland’s “self-perpetuating mediocracy” in which “incompetence breeds incompetence”. His topic is the absence of fraternal correction among bishops and the consequences. It does not encourage optimism. And recall that the US cardinals helping to nominate new bishops to the Pope are Law, Rigali, Levada, and Burke.
A similarly educational view on bishops was pointed out nearby recently by Joe Jaglowicz and Jimmy Mac.
Eugene Kennedy, “U.S. Bishops: The Great Inertia” at
“A recent commentary published in Commonweal by the chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board [Dr. Ana Maria Catanzaro, RN] was reflective of her own opinions and not those of the entire board.” She has been on the Phila. board for 8 years, serves as its chair, and sits on the USCCB National Review Board. What would it take for her opinions to attract some modestly respectful Archdiocesan attention?
Hope springs eternal, fortunately, but how many bishops nationwide can you name who have shown the mental, moral, and leadership capacity to bring about the national improvements that seem necessary?
98. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 7:49 pm subscriber
Jimmy Mac –
I can’t go so far as to refuse money. But for those who do, here’s a suggestion: take an envelope supplied for the collection you’re not contributing to and literally send a message to your bishop with it. Organize your parish so that at least your pastor will get your message. For instance, you could include a note in the envelope that says: “I cannot in conscience contribute because of the failure of our bishop to meet his obligations to the abused children. Bishop X should resign/retire”. This could also be done on a diocesan basis. I bet the bishop would somehow get the message. I still think that shaming sometimes works to change things.
99. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 7:51 pm subscriber
Jack –
No, there is little or no hope if all we have are the intentions of flawed human beings. But there is the Holy Spirit. We must not despair. That’s the unforgivable sin, isn’t it?
100. Claire 05/28/2011 - 10:52 pm subscriber
Discussing this latest scandal is depressing. When I started reading about it, I was impressed by Bp Finn’s willingness to meet the parishioners, to be visible, to admit errors, and his readiness to take some hard words coming from the people. The possibility of his having some integrity was arresting, and motivated me to follow this story closely.
But now that I see the familiar behavior of this bishop, like others before him, claiming that he never saw the incriminating letter, that he never saw the dubious images, and now that I see him throwing his vicar general under the bus to protect himself, I recognize the insufferable hypocrisy, and I see that once again I have been fooled, if fleetingly. Aren’t those extremely conservative bishops supposed to have the ability to stand tall and maintain their rigid integrity even in the face of contrary winds? But once again, it turned out to be just a facade. What happened to their sense of honor? Where have all the good men gone? So disappointing. Once again I remind myself: never trust a bishop.
I just need to better train myself to ignore bishops. Even when I think I see a sign of character in one of them, it’s an illusion.
101. Carolyn Disco 05/29/2011 - 12:36 am
David Gibson @ 05/28/2011 – 11:57 am: “I really think that many of these men are captives of their own culture, a very small world.”
Yes, this returns to the question of clericalism, arrogant clericalism, as Tom Doyle calls it:
Ann O @ 05/28/2011 – 4:06 pm: “Since reading the Kennedy profile of typical American bishops, I’ve reversed my understanding of what motivates them. I no longer think that most of them [are] power-grabbers, I think that most are very weak, convention-bound men who summon up enough courage to act only in groups, if then.”
Yes, they are very mediocre men … What socialization and formation did they imbibe and accept to reach their position? Shaming does have possibilities, as Ann notes.
Eugene Kennedy captures the mindset:
“The heart of the hierarchical dilemma is found in the inability of hierarchs to relate except from the safe and secure heights of their conviction that by their being chosen as bishops they were invested with the knowledge necessary for their office and that, indeed, they have a share in the infallibility of the pope.
The greatest chasm in Catholicism is not between conservatives and progressives but between bishops who trade on outdated theological understandings and relate to their people on untenable hierarchical presumptions.”
Sorry, I cannot find a link to NCR, Oct. 21, 2005 when it compared hierarchy to a beached whale.
Holy Spirit, Pentecost is coming. Remember us, please.
102. Jack Barry 05/29/2011 - 1:46 am
Carolyn –
Bishops and the beached whale: they wait for signal from new pope, but bishops need to let hierarchical style die
by Eugene Cullen Kennedy
Oct 21, 2005 issue of National Catholic Reporter
For some of these men, enculturation began at around age 14, including Finn. My hypothesis is that they missed out on the most transformative 5-6 years of environments and experiences a boy is normally exposed to en route from boyhood to manhood. Many new perspectives, opportunities, and interactions, good and bad, may become available in that period. They lay the foundation for what comes later.
103. Carolyn Disco 05/29/2011 - 2:21 am
Thank you, Jack, for the link! I had searched and searched for one.
Astute point, of course. I heard Benedict went in at 12. How grotesque that youngsters had so little meaningful guidance in those years.
I wonder if data indicates there is any correlation between age of entrance and later attitudes, immaturity, or dysfunction. Or does clericalism take root no matter when one enters? Priest friends have told me some of the juvenile/misogynist humor about women in seminaries.
The Legion of Christ still operates three minor seminaries in this country: NH, IN, CA. Gross. Why do bishops allow them to operate in their dioceses? Perhaps a hefty contribution comes their way?
104. Bill deHaas 05/29/2011 - 1:30 pm
Good points – allow me to expand:
- Formation directors and seminary administrators realized by the mid-1970’s that minor seminaries were a thing of the past. A number of studies indicated that both minor and college seminaries required a student/candidate to live as if he had already committed to the vows esp. celibacy. Psychologists call this phenomenon -”premature closure” which means that a person does not go through the “natural” stages of growth e.g. dating, relationships that both grow and fail, the pain and struggles associated with growing up.
This resulted in men being ordained at 26, 27, 28 who basically made a choice to stop emotional growth at an early age.
- Point – any valid psychology study knows that we all go through the stages of growth at one time or another. We all have types of “premature closure” and we eventually feel safe enough to explore any passed over stages. This resulted in men in the late 20’s or 30’s living through their own emotional adolescence.
- Finished a study in 1982 comparing a college seminary cohort with the same age of students at St. Louis University. The college students were not developed to the same stage as their same age group cohort in a catholic university setting.
- JJ Study missed a number of dynamics – by 1975, over 20,000 priests had left (most to get married). Also by 1990, almost 50% of all seminaries had closed. We also saw a huge decrease in the number of candidates. A couple of things resulted – significant percentage of priests/candidates were now gay; and the abuse percentage began to decline -(stats would of course easily explain this). JJ Study also ignored the fact that reporting abuse often occurs 20 or more years later – so we really don’t know what is happening during the 1990’s or later
- JJ Study quoted from Kennedy’s 1970=72 psychological study of priests in the US – 20% maladjusted; 65% underdeveloped; 15% considered adult and mature. Apply these percentages to the JJ Study results and you can see the similarities right there.
- What the JJ Study completely misses are the studies and results/experience of folks such as Donald Cozzens on the “gaying” of the priesthood. JJ Study made up their own definition/age cut off for pedophilia (okay, fine but using the standard professional definition; 73% of all victims were in the age group for pedophilia. The study should have focused on “criminal abuse”. 80% of all victims were male (dismissing this by saying that male victims were easy to get to?). Couple that with the psychological fact of “premature closure”; higher percentage of gay priests; changes in the church (more and more single priest parishes; lack of oversight; etc.); and a phenomenon they do not even mention – the church’s public stance on homosexuality and the confusion this caused in seminary development – basically, homosexuality was never discussed. The gay candidate progressed in a “bubble”.
- why JJ Study did not avail themselves of experts in formation e.g. Cozzens, etc. is a major weakness of the study.
- how do you explain that 80% of victims were male; that 65% were 13 or younger. My conclusion is that a type of pedophile priest was responsible for 65% of the victims; and one significant aspect of the other 35% is that most were 15=16-17 year old males – the result of gay priests acting out and catching up on the stages of growth that they had “prematurely’ closed. Once free of the seminary structure, they began to face their own emotional growth. Notice that the Study indicates that most of the priest perps for 15-18 year olds also had sexual experiences with adults. What about heterosexual priests – well, the study did not explore or look at sexual behaviors of priests on average; it only used data from confirmed abuse cases
- if you just looked at three seminaries – LA, Boston, and STL with minor, college, theologates you would see specific ordination classes that have anywhere from 10-20% confirmed abusers. Finn, Dolan, Rigali, Sheridan to name a few were products of these seminaries.
- So, to answer your question – there are plenty of studies that correlate this type of development with dysfunction and clericalism.
- Finally, liked their image of a police culture but this really applies to the episcopal behaviors which are barely touched upon by the JJ Study. It may go a long way to shed light on the fact that priests, by and large, have not spoken out about abuse; have not pushed back on their bishops, have not unified like Boston priests with Law. But it is a weak analogy to compare police and clerical culture – the clerical culture is more persuasive, inflicts more emotional damage on victims, etc.
Note of Caution: using age groups does not fully capture emotional development. In the 1980’s onward, “older” vocations were thought to be the answer to this dilemma. What we found was that a 35 year old male may be as undeveloped as a 20 year old. It is a complex process. You experience some of the same psychological behaviors with foreign priests – some are not able to handle the US culture in terms of sexual behaviors.
105. ed gleason 05/29/2011 - 3:18 pm subscriber
Bill’s points are well taken. ” . Finn, Dolan, Rigali, Sheridan to name a few were products of these seminaries.’
Their being raised and formed in that minor seminary culture gives these bishops absolutely no pass that ‘they did not know and were ’shocked’ at the extent of the dysfunction.” They are still in deep denial and DENIAL is the biggest scourge of recovery. Denial =no recovery… .and no hope for recovery. Denial leads to death quickly..Death of what?… whatever they are in charge of. The laity have not yet come up with a viable plan for intervention;. the addicted bishops have kept hitting multiple bottoms and no plan for intervention has surfaced. In intervention the counselor tries gets a promise from the ‘family’ that if specific steps are not taken, the family will no longer maintain contact or support.How about A national laity intervention.. Forget money; a better one would be a well organized national stay-away Sunday. The bishops would be challenged with OK doctrinal governance changes first and if no compliance …People would gather in front of all churches with denial counselors.
106. Jack Barry 05/29/2011 - 8:46 pm
Bill deHaaas – Thanks very much for history and observations.
Add to list of those who missed (or deferred) critical maturing experience in a boy’s growth sequence due to minor sem.: George, O’Malley, Mahony, and Burke. Named above: Finn, Dolan, Rigali, Sheridan)
(In Nov 2010, then-Abp. Raymond Burke in a Vatican Radio interview recalled the ’60s in the seminary, especially remembering rebelliousness that went as far as disregard for canon law. Many a US campus and city in the ’60s would have gladly settled for that.)
107. Ann Olivier 05/29/2011 - 10:16 pm subscriber
My favorite true story of how isolated seminarians could be in the 60’s was told to me by a former seminarian friend who lived at one time in a seminary housed deep in the woods somewhere.
There was NOTHING there for the seminarians to do to amuse themselves. For amusement one of my friend’s seminarian confreres got a pair of binoculars to observe distant things more closely. One day when this kid was looking out of the window of his own bedroom, he turned his binoculars toward the wing of the building at a right-angle to the seminarians’ wing, the wing where the priests lived. What did the kid see in a window across the way? A priest with a pair of binoculars spying on the seminarians’ wing :-)
108. Jack Barry 05/30/2011 - 7:05 pm
A superb, very relevant follow-up to the Cafardi and 2 Kennedy articles noted above and many bishop/clergy issues being discussed is in the Wash Post, 5/30, p.A21.
Secretary Robert Gates spoke on leadership, an intensely human art that has been studied and practiced for millennia. He spoke to new US officers, not about how to go to sea and win when tested, but about leadership as “a strength of purpose and belief in a cause that reaches out to others, touches their hearts and makes them eager to follow.” Every one of the many facets he mentioned brought immediately to my mind a Catholic bishop or cardinal whose performance has been on display in recent times. He brings in the integrity and honor Clare (5/28 10:52P) wonders about.
It is important to note that nothing he describes is peculiar to the military, although they take it very seriously because of their mission and the lives at stake. It is a short primer for anyone burdened with important responsibilities and authority. Highly recommended as background for thinking about bishops, institutional effectiveness, and related needs.
109. Carolyn Disco 05/30/2011 - 9:11 pm
Perfect link, Jack.
“A further quality of leadership is courage: not just the physical courage of the seas, of the skies and of the trenches, but moral courage. The courage to chart a new course, the courage to do what is right and not just what is popular, the courage to stand alone, the courage to act, the courage as a military officer to “speak truth to power.”…
Another essential quality of leadership is integrity. Without this, real leadership is not possible. Nowadays, it seems like integrity — or honor or character — is kind of quaint, a curious, old-fashioned notion…
But for a real leader, personal virtues — self-reliance, self-control, honor, truthfulness, morality — are absolute. These are the building blocks of character, of integrity — and only on that foundation can real leadership be built.”
Moral courage, integrity, character — what bishop, archbishop, or cardinal exemplifies those qualities in the public square today? Less than one hand for me to count them.
For a priest, I think immediately of Tom Doyle, who suffered the consequences of speaking truth to power, won a prestigious award for moral courage, another as a priest of integrity, 16 military decorations for his years in the Air Force, the Isaac Hecker award, and the undying gratitude of survivors for precisely the qualities mentioned in the article.
No honeyed words, legalese, or PR superficialities; the courage and fearless integrity of a true man of God. BTW, Tom was committed to the military chaplaincy, whether receiving the bodies of slain soldiers or those wounded in battle on the flight line at all hours of the night, sleeping in the desert in Iraq, caring for our troops for 18 years in myriad ways.
Memorial Day is an appropriate time to honor his service by quoting the secretary of defense.
110. Claire 06/07/2011 - 7:08 pm subscriber
Thinking back about this, I remember Bp. Finn claiming that he did not read the letter from the school principal, and that as of a few days ago he still had not seen the questionable photos. He is the one who is ultimately responsible for decisions, yet he does not even look at the evidence. Even if I believe him, that is bizarre.



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