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
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?
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
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
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
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. http://www.nyc.gov/html/acs/html/child_safety/mandated_reporters.shtml
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
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
21. Irene Baldwin 05/27/2011 - 12:05 pm
“Again, my question is what to do when bishops do not take
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
wrong with appointing Pileggi as pastor of a parish and school as
as the parents did not know of his past. Would a “good”
bishop do such
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
“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: http://www.kmbc.com/news/28052216/detail.html#ixzz1NbyATBoT)
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
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
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
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
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
75. Claire 05/28/2011 - 10:27 am subscriber
I don’t know, but I can see Hess’s letter being casually
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
- 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.)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
90. Bob Nunz 05/28/2011 - 2:30 pm
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
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,
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
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
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?”
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
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
On a local scale, COMMUNICATION FROM THE ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA,
May 19, 2011:
“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
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
99. Ann Olivier 05/28/2011 - 7:51 pm subscriber
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
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
Yes, this returns to the question of clericalism, arrogant clericalism,
as Tom Doyle calls it: http://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/arrogant-clericalism-never-assessed-john-jay-report?page=1
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
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
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
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
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
- 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,
(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
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,
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.