Priest Scandals Are Sorely Lacking in Prosecutions

By Mary Sanchez
Kansas City Star
June 4, 2011

Faith neednít be blind, not with justice on its side.

Prosecutors can restore the tattered faith of parishioners within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. But that hasnít happened.

Some Catholics will gather today and call for the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, head of the diocese embattled by accusations that a priest took pornographic photos of children around schools and parishes.

The anger, the desire to chastise Finn, is understandable.

But removing him wonít answer the questions of lifelong Catholics who scrimped and saved to tithe and fund parochial educations for their children.

This is worldwide scandal. Finn is one figurehead in a church hierarchy that has undercut the trust of those who support it financially and faithfully.

People deserve answers. And they are not likely to receive ones they will believe from the diocese.

A victimís advocacy group already has asked for a grand jury investigation of the diocese. Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests noted 18 current and ex-priests had been accused, yet none had been prosecuted. On Thursday, the diocese finally removed one of those priests from a local parish.

A grand jury could help. In Philadelphia, one prompted the archdiocese to suspend 30 priests. The same scrutiny should happen here.

Crucial questions it can answer: Did the diocese or its school administrators avoid laws to report suspected abuse? When no victim comes forward but abuse is suspected, what action should be taken?

Before this concludes, Finn may need to step down. But if the $10 million settlement the diocese negotiated in 2008 with a group of victims didnít urge significant change, naming a new bishop wonít do it.

The need for external, not just internal, church reviews was stressed in the May report on the abuse scandal prepared for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Among the conclusions was a call for transparency and an admittance of how difficult it is to shift Catholic hierarchy.

ďThe church has now begun a system of change, but organizational changes take years, and often decades, to fully implement,Ē the report said.

That truth was evident after a meeting organized by the group that called for the grand jury.

Kay Goodnow was part of the 2008 settlement and said she was raped as a teenager by a now-deceased priest. The abuse began in 1952. On Thursday evening, she consoled a worried couple from St. Joseph.

The familyís two daughters attend schools where Father Shawn F. Ratigan, the priest recently charged with possessing child pornography, worked.

ďIím so sorry,Ē she said, reaching to hug the mother.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to


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