Bishop Apologizes in Message Read to Catholics

By Glenn E. Rice
Kansas City Star
June 5, 2011

[Bishop Finn's message]

In a statement read to Catholics across the Kansas City area Sunday, Bishop Robert Finn accepted responsibility for not responding to warnings about a priest now accused of possessing child pornography.

Finn, leader of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, has come under sharp criticism after a priest was charged last month with possessing child pornography.

"As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them," Finn said in the statement that was read in weekend Masses across the diocese. "Clearly, we have to do more."

Last week, Finn acknowledged that he did not heed warnings about the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan's past behavior and expressed regret about the handling of the case.

Ratigan, 45, of Kansas City, North, was charged last month by Clay County authorities with three counts of possessing child pornography — photos taken while working for churches and schools in the area. Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to those charges and remains in custody on $200,000 bond.

The diocese already had acknowledged that a principal of a Catholic school in Kansas City, North, had warned diocesan officials a year ago of Ratigan's troubling behavior around girls.

On Thursday night, the diocese announced that Finn has removed another priest from his duties because of "credible reports" of sexual misconduct with minors.

"These are sobering realities, particularly for those who knew and trusted them," Finn said. "We are assessing what went wrong and applying our analysis as we move forward."

In addition, a federal lawsuit, filed by the parents of a young girl, also alleges that beginning around 2006 and continuing through 2010 the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan took photographs underneath her clothing and while the child was nude.

Since then some Catholics have called for Finn to resign for failing to alert authorities about troubling behavior Ratigan displayed to girls at schools and churches that he was associated.

A group of angry Catholics protested across the street from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, calling on Finn to resign. Some Catholics also were there and voiced their support of Finn.

In the statement issued late Saturday, Finn said that he would continue to cooperate with all local authorities regarding these matters.

"These past few weeks all of us have endured the consequences of our human failure," he said. "The destructive sins of a few and the serious lapses in communication have caused us shame, anger, and confusion."

"There are victims that are hurting, and others who have been left vulnerable by our processes," Finn said.

During the past week, Finn said he has met with the chair of the diocesan's Independent Review Board to discuss various matters. Finn also said he would continue to meet with parishioners, clergy and Chancery staff.

"While we must deal with these difficult and trying issues we also must give thanks for the daily accomplishments of our lay faithful, priests and others for the many good works that continue on behalf of neighbors, sick or poor, young or old," he said.


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