US Bishop for Court for Ignoring Sex Abuse
September 6, 2012
THE criminal case against the highest-ranking Catholic official in the US to be charged with shielding an abusive priest is headed for a swift ending after prosecutors and the bishop's lawyer agreed Wednesday to let a judge - not jurors - decide the case.
Lawyers for Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn and prosecutors will have their case tried by a judge Thursday, weeks ahead of a scheduled Sept. 24 jury trial on misdemeanour charges that Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph failed to report suspected child abuse. The judge is expected to reach a verdict later that day.
The charges stem from the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's child porn case, in which church officials knew about photos on the priest's computer but didn't turn him in for six months. Finn has argued that he was not the diocese's mandated reporter under the law - at the time, the responsibility rested mainly with Vicar General Robert Murphy - so Finn should not face charges.
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A computer technician found child pornography on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's laptop in December 2010, and reported it to the diocese. Many of the hundreds of images of small children were focused on the crotch areas of the clothed children. One series showed the exposed genitals of a girl believed to be 3 or 4 years old.
Finn has acknowledged he was told in December 2010 about the images. The bishop also has acknowledged that a school principal raised concerns about Ratigan's behaviour around children in May 2010, half a year before the photos were found.
Murphy confronted Ratigan about the photos, and the next day, Ratigan was found in his garage with his motorcycle running and a suicide note that apologised for any harm he had caused. Ratigan was hospitalised but recovered.
Ratigan pleaded guilty last month to federal charges of producing and attempting to produce child pornography, admitting to taking photos of children 2 to 9 years old. Prosecutors said they will request that he spend the rest of his life in prison.