What on Earth Is Wrong with Our Bishops?

By Kevin O'Brien
Waiting for Godot to Leave
October 1, 2013

What on earth is wrong with our bishops?  

As bad as I thought Bishop Finn handled the Fr. Ratigan case, I had no idea that he ignored the red flags described in this letter alone.  The letter was written in 2010 by Julie Hess, the principal of the Catholic school at the parish where Fr. Ratigan was pastor, and delivered to Finn's Vicar General, his second-in-command.

All you need to keep in mind while reading it is that Fr. Ratigan was later discovered to have been busy taking pornographic photographs of the little girls of his parish (one as young as age two), was molesting them, and has since been sentenced to 50 years in Federal prison without the possibility of parole.

How did Fr. Ratigan's ordinary react to this letter and to the unfolding of this horrific case?

  • Bishop Finn utterly and totally ignored this letter.  As far as I know, he never even acknowledged receiving it until more than a year later, after the story broke, when he claimed he finally "read it for the first time."  Even if this is true (and I doubt it), how can the Vicar General receive a letter like this and not insist that the bishop read it immediately and act on it?
  • Bishop Finn failed to report the abuse of these children to the police once it became known to him.
  • Bishop Finn refused to let the parishioners know their children were victimized by Fr. Ratigan.
  • Bishop Finn placed Ratigan in an unsupervised setting where he continued to have access to the children of the parish, and continued to abuse them.
  • Bishop Finn allowed the computer containing the evidence of pornography to be destroyed.  And though a copy of the hard drive had been made, police were certain that other evidence could have been uncovered from the computer by experts, had Finn not given the computer back to one of Ratigan's relatives, who promptly trashed it.
  • Bishop Finn spent $1.4 million dollars of diocesan funds defending himself against two misdemeanor charges relating to this case that he was nonetheless convicted of - a conviction that imposed only a few thousand dollars in penalties.
  • Bishop Finn's supporters made light of the child abuse.
  • Bishop Finn's supporters - including his brother bishops - blamed not Bishop Finn, but the local news media for all of this.
Catholics of Kansas City / St. Jo: after reading this letter, if you give one dime to the diocese, you are enabling a situation where this kind of thing is encouraged.  

And we know that Archbishop Nienstadt of St. Paul and Bishop O'Connell of Trenton recently behaved exactly as Bishop Finn did in Kansas City - with contempt for the innocent victims and with flagrant disregard for the red flags that their own disturbed priests were waving.  And all this ten years after the sex scandal broke - a decade after the bishops have been telling us they've fixed things!

I'm beginning to think most of these men really don't believe a word they preach.  I suspect a level of corruption and degradation has grown up in the episcopacy that we cannot imagine, and that the bishops are deliberately shielding and enabling men like this, not out of incompetence, but with careful planning and for the worst of reasons.

Well, read the letter and see what you think.

Personally, I think after ignoring a letter like this and letting children continue to get harmed, Finn should be ashamed to call himself a man much less a priest of Christ.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.