Catholic Magazine Calls Church out on Sexual Abuse Response

Nonprofit Quarterly

Written by Rick Cohen Created on Friday, 28 September 2012 13:20 .

October 1, 2012; Source: America

America, the national Catholic weekly magazine, has an editorial in its current edition that warrants attention from the nonprofit sector. The America editors draw a comparison between the sad and inadequate efforts of the United States to escape its responsibility for the use of torture (during military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and—to our surprise—Libya, back when the Qaddafi regime was a purported U.S. ally) with the efforts of some Catholic bishops to sidestep responsibility for dealing with sexual abuse perpetrated by the priests they supervise.

The U.S. Bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” instructs supervisors about how to deal with credible accusations of a priest sexual abuse, which includes reporting the information to the police, removing the priest while investigations are going on, dismissing the priest permanently if he is found guilty, and sometimes defrocking or laicizing the guilty party. America asks, in light of the conviction of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, “what happens when [the priest’s] supervising bishop is found guilty of negligence or malfeasance?”

Bishop Finn has been convicted of a misdemeanor for failing to report the suspected child abuse of Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a parish priest who had been charged with inappropriate behavior around kids and was then shown to have downloaded pornographic pictures of girls onto his computer laptop (revealed when he brought the laptop in for repairs). Finn reportedly resisted taking action on reports about Ratigan’s behavior, according to America, so that he might, as he allegedly told colleagues, “save Father Ratigan’s priesthood.” While the bishops seem to have a regime in place for dealing with future Ratigans, America suggests that the problem of punishing or removing a recalcitrant bishop like Finn “is left up to the offending bishop himself,” which basically means no punitive action. Although Finn has been convicted, the diocese has no plans for dismissing him and actually issued a statement that Finn looks forward to returning to his duties as a bishop.

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