When Bishops Are Held Accountable

Catholic Moral Theology

By: Julie Rubio

A few weeks ago, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, MO became the first U.S. bishop to be held accountable for the child abuse by priests. Though I regret the lateness of this post, I did not think that this event should go by without comment from our blog. In the New York Times, John Eligon and Laurie Goodstein reported:

“The case began when the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest who had previously attracted attention for inappropriate behavior with children, took his laptop computer in for repairs in December 2010. A technician immediately told church officials that the laptop contained what appeared to be pornographic photographs of young girls’ genitals, naked and clothed.

Father Ratigan attempted suicide, survived and was sent for treatment. Bishop Finn reassigned him to live in a convent and ordered him stay away from children. But Father Ratigan continued to attend church events and take lewd pictures of girls for five more months, until church officials reported him in May 2011, without Bishop Finn’s approval. The bishop was found guilty on the charge relating only to that time period.”

According to the same article, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was happy to finally see a conviction of a bishop, but remains convinced that only jail time will bring about lasting change.

Perhaps many Catholics see the group’s demands as extreme, especially since significant attempts to correct the problem have been made in recent years. However, as Frank Bruni points out, “the case of Father Ratigan postdates all of that — by many, many years. It suggests the tenacity of willful ignorance and deliberate evasion, even when the price is nothing less than the ravaged psyches of vulnerable children.” It’s not over, not by a long shot.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.