Bishop Indicted; Charge Is Failing to Report Abuse
By A G SULZBERGER AND LAURIE GOODSTEIN - NEW YORK TIMES
Added: Mon, 17 Oct 2011 07:50:57 UTC
Thanks to LWS for the link.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A bishop in the Roman Catholic Church has been indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse, the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.
Archdiocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph, via Associated Press
The Roman Catholic bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Robert Finn.
The indictment of the bishop, Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a county grand jury was announced on Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year. They pleaded not guilty.
The case caused an uproar among Catholics in Kansas City this year when Bishop Finn acknowledged that he knew of the photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. During that time, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, is said to have continued to attend church events with children, and took lewd photographs of another young girl.
A decade ago the American bishops pledged to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities — a policy also recommended last year by the Vatican. Bishop Finn himself had made such a promise three years ago as part of a $10 million legal settlement with abuse victims in Kansas City.
Though the charge is only a misdemeanor, victims’ advocates immediately hailed the indictment as a breakthrough, saying that until now American bishops have avoided prosecution despite documents showing that in some cases they were aware of abuse.
“This is huge for us,” said Michael Hunter, director of the Kansas City chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. “It’s something that I personally have been waiting for years to see, some real accountability. We’re very pleased with the prosecuting attorney here to have the guts to do it.” The bishop signaled he would fight the charges with all his strength. He said in a statement: “We will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”
The indictment announced on Friday by the Jackson County prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, had been under seal since Oct. 6 because the bishop was out of the country. He returned on Thursday night.
In a news conference, Ms. Baker said the case was not religiously motivated, but was about the obligation under state law to report child abuse.
“This is about protecting children,” she said.
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