US Catholic bishop found guilty of not reporting abuse
THE FIRST American bishop criminally charged in the US clerical sex abuse scandal was found guilty of a misdemeanour count of failing to report suspected child abuse, a conviction described as “historic” by campaigners.
Catholic Bishop Robert Finn was acquitted on a second count.
He received two years of probation but that sentence was suspended and will be wiped from his record if he adheres to conditions that include mandatory abuse reporting training, setting aside $10,000 (€7,800) in diocese money for abuse victim counselling, and instructing all diocesan agents to report suspected criminal activity involving minors.
Finn and the Catholic diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph were each charged with two misdemeanour counts of failing to report suspected child abuse to the state.
Prosecutors said they dropped charges against the diocese, and the judge was expected to sign off on that.
The bishop, dressed in traditional black, sat calmly throughout the hearing, even as he heard the verdict. He apologised before being sentenced, saying: “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt these events have caused.”
The charges stemmed from the child pornography case of Rev Shawn Ratigan, in which Finn and other church officials knew about photos on the priest’s computer but did not turn him in for six months.
Finn initially was charged with one misdemeanour count but a second was added to acknowledge two separate time periods in which he failed to report suspected abuse.
On Thursday, the bishop was acquitted of a charge spanning the period between December 17th, 2010, and February 10th, 2011, because Jackson county judge John M Torrence said there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Finn knew about the pornographic photos.
The charge on which Finn was convicted involved a period between February 11th, 2011, and May 11th, 2011.
Finn sent Ratigan to stay at a convent in Independence, Missouri, during that time and ordered him to stay away from children and avoid taking photos. Prosecutors said that showed Finn knew about accusations against Ratigan, and the judge agreed.
Finn argued he should not face charges because he was not the diocese’s mandated reporter under the law. At the time, the responsibility rested mainly with vicar general Robert Murphy.
US campaigning lawyer Jeff Anderson welcomed the “historic” conviction, although he stressed more needed to be done to ensure church leaders “change the way they do business”.
“Finally, after decades of deceit, denial and deception in dioceses across the country, a Catholic bishop has been found criminally accountable,” said Mr Anderson, who is behind a major law suit against the Vatican on behalf of abuse survivors. (AP)