Bishop makes deal to avoid charges


KANSAS CITY – The Catholic bishop for the Kansas city diocese has agreed to have his actions monitored by prosecutors in order to avoid criminal charges for failing to report a priest suspected of creating child pornography.

Bishop Robert Finn, the leader of the 134,000-member diocese, is the highest-ranking Catholic official to face US criminal charges in a child sexual abuse case.

Bishop Finn was indicted by a grand jury in Jackson County last month on a misdemeanour charge of failing to report Fr Shawn Ratigan to police despite months of warnings by others that the 46-year-old priest potentially posed a threat. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The allegations against the bishop are tied to evidence that even after a church computer technician made church officials aware of hundreds of photos of young girls on Fr Ratigan’s laptop, Bishop Finn did not report it to police nor to the parents and children who interacted with Fr Ratigan.

Fr Ratigan is accused of taking pornographic photos of young girls. He was eventually reported to police by another diocese official five months after the pictures were discovered.

He has been charged with 13 counts of child pornography and is in jail awaiting trial next summer.

Clay County prosecutors were pursuing criminal charges against Bishop Finn in addition to the charges brought by Jackson County, but the settlement will defer any charges in Clay County as long as the bishop complies with the terms, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile it has emerged that the church in the US will set up a body in January to cater for disaffected Episcopalians.

Some 35 of 67 Anglican ministers who have applied to join the Catholic Church have received the nulla osta from the Holy See, allowing them to move forward to become priests, said Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Cardinal Wuerl, head of a committee to move the process forward, gave a report to a bishops’ conference meeting this week in Baltimore.

Pope Benedict granted permission to form an ordinariate to oversee the process in the US in November, 2009.

A few conservative dioceses have split from the US church, and the Anglican communion worldwide continues to be divided by the appointment of homosexual priests and women to the hierarchy. – (Reuters)