The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Childproof 50: Deviant Celibacy and the Angst of Child Pornography, Part II

Page 50
Dear Bishop Gaydos:
Robert W. Finn
Convicted Felon
Kansas City-St. Joseph
Your pal’s operation on the banks of the
Missouri River has made him the poster
boy of the pedophile mindset that
plagues the top echelon of executive
management of the Roman Catholic
Church in America:  the United States
Conference Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
His ability to promote a cult of deviant
celibacy apparently serves to strengthen
his position.

And we have to wonder why Robert W.
Finn, the bishop of the Kansas City-
St. Joseph, still maintains his position.
We also would like to know what you,
as his vocation director in St. Louis,
found in his character that made him
as an appropriate candidate for ordination.

The extent of the damage to children and the vulnerable
is immeasurable because so few the secrets covered up
by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have
been revealed.

As it is, the American hierarchy adheres to the Oscar Wilde aphorism:

“Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and
the bloom is gone.”

And the last thing the Roman Catholic leadership intends to do is tamper with the perception that nurtures the concept of natural ignorance.  Nonetheless, we are confident that what these so-called spiritual leaders are not doing is “leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”

Robert Finn Prefers Smut Peddlers to His Flock
Finn is the first bishop in the country, and is believed to be one of only two bishops in the world, convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse. The other case happened in France.

The abrupt ending to Finn’s current legal trouble is no guarantee of peace or the restoration of his integrity or character.  Finn still has to contend with 27 civil suits since 2012, four involving one of his employees:  the Rev. Shawn RatiganHis behavior, in fact, is keeping the 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mo., hopping.

Robert W. Finn went to the mat to protect the Rev. Shawn
Ratigan, one of the more notorious sexual predators employed
by the Roman Catholic bishops in Missouri.  Ratigan is serving a
50-year prison term.  His criminal activity has cost the Kansas
City church $1.8 million to date. 

The child sex abuse scandal has dogged Finn almost from the beginning of his tenure as bishop. In 2008, the diocese settled a lawsuit for $10 million that involved 47 plaintiffs and 12 accused priests. The most recent flare-up, instigated by the arrest of Ratigan has generated two dozen additional lawsuits against numerous priests. Many of those suits name Finn and the diocese
as defendants.

Finn settled two other lawsuits in 2013 stemming from Ratigan’s actions.  One, filed in U.S. District Court by the parents of a young northern Missouri girl, was settled in May for $600,000. The other was filed in Jackson County by a minor girl and her parents and settled in October for $1.35 million. Both named the diocese, Ratigan, and Finn as defendants. 

The current phase of the pedophile priest scandal involves two Kansas City courts that settled two lawsuits on 21 February 2014:  the total figure, $1.8 million.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Jack R. Grate awarded $1.275 million to the parents on behalf of their minor daughter. 

And on February 2014, Circuit Judge James F. Kanatzar approved a $525,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed last year by two parents and their minor daughter against Finn, Ratigan, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

In addition, Grate and Kanatzar each entered a $500,000 default judgment against Ratigan, who failed to respond to the lawsuits.

Chancery Court (left to right):  John M. Torrence, Jack R. Grate, and James F.
Kanatzar, three judges of the
16th Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mo., are
earning their salaries as they continue to preside over child molestation cases
and Bishop Robert W. Finn.  Perhaps, Finn should just relocate the Chancery to
the courthouse for convenience.

To date the total the diocese has paid out $3.75 million to settle claims involving Finn and Ratigan.

These settlements were paid by the diocese’s internal self-insurance fund and its external carrier, the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, according Finn’s spokesperson.  The insurer represents Roman Catholic dioceses nationwide that are unable to find a guarantor due to the extent of child molestation among its employee group.

Underwriters balk at covering criminal activity, particularly when the policyholder has prior knowledge of the offense and the offender, as in the case of Finn and his predecessors when they hire child predators such as Ratigan. General American Insurance Co., for example, refused to pay past claims for the Servants of the Paraclete, and the Catholic Mutual Fund has acted similarly in cases involving other religious orders.

The inability to obtain insurance coverage prompted the Catholic Church to become self-insured in 1988 when it launched the National Catholic Risk Retention Corp. A diocese in this situation contributes to the insurance pool and hopes for the best; Jefferson City is one of its 66 shareholder members, one-third of the dioceses in the United States.

In 1994, Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Jackson County prosecutor, attempted to do just that.  She order Raymond J. Boland, the bishop of Kansas City, Mo., to devise a sexual misconduct policy that complied with the laws of the United States and the State of Missouri in the wake of pedophile priest scandal involving the Rev. Michael Brewer, the Rev. John Tulipana and the Rev. Thomas Ward.  Finn, as we now know, ignored McCaskill and placed himself above the law as he resumed the Church’s policy of protecting child molesters

In fact, as bishop of Kansas City, Finn defended Ratigan’s degeneracy as kid’s play.
“Boys will be Boys,” he remarked infamously in 2011, after a December 2010 forensic search of the Ratigan’s computer and cell phone uncovered the damning evidence (only four or five of the hundreds of lewd photos found on Ratigan’s laptop had been downloaded from the Internet, according to court records. The rest appeared to have been taken with a personal camera.).

To protect Ratigan from prosecution, Finn accused his IT experts and the elementary school principal who initiated the alarm for being busy bodies, and blamed them for the self-made legal morass that emerged in 2010. 

Finn resisted the authorities at first. 

But on 8 September 2011, following a hastily announced bench trial (without a jury), Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John M. Torrence convicted Finn of one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspicions of child abuse and acquitted him on another count of failing to report. 

Torrence listened to about 25 minutes of summary from attorneys; then took a half-hour break before finding Finn guilty of one count based on those facts, which included an acknowledgement from the 59-year-old church leader that he is a mandated child abuse reporter under Missouri law.

Torrence sentenced Finn to two years of unsupervised probation; but then suspended it, meaning that if he adheres to a set of conditions that include mandatory abuse reporting training, setting aside $10,000 in diocese money for abuse victim counseling, instructing all diocesan agents to report suspected criminal activity involving minors, and concludes without any new incidents, Finn’s criminal record will be expunged.

Finn had faced a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine on each charge. The diocese had faced a fine of up to $5,000 on each of its two counts if convicted.  Prosecutors asked for two years of probation.  Defense attorneys sought a suspended sentence.

A Jackson County grand jury indicted Finn and the diocese in October 2011. Finn also faced misdemeanor charges in Clay County.  But in November 2011, he avoided a possible criminal indictment by agreeing to enter into a diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor. Authorities said they would not prosecute Finn if he lived up to the terms of a five-year diversion agreement.

The agreement required Finn to meet face-to-face with the prosecutor or his successor each month for five years to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse levied against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese’s Clay County facilities. Finn also was to describe steps the diocese had taken to address the allegations, and he was to visit all nine Clay County parishes to outline new programs to protect children.

The fact that Ratigan, a year later, in August 2012, pleaded guilty to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography: one count for each of his five victims has had little effect on Finn.

The 47-year-old felon is not a happy camper even after Finn whisked him off to a treatment facility in Pennsylvania “to save (Father Shawn’s) priesthood.”  He told the judge that prison is hell, and he wants to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

“I know God has forgiven me and my soul is in good shape. I can live at my cousin’s house in Nebraska forever out in the middle of nowhere if that’s what it takes,” Ratigan said as he faced a judge. “Prison is hell. I know I deserve 15 years. Fifty years? I don’t think so.” 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine Fincham described Ratigan as a serial sex offender:  an arrogant felon sustained by a sense of entitlement who thought that his priesthood would keep him from getting caught.

And we conclude with another Oscar Wilde epigram:

“Man reaches his perfection, not through what he
has, not even through what he does, but entirely
through what he is.”

Further Reading:
Robert W. Finn Convicted of Shielding Pedophile Priest

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