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Bishop’s indictment a sign of changing times?

October 14, 2011

The news out of Kansas City today is major. Bishop Robert Finn is highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be charged in a sex abuse case, according to the Kansas City Star. A Jackson County grand jury  indicted Finn and the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse (specifically pornographic pictures of children on a priest’s computer).

From the Star story:

The Jackson County panel began meeting after federal authorities filed child pornography charges against the Rev. Shawn Ratigan this year. According to the findings of the diocese’s own recent investigation, church officials knew for five months about troubling photos of young girls on Ratigan’s computer and did not formally notify police or state child abuse authorities. Under Missouri law, clergy must report any suspected child abuse.

The Star story also quotes one of my favorite Jesuits:

“For a bishop to be indicted is absolutely extraordinary,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and author of “Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.”

“This is a first. And in terms of the Catholic Church, this is an extraordinary move which is going to signal that the times have changed. Neither people nor government are going to put up with any kind of activity that looks like a cover-up.”

Agreed.

Amazing how so many Catholic leaders have managed to escape punishment for their role in covering up sexual abuse. Even after the scandal was broken wide open by the Boston Globe in 2002, the Catholic hierarchy still seemed to think that the church should not be subject to secular law. Bishops wanted to do their own investigations and resisted real transparency with regard to priestly abuse.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

 

 

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