D. Kansas City-St. Joseph: press release about controversies

The secular press in Kansas City, MO and the ultra-liberal, doctrine-dissenting, KC-based National catholic Reporter have been busy trying to tear the guts out of the diocese and Most Rev. Robert Finn, bishop, but not yet martyr.

From the site of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Also, read this, from the site of the Diocese.

Bishop Finn Initiates Sweeping Changes and Reviews

Jun 9th, 2011

Five-Point Plan in Effect

Diocese engages Todd Graves, former U.S. Department of Justice child exploitation expert and former U.S. Attorney

(KANSAS CITY, MO, June 9, 2011)  -  To immediately fulfill his “call for change,” Bishop Robert Finn, of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St Joseph,  today announced the first immediate five points of a sweeping plan to deal with recent alleged sexual misconduct in the diocese.

The diocese said further initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Initial Five-point Plan

1. Immediate appointment of former national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group and former U.S. Attorney to conduct an independent investigation of events, policies and procedures,

2. Appointment of an independent public liaison and ombudsman to field and investigate any reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior,

3. Reaffirmation of current diocesan policy and immediate commencement of an independent review of the policies for Ethical Codes of Conduct and Sexual Misconduct,

4.  An in-depth review of diocesan personnel training regarding the Ethical Codes of Conduct and the policy on Sexual Misconduct,

5. Continued cooperation with local law enforcement.

Bishop Finn stated, “These are initial steps. Other actions are forthcoming.”

Former U.S. Attorney Engaged

Former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Todd P. Graves will conduct an independent review of all issues regarding the Ratigan matter, as well as lead an independent and complete review of the diocesan Ethical Codes of Conduct and Sexual Misconduct policies, procedures and training.

From 2001 to 2005, Mr. Graves served as the national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group. As U.S. Attorney, he established state and federal task forces to investigate exploitation of children through the Internet and was instrumental in locating a Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory in Kansas City. Throughout his career, Mr. Graves has been at the forefront in enforcing laws against those who abuse children.

Bishop Finn said the review will bring clarity out of the “shame, anger, and confusion” surrounding the May 19 arrest of Father Shawn Ratigan, who faces charges of possession of child pornography.

“In addition to our ongoing and full cooperation with law enforcement, this review will help us to determine the effectiveness of diocesan policies and procedures in a very troubling situation,” the Bishop explained.

At the conclusion of the review, Mr. Graves will issue a report.  The report will be made public. The review is estimated to take approximately 30 to 45 days.  Bishop Finn pledged the complete cooperation of all diocesan personnel.

Appointment of Public Liaison and Ombudsman

In the coming weeks, Bishop Finn will appoint a public liaison and ombudsman as the receiving agent and initial investigation point for any reports of misconduct by a diocesan priest, deacon, employee or program volunteer.

The public liaison and ombudsman will screen and investigate any reports on complaints made and consult with law enforcement as appropriate. The ombudsman will be available to anyone who wishes to report a concern through a confidential telephone number and email address.

“This immediate action will ensure all concerns are addressed confidentially, respectfully, promptly and appropriately,” said Bishop Finn.

Reaffirmation of Current Diocesan Policies

While awaiting recommendations for changes resulting from the independent internal investigation, Bishop Finn reaffirmed current diocesan policies that guide the response to reports of abuse. Members of the clergy and diocesan employees have been advised to review the Ethical Codes of Conduct and the policy regarding Sexual Misconduct.

As early as 1988, the diocese adopted a formal policy for responding to allegations of sexual abuse. The policy established a Diocesan Response Team to provide support for persons making complaints. The policy required full cooperation with the laws of Missouri for reporting child sexual abuse. By 1993, diocesan practice reflected growing lay involvement with the creation of an Independent Review Board.

Diocesan Policies Require

• protecting children in all church, school and program settings,

• pending a full investigation, removing ministers and employees from service when reasonable suspicion exists,

• counseling and pastoral support for persons making a complaint,

• advising people making complaints of their rights to go to civil authorities or the media, and,

• ensuring that lay professionals respond to and give advice about complaints and fitness for ministry.

In 2002, the diocese mandated multi-jurisdictional criminal background screening and safe environment training for all adults working or volunteering with children. The Protecting God’s Children program identifies the warning signs of abuse and teaches strategies for maintaining safe environments for children. By May 2011, this program had reached more than 20,500 people.

“The best way to deal with a problem is to prevent wrongdoing,” said Bishop Finn. “We believe that, when adults who interact with children increase their awareness of child sexual abuse, they form a shield that protects children,” he said.

As a companion to the adult safe environment training, the diocese implemented developmentally appropriate personal safety training for all children and youth in 2006.  Through Catholic schools and parish programs the diocese reaches some 16,000 children each year.  Circle of Grace is an ongoing part of the curricula for all Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade, and Called to Protect reaches all high school aged students.

Apology

The Bishop concluded with the words he delivered to the diocese this past Sunday:

“As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them. Clearly, we have to do more,” said Bishop Finn. “While we must deal with these difficult and trying issues, we also must give thanks for the daily accomplishments of our lay faithful, priests and others for the many good works that continue on behalf of neighbors, sick or poor, young or old.”

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26 Responses to D. Kansas City-St. Joseph: press release about controversies

  1. That’s more like it.

  2. BenFischer says:

    God Bless Bishop Finn, but I doubt this will help quell the crisis. As long as people in the Chancery Office are not held to account for situations like this, it will look like a cover up. Neither of Bishop Finn’s 5 points involved Monsignor Murphy who seems to be the origin of the trouble Bishop Finn is in (other than Fr Ratigan, or course). And yet Fr Ratigan is in jail and Msgr Murphy has seen no repercussions for what’s either incompetence or willful concealment. Doesn’t sound fair.

  3. happyhockeymom says:

    God Bless Bishop Finn. How rare to hear a Bishop say that he takes full responsibility. Of course, it won’t be enough for those with an agenda. They won’t be happy until they destroy him or at least give it their best shot.

    Bishops like him are doing so much good that the devil isn’t going to leave them alone. They will be persecuted.

    I know I will continue to pray for him. We all need to keep praying for and standing up for the good Bishops or we won’t get any more of them.

  4. Random Friar says:

    It seems time to remind people about that other great category among the saints: the Confessors, those who professed the Faith, without the shedding of blood, but with great fortitude in the face of worldly trials.

  5. Kevin Fogarty says:

    Yes, Bp Finn is one of the best bishops, but that just makes it all the more dispiriting. 10 years after Boston, how can the diocese not be aware of the spitting rage that Catholic fathers feel whenever this thing is mentioned? Instead they managed the incident. All they had to do was call the cops. Immediately. The first time.

  6. I still don’t see what Bishop Finn did wrong or unreasonable as regards the offending priest. His apologies are a sign of his conscientiousness and the fact that he takes his duties as bishop very seriously, as well as the pain he suffers as the result of having something like this happen in his diocese; but his detractors will take them as admissions of wrongdoing.

  7. benedetta says:

    These are solid steps supporting transparency. His leadership will serve the necessity for prevention which is what all parents desire. From what happened in Boston and in other places, we know that predators tend to re-abuse. I do not know what the sociological/criminal records reveal about persons (and obviously this encompasses for the great majority, laity and not priests) who look at pornography but maybe it is not so innocuous as “freedom of speech” and there are real harms to children in various forms that society in general needs to look at closely. For every media assault and for every bigoted commenter aiming at the Church there also needs to be critical analysis applied to what is happening in schools and other institutions with the goal of prevention. Apparently the British government this week is supporting such efforts. We would be wise to do the same if we truly care about children.

  8. PhilipNeri says:

    Policies, procedures, and protocols will not save the Church from a repeat of the 2002 Mess, especially policies, procedures, and protocols that deny accused clergy the benefits of basic Christian charity. The faster bishops return to their sworn duty to teach the apostolic faith and guarantee the proper intellectual, emotional, and spiritual formation of their seminarians the faster we can leave this horror story behind.

    The first step: strangle all the therapists with the entrails of all the lawyers.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  9. The first step: strangle all the therapists with the entrails of all the lawyers.

    Fr. Philip Neri, as a lawyer, I trust this means “strangle all the therapists with the entrails of all the lawyers EXCEPT Anita’s”!

  10. moon1234 says:

    @Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    You hit the nail squarely on the head. What happens in most diocese is blame everyone except those who cause the problem. Background checks for ALL adults? Volunters who want to help rake the Church lawn, check! Volunteers who teach CCD, Check. Volunteers who sing with the childrens choir, check!

    The protecting God’s children program is right out of planned parenthood for pete’s sake. I would not be proud of having 25,000 people made to be suspicious of their fellow neighbor. What needs to happen immediatly is a review of all of those in seminary who display any hint of homosexual tendenancies, improper attitude, etc. These “candidates” need to be dismissed.

    The problem is that too many in leadership positions either support these candidates or ar too timid to take the action necessary to root out the problem at it’s source.

    How many children were abused by NON-Clerics in the Church? My guess is very few compared to those abused by clerics. Yet the response from above is to treat anyone who wants to help in the diocese, evern volunteers as criminals. This sends the wrong message.

    Again, Fr. Neri, you have identified the root cause of the problem and the solution. Rome should know about you for promotion. (Sorry, but we need Bishop’s like yourself.)

  11. PhilipNeri says:

    Anita, of course, I meant all the therapists and lawyers who helped get us into this Mess by advising the bishops to “treat” abusers and “pay off” victims. We have become much too comfortable using modernist therapeutic treatments to address fundamentally spiritual problems. Rather than six months in a health spa/treatment facility for sexually abusing someone, how about six months in a Carthusian hermitage with a Mother Angelica-ish nun as a spiritual director before heading off to prison?

  12. Federico says:

    I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I pray that H.E. bp. Finn will not fall into the trap set by the deceiver that so many of his brother bishops have fallen into: allow a sense of guilt over the acts of a few individuals to push him to overcompensate and react in a manner that breaks the bond between a diocesan bishop and his presbyterate.

    In too many dioceses, presbyteral rights are trampled, mere innuendo leads to suspensions and interminable investigations. Good men live in fear and Rome is slow to defend them. Innocent presbyters are not restored to ministry, even after exoneration (might not look good to the media).

    The enemy is clever. Pray for bp. Finn and all his good presbyters.

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    Kevin,
    You can’t call the cops in hindsight. The police can only act when they have “probable cause,” a term of art with very, very specific meaning. And it’s not just lawyer mumbo-jumbo, it’s to protect basic human freedom.
    From what I have read, the initial reports were of uneasy feelings that this priest took too much interest in the school and seemed to “cross boundaries”, and apparently had some innocuous (in themselves) photos of kids. That’s not enough for a police search, as the diocesan attorney that consulted with the bishop no doubt told him. The bishop removed the priest from the school and placed him in a religious house. When actionable stuff turned up (and I’m still not quite clear if the bishop demanded his computer, or what) the police were called.
    If the bishop starts calling the cops for every ‘funny feeling’, rumor (or God forbid every disgruntled individual or crazy who wants to get back at a priest for some slight), you’re going to wind up with exactly what Federico describes – an armed camp where every accusation is a conviction and every priest walks in fear, and the bishop is The Accuser of the Brethren instead of a good shepherd.

  14. irishgirl says:

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP-you hit the nail square on the head! You’re a good son of St. Dominic and a worthy namesake of St. Phlip Neri! Way to go! I like your ‘straight-talkin’ way of saying things! I also like your idea of the ‘Carthusian monastery with the Mother Angelica-type spiritual director’! That’s a good one too!
    I despise the therapists and lawyers-but even more so the lawyers!
    Bishop Finn, you have my support and my prayers! Don’t back down! Stand firm! We ‘ordinary Catholics’ have got your back!

  15. PostCatholic says:

    Nice to see those policies reaffirmed. The bishop might have spared everyone a lot of grief had he followed them in the first place.

  16. quovadis7 says:

    I’m VERY glad to hear that Bishop Finn’s response to this controversy is MUCH more than just another round of “mea culpa”.

    Adding transparency to the oversight process, as well as giving the faithful an “independent public liaison and ombudsman” should help immensely to further stamp-out sexual impropriety and abuse in the Diocese of KC-St. Joseph.

    American Bishops, can you PLEASE follow Bishop Finn’s lead???

    Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

    Steve B
    Plano, TX

  17. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Anita Moore: I still don’t see what Bishop Finn did wrong or unreasonable as regards the offending priest.

    The worse grievance is that when the principal of Fr. Ratigan’s school sent the bishop a long, single-spaced letter describing various violations of boundaries taking place in the school and parish, the bishop had Msgr. Murphy, the vicar general, give him a summary of the letter.

    That letter was written a year ago and gives very detailed descriptions of the priest’s pathological behavior. An example from that letter is having young girls sit on his lap during field trips, and after parents raised concerns and the principal confronted Fr. Ratigan, he rebuked her saying that children need physical affection in order to feel good about themselves, and that even priests should give children this physical affection. There are many other examples, besides the taking of HUNDREDS of photos of the young girls, in full view of everyone, at numerous school and parish events.

    It is for this reason that Bishop Finn first wrote, on May 27th, a letter “I must also acknowledge my own failings. Yesterday evening, I read, for the first time, the memorandum prepaed in May 2010 by our principal at St. Patrick School.” The bishop himself put “first time” in italics, to emphasize, I believe, the egregious nature of such negligence. When someone writes to you, as the chief shepherd, and describes behavior which you know is sick, you do not have another priest summarize the letter. In the good old days, yes, that is how we did things. But now, you read that entire letter, and you act immediately because after 2002, you as a bishop are no longer ignorant of the obvious and tell-tale signs of sexual pathology in the clergy.

    I deeply admire Bishop Finn for acknowledging in his own words that he made a horrible and grievous mistake, and that he is personally responsible now for children having been harmed and exploited in his diocese (and you don’t need to be raped to be sexually exploited–or to understand the parental rage of having their little girls’ photos used for someone else’s sexual jollies).

    Thank God for 2002 and the accountability it introduced. I don’t think many Catholics get it, because they have not seen the clerical world from the inside, and do not know how easy it can revert to institutional cover-up if allowed to do so. Bishop Finn has undertaken a needed sweeping reform in his own diocese.

  18. Dr. Eric says:

    I offer my prayers through the intercession of St. Robert Bellarmine for Bishop Finn.

  19. Fr. Sotelo: okay, that the bishop had a summary prepared of a letter describing wrongdoing was a detail of which I was not previoulsy aware. I must admit that that was not good. Of course, I deny, as I’m sure you do, that that puts Bishop Finn in the same category as other bishops who actively and deliberately covered for abusers.

  20. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Anita: I agree with you totally. Bishop Finn’s mistake was to trust that he was being fully assessed of the situation, which is highly imprudent for any bishop after 2002–but he did nothing to intentionally allow the harm. He has shown not just heartfelt contrition for this, but a firm resolution, with concrete changes, to see to it that his mistake will never be repeated.

  21. BenFischer says:

    Fr_Sotelo, what concrete changes has the Bishop put in place? Was it not the Diocesan policy in the past to investigate a priest after receiving a 28-page single spaced document? Or at least talk to the person who wrote it? Any policy, no matter how detailed, still depends on people to implement it, which is what makes the apparent shielding of the Bishop’s staff so aggravating. Why do the people who blocked that report still have jobs? As long as the same old crew is in charge, how can anyone be sure that the next time will be different?

  22. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Dear Ben: As I see it, previously, the Bishop and Msgr. Murphy would receive letters, etc. and then direct the concern to a review board, which only had authority to launch investigations concerning sexual misconduct.

    Now, the Bishop has removed himself and his chancery staff from this, and now has ordered that an independent laison will receive reports and will have the authority to investigate, even if it is not a matter of sexual misconduct. There will an email and confidential phone line that goes, not to the Bishop, but to the laison, who has authority to contact law enforcement and to investigate “misconduct” and not just “sexual misconduct.”

    This, by the way, is what most bishops now do. They do not receive the complaints themselves, but have independent laisons or lay boards which receive the complaints. After initial investigations to see whether an accusation is credible, these laisons/lay boards ask the diocesan bishop to take concrete action. Bishops do not mess around with these lay boards because if there is litigation, it will not go well for the bishop if it is a matter of record that he ignored the recommendations of his lay board.

    Thanks to these lay boards, very expert professionals on matters of sexual pathology and child exploitation have intervened at the early stage, interviewing the priest, the parish staff, the school officials, the parents of children involved, and even the children themselves. The bishops have thus ordered hundreds of priests into administrative leave, counseling, and/or places where they are interned, evaluated, and treated for varying degrees of psycho-sexual pathology.

    In some cases, where the sickness is not advanced, they have been successfully returned to ministry without further violations of boundaries. In other cases, it is found that the sickness is on a trajectory or path that may very well lead to molestation or other crimes, and the priest is informed that he cannot be returned to parish ministry. Some think these measures are draconian, but they have worked to stop various clergy and church staff from being in a position where they could cause harm or exploitation to children.

    I think that now that Bishop Finn has an independent laison to look at future concerns, and that laison has been empowered to immediately investigate and to immediately involve expert lay people and/or law enforcement, things will change drastically. The bishop will still be the one who orders a priest to be “sent off” for treatment or for good, but at least the issue will be looked at immediately when the person phones the hot line or uses email to contact the laison.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr Sotelo,

    Re: “very expert professionals on matters of sexual pathology and child exploitation”

    Isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place (bishops listening to ‘very expert professionals on matters of sexual pathology’, who told them that the offenders could be ‘cured’ and reassigned?)

    Why are we so confident that ‘experts’ who didn’t know what they were talking about in the 60s and 70s are now omniscient?

  24. Fr_Sotelo says:

    AnAmericanMother: While misconduct is in the investigation stage, and before there is any recommendation of treatment, the use of experts is to avoid the previous mistakes of rationalizing the behavior or spiritualizing it away; e.g. “Father is just overworked, so he does weird things,” or “Father is being attacked by the devil for being so orthodox and caring so much for the children” or “Father just committed a slight error of judgment, and everyone is blowing it out of proportion.”

    The Church does not turn to experts because they are all knowing and can predict outcomes and cures. The Church turns to experts (detectives in a special victims unit, county child protection services workers, therapists who treat child abuse victims, etc.) because they have seen child molestation up close, they can identify the signs of an adult who is grooming or preparing children in order to take advantage of them, and because they have no illusions about the extremes to which an adult will go in order to hide, obfuscate, or camouflage their desires to be sexually fulfilled at the expense of children.

    This is why I used terms like “pathology” and “exploitation.” In the Church, we have been on a learning curve about this issue since the 60′s and 70′s, and what is different now is that we understand that certain behaviors around children are not fleeting “mistakes” or an “isolated sin” that we just pray about, and it goes away. Neither can we just issue apologies to a parent whose little girl was photographed numerous times by a priest for prurient interest. And so we know turn to lay people who know what this problem is about, which is different that just tossing this problem around within the circles of chancery staff or sending a priest to places where the problem is left unresolved.

  25. shane says:

    One of the majors factors in the Irish sex abuse scandal and the malhandling of same by the Church was the excessive deference given by bishops to the advice of psychiatrists:

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/patricia-casey-psychiatrists-must-take-share-of-blame-on-abuse-2105623.html

    (Although it does not state it there, Patricia Casey is professor of Psychiatry at University College Dublin and consultant psychiatrist at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin)

  26. Fr_Sotelo says:

    shane: The deference to psychiatrists also caused catastrophic damage in the U.S. abuse scandal. This is why when I speak of experts, I include first of all police, detectives, those who work in child protective services, and child abuse counselors. In other words, people for whom abuse of children is not clinical and theoretical–people who are charged to look, first, after the interests and protection of the children, not those of the accused or those of the “institution.” This means that the experts who are now consulted, in the reformed process after 2002, are those whose first concern is to immediately stop any potential harm to children.

    Our bishops, like the Irish bishops, consulted first, and then gave too much deference to, the experts who were advocates for, or caregivers of, the accused/potential offender and so there was a completely different outlook and emphasis, often to the detriment of the children.