Op-Ed in Kansas City Star about Bp. Finn

The ultra-liberal Kansas City Star in KC, MO has been gunnin’ for Bishop Robert Finn since he arrived.  Now that some chum is in the water, they and their chums have been biting.

Therefore, I was surprised and pleased to see an op-ed in the Star by one Frank Kessler.

The charges against Bishop Finn should be dropped

By FRANK KESSLER
Special to The Star

As I read the article on Bishop Robert Finn in the Saturday Kansas City Star, it occurred to me that the NFL throws a flag for piling on when someone is already down.

Bishop Finn already apologized a number of times for his poor administrative judgment involving the supervision of one of his priests, Father Shawn Ratigan. The decision to indict Finn and the entire diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on misdemeanor charges was highly questionable.

Some in the Kansas City Catholic community were critical of Finn from the day Pope Benedict appointed him. He proclaimed church teaching as championed by the Holy Father. This made him suspect to some. Father Thomas Reese of Georgetown was quoted in The Star article saying the case against the bishop was “historic.” Father Reese was encouraged to resign from America magazine because of his public dissent from church teachings on marriage and abortion, among other issues. The New York Times characterized Finn as “staunchly conservative.”

There are those who want to paint Finn as a poster boy for the clerical abuse scandals. That just does not pass the smell test. He did not move priests around but in the Ratigan case removed him from parish life. Diocesan supervision after the fact was deficient and the bishop acknowledged that.

It is hard to accept the assertion that this was not about the Catholic faith. Since the diocese hired an independent lawyer to put together a 141-page report on needed changes and was cooperating with law enforcement, what had the prosecutor to gain?

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker may well have let her years working with CASA color her judgment. Who could fault her for that? Still, she surely knew that some could see it as an attack on the church, which had already gone to great pains to rectify the situation.

I have not seen the indictment so I don’t know exactly what standards were used to determine that an indictable crime had been committed. In one place the “reasonable suspicion” test seemed to be applied, and in another, “reasonable cause” (to suspect). “Reasonable cause to suspect” is a very low standard. As the saying goes, a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Likewise, if a prosecutor wants a conviction, it is best not to overcharge.

Finn is being prosecuted for lapses in judgment and missing what went on below him. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is being investigated for lapses leading to deaths involving Operation Fast and Furious. Should he be prosecuted? I would say no unless there is evidence that he lied or willfully disobeyed the law. He deserves the benefit of the doubt as does Finn.

When prosecution can be perceived as rooted in politics, it can ruin the good name of the target, cheapen the moral authority of government and tarnish respect for the rule of law.

These charges should be dropped forthwith.

Frank Kessler is an emeritus professor of government at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph and teaches at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He lives in Overland Park.

A reader sent me an email with the comment that Finn “was the bishop who publicly criticized radical pro-abort Kathleen Sibelius when she was governor of KS”.

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33 Responses to Op-Ed in Kansas City Star about Bp. Finn

  1. Dr. K says:

    “He did not move priests around but in the Ratigan case removed him from parish life. Diocesan supervision after the fact was deficient and the bishop acknowledged that.”

    Finally, someone acknowledges that the diocese did indeed attempt to deal with Ratigan.

  2. Jerry says:

    “A reader sent me an email with the comment that Finn “was the bishop who publicly criticized radical pro-abort Kathleen Sibelius when she was governor of KS”.”

    Sadly, that probably has as much, if not more, to do with the indictment than what actually happened in the diocese.

  3. r.j.sciurus says:

    In reality it was Abp. Naumann on the Kansas side who publicly criticized Gov. Sebelius to the point of suggesting that she not present herself for Communion if I am remembering correctly. Bp Finn though led the crusade against the Missouri embryonic stem cell research proponents led by a very powerful group of local businessmen. It would not surprise me to see their names somewhere on a prosecutor’s campaign contribution list.

    The good that might come out of this is that Bishop Finn will finally be able to defend himself publicly – something he has been unable to do since the civil suits were brought forward. He should be able to mention any unique, unknown circumstances that were not made public before and might have been protected by the civil actions. Now, whether or not the media will cover it is a different story.

  4. RichR says:

    When prosecution can be perceived as rooted in politics, it can ruin the good name of the target, cheapen the moral authority of government and tarnish respect for the rule of law.

    Sanity amidst a sea of anti-religious titillation.

  5. Devin says:

    Sorry for the lengthy post, but I don’t believe this was a persecution. Whatever Bishop Finn’s virtues are, if the Bishop himself knew there was a possibility of the priest having child porn, then he was obliged to report immediately to the police without hesitation (the seal of confession exempt). In doing so he failed in his duty as a bishop and father to the priest in question, to the other priests in his diocese, the faithful of the diocese and most likely to the universal church. It is also the duty of the prosecutor to bring charges against the bishop if the His Excellency did in fact do so.

    This should be a no brainer even without the context of the child abuse scandal that anything related to an allegation of child pornography needs to be reported whether in a school, business, religious organization, and even among family members. But given the fact Bishop Finn would have known that anything touching upon the sexual abuse scandal in his diocese would be scrutinized heavily, why this wasn’t properly handled is beyond my comprehension if it is as it appears in the media. It sounds like the Bishop was a good man who made a serious lapse in judgment but that does not change the situation. I hope the truth comes out and I will keep all involved in my prayers.

  6. frjim4321 says:

    “I have not seen the indictment.”

    Well, not to be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, but a news columnist who promotes his opinion but admittedly does not have the facts of the case? Something doesn’t smell right about that.

    Also, it’s a “special” to the Star, so it looks like this Kessler fellow is not a real journalist.

    Having read the indictment – which pretty much nails down a time line that at the least suggests incompetence on the part of the diocesan officials – it seems that there really is something there with respect to the failure to report.

    Now, I agree, it seems as if indeed the dear priest was in fact immediately removed. So as mentioned before this is not a matter of sheltering a child abuser as the snap zealots would suggest. On the other hand, it seems that the diocesan official fell short of the responsibility as a mandated reporter.

    The time line seems to be that the conversation between the bishop and the detective was several months after the concerns were initially raised.

    I would tend to agree with those who surmise that the bishop was distracted by his campaign to forward an arch-conservative (“opus dei”) agenda (denying female altar servers, denying the communion cup, etc.) and was asleep at the switch with respect to his responsibility to protect children.

    On the other hand I am *NOT*, like others hopefully that he will spend time in jail. I really do not think that would be helpful . . . nor do I think people should serve time for misdemeanors – even of the highest order.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    “hopefully” = “hopeful”

  8. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says,

    Well, not to be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, but a news columnist who promotes his opinion but admittedly does not have the facts of the case? Something doesn’t smell right about that.

    Also, it’s a “special” to the Star, so it looks like this Kessler fellow is not a real journalist.

    Huh?

    At the end of the op ed it says : Frank Kessler is an emeritus professor of government at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph and teaches at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He lives in Overland Park.

  9. frjim4321 says:

    right – not a journalist

  10. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321,

    I would tend to agree with those who surmise that the bishop was distracted by his campaign to forward an arch-conservative (“opus dei”) agenda (denying female altar servers, denying the communion cup, etc.) and was asleep at the switch with respect to his responsibility to protect children.

    That he failed in his duty is obvious–more about that later.

    In so far as the scandals have occurred in dioceses across the US, then, according to your line of reasoning, they happened because the bishops were distracted by campaigns to promote altar girls, Communion under both species, and other components of the arch liberal (“Protestant”) agenda.

    IMHO, his failure is due to not recognizing one principle: No bishop can assume that any priest ordained from an American seminary in the past 35 years has been properly formed.

  11. Hidden One says:

    @frjim4321

    Two points.

    1) It strikes me that simply being a journalist is not something that recommends itself to writing good op-eds. Or to fact-finding. (Or, to being a good writer period, I must admit.)
    2) It seems to me that Dr. Kessler’s op-ed is no less true on account of his non-reading of the indictment. I would hope for no less of an experienced professor – and I would expect it of a good one.

  12. frjim4321 says:

    No, there haven’t been many dramatic failures to report in dioceses across the U.S. since 2002 and the Charter. With the most glaring example being Philadelphia, I don’t think it can be successfully argued that the failures have been in moderate-to-progressive dioceses. (Although I will grant you Belleville, but a lot of that was pre-Charter.)

    Anyway, until professional research is conducted (for example by John Jay or others) efforts to associate the scandal with a particular ideology (trad-mod-prog) is merely anecdotal.

    And please, Robert, all the priests ordained before 1975 in the U.S. were properly formed? Have you read the court documents from Boston?

  13. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    right – not a journalist

    Guest op-eds are commonly written by non journalists. For that matter, syndicated editorial writers often don’t have backgrounds as reporters or even in journalism. Paul Krugman has neither, Ge0rge Will the latter.

  14. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321,

    You make several mistakes.

    1. I never said all the priests ordained in the past 35 years were not properly formed, nor that all those ordained before 1975 were. Rather, I said that no bishop can assume those ordained in past 35 years were properly formed. In fact, that was told me last week by a priest ordained almost 30 years ago.

    2. You’re confusing the legal failure to report with the institutionalized moral failures that first produced the problems, then ignored them. Whether or not bishops were legally obligated to report them as crimes, they were and are morally obligated to prevent the scandals from occurring in the first place, and to prevent them from reoccurring in the few cases they did.

    3. You’re the one who associated the scandals with an ideology. I merely applied your own criterion to your own liberal ideology, even adopting your sentence structure. It’s surprising you missed it.

  15. Phillip says:

    As one who lives in the diocese in question, I have paid fairly close attention to this story since it broke.

    I am not entirely convinced that the prosecution is an attack on the faith. I am sure there is something political about this, as there IS a case to be made against Bishop Finn, and if the people believe that a man allowed an abusive priest to continue what he is doing (and he didn’t, but that seems to be the popular pereception), it would have negative consequences for the prosecutor. I don’t know exactly what Bishop Finn personally knew about Ratigan when the decisions he made were made, and I am reserving my judgement until all of the facts are known to me. But if he was legally obliged to report suspected child abuse, and he did not do so while knowing what he is alleged to have known, then he probably committed a crime. Prosecutors prosecute crimes. I see no persecution here.

    From what I know of the case, I think my bishop’s judgement and oversight of this particular matter was inexcusably poor, and possibly even criminal – not that I think Bishop Finn acted maliciously or deceitfully, but it was bad judgement and may have been a crime. But I also think that as a whole his tenure here has been good for the diocese. I do not wish to see him go over this. People make mistakes. This was a pretty big mistake, but I do not know exactly what the bishop knew or when he knew it, and I’m tired, tired, tired of hearing the “off with his head!” mentality that’s been expressed by so many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, ever since this came to light.

    And as an aside, I don’t care what the Star’s editorial board says. What I care about is when I see self-professed Catholics writing letters to the editor in which they’re displaying serious rash judgement (to say the least) and an absolute lack of charity to their shepherd. It fractures the local Church in a way that makes me sad. No better word for it. It’s just…sad. And it makes the rest of us look bad. We’re all in this together. When part of the Church is hurt, the entire Church is hurt. So many Catholics forget that. Pray for the diocese, the bishop, the guilty priest, his victims…everyone. Please.

  16. Phillip says:

    I meant to say “it would have negative consequences for the prosecutor were it not prosecuted.” Sorry.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    I lived in Bishop Finn’s diocese and consider him one of the best bishops in America. He has been a fantastic supporter of pro-life issues and a staunch, conservative leader, while being personable. However, I know that bishops have trouble keeping track of all the details of the “no-tolerance” position of the USCCB, which I also accept. Pornography of any kind must be dealt with swiftly and completely. The problem has been the increasing use of the computer for such horrible images and the reluctance of some bishops, not necessarily Bishop Finn, by the way, to be more involved personally in these cases. It may be a generation gap thing, where people in my age are very keen on personal privacy and may not realize that the evil of child porn must be a daily sin. Such priests should have their personal computers taken away immediately after the first aberration, and even have their mail, such as magazines, and personal freedoms seriously curtailed. This is a time consuming and invasive task, which I can imagine that most of us who are not inclined to such sins would find an invasion of privacy. But, in the case of child abuse and child porn, there is no other solution. Every diocese should have a priest, who is a specialist in these areas, and a conservative one as well, who would keep track of all of this. The fact that a bishop must do all the policing in unrealistic. Again, I make the comparison with a CEO who has an employee in his company caught in child abuse or porn. Is such a man in that position held responsible in the law? No. A bishop is, of course, his diocese’s pastor and is more responsible, but that any bishop faces a jail sentence does not make sense to me. However, there needs to be a shift in thinking about the fact that most of these perpetrators never change and must live lives separated from the public sphere of modern communications, much like an alcoholic avoiding pubs and parties where there is a lot a alcohol consumption. I believe that Bishop Finn is a holy man and that this situation was not handled as thoroughly as one would like. Satan sure got his foot in the door with all of these abuse cases, and the effects will be felt for years to come.

  18. Clinton says:

    It is interesting that, to my knowledge, no Planned Parenthood facility has ever been
    successfully prosecuted for failure to report the suspected sexual abuse of a minor.
    That is in spite of documented instances where PP employees have performed abortions
    on underage girls without reporting suspected abuse.

    The prosecutor in this case, Jean Peters Baker, ran for reelection to the state legislature
    in 2010 with the endorsement and support of NARAL. Rep. Baker then resigned her seat
    when she was appointed prosecutor this past May, about the same time that the news of the
    diocese’s case broke.

    Professor Kessler is right. “When prosecution can be perceived as rooted in politics, it can
    ruin the good name of the target, cheapen the moral authority of government and tarnish the
    respect for the rule of law”. For the sake of her career, Prosecutor Baker best hope that the
    local Planned Parenthood affiliates are not caught in their common practice of ignoring the
    ages of both the girls seeking abortions and the men who have impregnated them.

  19. Jim of Bowie says:

    This is a summary of the facts as stated by Bishop Finn: Dec 2010 – He became aware of inappropriate photos on Ratigan’s computer. They described the worst images to police who said they were not pornography. Their lawyer also said they were not pornography. Ratigan attempts suicide. When he recovered he was sent for psychological evaluation due to his suicide attempt. Bishop Finn removed him from all parish ministry and told him he was to have no contact with children. He lived at a convent. In March Bishop Finn learned of some contact with children and warned Ratigan. When in May Bishop Finn learned Ratigan was still having contact with children, he contacted the same police officer who facilitated a referral to the cyber crimes against children unit, who then obtained subpoenas and found pornographic images. Ratigan was arrested for possession of child pornography. Bishop Finn says he regrets he didn’t insist on a full investigation in December.

    I don’t see how these facts support a failure to report suspected child abuse. The facts, as known, were reported to police. Please explain.

  20. Mrs. O says:

    @ Jim,
    The discovery of the picture happened in Dec of 10. The Msgr DESCRIBED, didn’t show, one photo to a police officer who also was a member of the board.
    Many thought the Msgr would/did contact police department and turn it over to them. He did not. He just described pictures.
    It wasn’t til the priest refused to stop seeing children, as he was instructed to, that the Msgr suspected there might be abuse happening. That is when the police were contacted – May of this year I think.
    Because no one at the parish were warned, he still was able to visit families without any suspicion either and one being of a young child he photo graphed her private area which was on the computer back in Dec.
    No one formally contacted the police in Dec of 10 when it was first discovered although all involved “thought” the Msgr had handled it.

  21. Gail F says:

    It sounds very much like mismanagement to me. I don’t see anything criminal on the part of the bishop, if people underneath him were supposed to be taking care of the matter and did so incorrectly. I have no idea why the msgr described the picture instead of showing it — that would seem to be done incorrectly; but then, I don’t know what is the normal procedure in such cases. Apparently the police officer didn’t say, “I can’t tell unless I see the picture.” We can’t say without knowing more but, sadly, we all know (or ought to know, by this time) that SOME of what pedophiles look at is not, in fact, porn. It might have been that they found Fr. Ratigan with “work safe” pictures on his computer — pictures of kids in swim suits, etc., which are arousing to pedophiles but are not pornographic. What would you do if you found an employee with a folder full of kids in swim suits and underwear ads? My guess: Call the police, be told there was nothing actually illegal, and warn the guy. What if your employee was a teacher? A pediatric nurse? You would be pretty disturbed but all you could do would be to watch the person really, really closely. In this case, the priest tried to kill himself. The diocese removed him from active ministry and was supposed to be sure he didn’t contact children. It is the last part that they failed at, and that is definitely incompetence. But if the original policeman contacted is the one they went back to, was he also incompetent from the beginning? Was EVERYONE incompetent? Was it criminal incompetence, or just plain old incompetence? In either case, I don’t see why the bishop was indicted. Filing a case may very well be the right thing to do, but not (IMHO) against the bishop.

  22. Choirmaster says:

    Leaving the shock-value of the material/activities in question aside, am I the only one that finds it unsettling that the law binds innocent citizens to misdemeanor crimes just because they may have failed to snitch to the police? This is like that horrible last episode of Seinfeld where they all get convicted for not rushing in and stopping a mugging that they happened to witness.

    What other crimes spawn new crimes due to the failure of innocent bystanders to report the first crime to law enforcement?

  23. Choirmaster says:

    Ok, here in Corporate America, there are some white-collar crimes that I could get in hot water for having knowledge of and not reporting to the authorities, but I already know that the SEC and other legislation and regulation around such things are screwy. I’m speaking of actual crimes, for instance:

    1. What if I witnessed a murder? What if I did not report it to the police for whatever reason? Would I also be guilty of a crime?

    2. What if I witnessed a burglary or domestic violence? Could I go to jail for not calling the police?

  24. Michaelus says:

    In this case the Bishop, the Msgr., the policeman and the school principal are all required to report actual or suspected child abuse. Child abuse means physical abuse – not pictures, not hugs, not letting kids pull candies out of your pocket. In this case no one has shown any evidence of child abuse. Ratigan is accused of possessing child porn – not of making it or actually abusing any children. The photo in question is not child pornography (it is described in the indictment).

    Yet the prosecutor has indicted the Bishop and the Diocese for failing to report sexual abuse i.e. for failing to report something that does not exist. The prosecutor is the one being abusive.

  25. eulogos says:

    Michaelus, actually the priest took most of these photos, and in one series took a picture of a toddler standing, then of her clothes being slowly lowered, finally a close up of her naked genitals. This clearly had pornographic intent for a pedophile. And he took the pictures. Which means he also found a way to be alone with the child, and to remove her clothes. There is another of a sleeping child in which he took a series of pictures in which he “posed” the sleeping child in several positions he apparently found arousing. He was making child pornography, albeit rather soft core pornography. In any case, possession of child pornography is also illegal. And all of these people were required to report that as well. Bp. Finn ought to have had the computer removed and examined the minute he heard about the first picture. He ought to have looked at the pictures himself, and at that point, he ought to have called the police. Possibly he ought to have called them after looking at the first picture, which he should have done as soon as he heard of it.
    There was also a 2008 legal settlement, signed by Bp. Finn, in which the diocese agreed as terms of the settlement to report any suspected abuse, and I think this included pornography, to the police immediately. He also failed to read the letter from the school principle about the priest’s odd behavior around children, which might have made him more alert to the dangers of the whole situation. It is possible his staff failed to call it to his attention; but as a CEO, he is responsible for that.

    He really made a large mistake here. I am sure the impulse to prosecute him does come from people who don’t like his policies, and people who don’t like the Church. But he made himself and therefore the Church, vulnerable in this situation.

    Choirmaster, I believe that you are required to give the police any evidence you have about a felony. In a murder case I have heard (lawyers please confirm or correct me) that you can be charged with obstruction of justice for failing to give information to the police.

    Susan Peterson

  26. chcrix says:

    “Special to xxxxxx”

    To clear up confusion:

    “Special to” simply indicates that one is not a regular salaried employee of the news organization. For a regular employee it will say “by Joe Schmoe of the xxxxxx”

    I have written literally hundreds of articles with the “Special to” label as a freelancer.

    On the editorial page it means the same thing – the writer is not a regular employee working on the editorial page.

    It says nothing about whether one is a journalist or not.

  27. Joanne says:

    I posted in the comment section as “celtic cross:”

    As someone who tries to be a faithful Catholic, I’m ashamed that so many other orthodox Catholics are defending this bishop. The prosecutor doesn’t like Catholics, she’s just trying to make a name for herself, this newspaper hates the bishop for his orthodoxy, etc. Even if those things are true, so what? The *kindest* thing anyone can say about Finn’s behavior here, a decade into this sex abuse nightmare, is that it was breathtakingly stupid and short-sighted, especially in light of the fact that Finn had in his possession a letter from this school principal detailing Ratigan’s chronic inappropriate behavior.

    If a bishop getting arrested is what it takes for these guys to understand that staying silent about sex abuse is not okay, then so be it. If he’s found guilty, I hope he gets the max. Let’s send a message to the next priest or bishop who entertains the temptation to cover for sociopaths. imo, the prosecutor, whatever her motivation, has done the Church a favor.

  28. Michaelus says:

    Susan – thank for the information as panful as it is to read. I just read a summary of the indictment of Ratigan. The Federal prosecutor is charging Ratigan with producing child porn based mostly on pictures he took. This really forces the Missouri DA to charge the people who saw the photos with failure to report child abuse. If Ratigan gets convicted it gives the Missouri DA’s case a huge boost.

    What about the policeman who was consulted by the diocese? Why did he dismiss their concerns?

    Michael Shea

  29. Joan A. says:

    In response to Joanne,

    But the Principal did not recommend any action against Fr. Ratigan or his removal. A meeting was held with parents and they too did not want to make a fuss, were unanimous in not wanting Ratigan removed. So the Bishop hears this mixed message, with at that point zero other evidence, and what is he to think? The very parents expressing concern when given a chance to participate in a decision, decided Ratigan was not a threat to their own children!

    Granted, if I were a bishop, I would not wait on ideas from parents or principals, the priest would be in my office the next day for questioning. Bishop Finn sadly did not have that strong of a disciplinary nature, or trusted too much in the input from the others. He made a judgment that gave the benefit of the doubt to the priest. That is not a crime.

  30. Mrs. O says:

    Joan A,
    It wasn’t the principle’s duty, nor the parents, to fully investigate the matter because they were not able to tell the extent of his nature. [Really? The principle had no duty to act? I wonder how many people agree with that.] They wanted him to stop boundary crossing because that is what they witnessed at the school. Her statement should have given the Diocese a clearer picture of who they were dealing with especially when he was unwilling to do the basic – stop his behavior.

    They, Diocese, had proof in December, pictures, that were a crime. And failure to report this to the proper authorities is likewise a crime.

    For the record, the priest just didn’t have child pornography, he was creating it from children in the parish, school, etc.

    Here is the priest’s indictment:
    http://www.justice.gov/usao/mow/news2011/ratigan.ind.html

  31. Mrs. O says:

    Fr Z, the principle only witnessed boundary violations. She could have reported it to the police, but I am not sure what would have occurred. Abuse is what is generally reported although you can report almost anything. No signs of abuse occurred, but boundary violations and the failure to stop, could indicate something else. She wasn’t taken seriously or not seriously enough.

  32. Mrs. O says:

    I’ll add one more thing.

    There is a huge disagreement on how, when something like boundary violation, occurs IF the whole diocese needs to know.
    To me it is similar to the Philadelphia cases where there was much criticism of priests, who had boundary violations, were named. Remember?
    I, as a mother, would like to know but how the diocese does that, well it doesn’t seem they are in agreement.

  33. Martial Artist says:

    choirmaster,

    First, a couple of disclaimers:

    [1] I am not an attorney.

    [2] I have not had formal legal education beyond that required as part of the ordinary training provided as an enlisted man, an Officer Candidate, and subsequently a commissioned officer, in the U.S. Navy.

    You asked:

    1. What if I witnessed a murder? What if I did not report it to the police for whatever reason? Would I also be guilty of a crime?

    2. What if I witnessed a burglary or domestic violence? Could I go to jail for not calling the police?

    Under U.S. Federal law, but insofar as I know not under the law of most, if any, states of the U.S.,
    Neglect in preventing or reporting a felony or treason by one not an accessory,” legally termed misprision of felony or misprision of treason, is, to the best of my ability to determine, a misdemeanor. However, the offense requires active concealment of a known felony, rather than merely failing to report it.

    Misprision of a felony is also an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 78—Accessory after the fact, punishable upon conviction as a court martial may direct.

    In the case of public officials it has been replaced in most jurisdictions by misfeasance in public office or malfeasance in public office, with the specific charge being dependent on the nature and severity of offense.

    So, in general, as long as one is (a) not an accessory to the crime and not a public official and not required under a specific law by virtue of one’s particular occupational position, one cannot be prosecuted for failure to report a felony.

    Note that it appears to be a combination of the nature of the crime and Bp. Finn’s position as the superior of the accused that makes the Bishop liable under local law to report what he learned (outside the seal of the confessional). It is also my understanding that it is extremely rare, if known at all, for a Bishop to hear the confessions of priests under his charge. The person who conveyed that understanding to me cited as one of the reasons, that were the Bishop to hear the confession of one of his priests of a mandatorily reportable offense, that Bishop would be caught on the horns of a serious dilemma.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer
    ________________
    P.S. You can find all of the above, and likely more, by googling “misprision of felony.”