The Catholic League supports Bp. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph

From The Catholic League:

BISHOP FINN DESERVES BETTER

October 21, 2011

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the controversy over Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn:

The Catholic League will have a lot to say about Bishop Finn and his accusers over the next few weeks. For now, we want to make it clear that we stand by him without reservation. Why? Not because he is a bishop, but because nothing he did deserves the kind of mad reaction against him that is emanating from many quarters. In a short time, we will lay out the details of our support for him. But for now, keep in mind the following:

Many strange photos (crotch-focused) of young girls, fully clothed, were found on the laptop of a priest last December; one showed a girl naked. Though Bishop Finn never saw it, he was told of it. The result? The picture was described to a police officer the next day, and an attorney for the Diocese was shown the photo. It was determined that the photo, while disturbing, did not constitute child pornography. The priest learns that they’re on to him; he attempts suicide; he almost dies; he recovers; he is sent for treatment; he is not considered to be a pedophile, but is said to be suffering from depression; he is then placed in a spot away from children; he is subjected to restrictions. After violating the restrictions, the cops are called; more damaging photos are then found.

This account is quite different from what is being bandied about in the media. To take one example, there is an editorial in today’s New York Times saying that Bishop Finn “knew of the photos last December but did not turn them over to the police until May.” This makes it sound as if Finn knew about hundreds of photos of child pornography and he did nothing about it. In fact, there was one photo, that was not sexual in nature, that was found. Moreover, a police officer and an attorney were notified immediately. Later, after the priest proved to be recalcitrant, the police were contacted.

As I said, we will have a lot more to say about this issue. Stay tuned.

Contact our director of communications about Donohue’s remarks:
Jeff Field
Phone: 212-371-3191
E-mail: cl@catholicleague.org

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The Catholic League supports Bp. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph

  1. Various bishops may have been guilty of tolerating and even abetting abusers, but none of them indicted. This one bishop, who arguably did nothing wrong in a case that may not involve any actual abuse, is indicted. If not political, how else to figure?

  2. Supertradmum says:

    When an innocent person falls into the waters, the sharks, which have been waiting for an opportunity, rush in for the kill. I am sure that the enemies of this great man, who are in his own diocese, where I lived for some time, are clapping their hands with glee. I cannot tell you the number of priests, nuns, and lay persons who hated his straight-down-the-wicket Catholic stance. Thankfully, the majority of people love him and I shall pray that he is totally vindicated.

  3. Philangelus says:

    If you go to the webpage of the Kansas City diocese, click on the article (on the right) that says “Independent Investigation Report.”

    Scroll down that article to the link to the actual report.

    Read the actual report from page 71 onward. It’s very thorough. Bishop Finn didn’t have all the information in December, but it’s also not as cut-and-dried as Bill Donohue makes it seem.

  4. worm says:

    What Philangelus said ^^^^^.

    I read exactly the part of the report he mentions. I was livid. The same mistakes are bing made yet again. I am trying to withold judgement until all the facts are known, but according the independent report posted on the diocesan website, it appears to me that there is plenty of blame to go around and that at least some of it falls at the feet of Bishop Finn.

  5. LouiseA says:

    “In fact, there was one photo, that was not sexual in nature, that was found.”

    Sorry, Mr. Field, that is not a fact. Read the report.

  6. lasorda says:

    It is really depressing to see this misrepresentation of the report. To describe the smut found on Ratigan’s computer as “many strange photos” is offensive. “Strange?” We are talking about actual children in these photos. The cavalier tone taken by Mr. Field is totally inappropriate.

  7. Joan A. says:

    Let’s not get ourselves in a tizzy over Bill Donohue. Bill Donohue is always “cut and dried.” He is doing what he does, in his style, and it serves a purpose. Most of the folks who get Bill Donohue’s newsletter have probably never heard of Fr. Zuhlsdorf. [LOL! Nice try.] Donohue is a self-made PR man for the Church and he does a great deal of good by making clear statements that usually are the only ones remotely truthful compared to the rest of the media. The more erudite and obscure publications and blogs are going to never be seen by your typical Catholic. Let’s not knit-pick Bill Donohue, because as we move along there are plenty of Catholic blogs and self-styled experts, as well as the press, that will all be blasting poor Bishop Finn. Some will be supportive.

    Bishop Finn is arguably one of the most devout and sincere bishops in the country. Why he got muddled on this and perhaps didn’t use the best judgment, who knows, but I am sure it was not malicious or ever meant to avoid responsibility. I’m sure he was immersed in the issues and trying to do right. Keep in mind he also had to worry about this unstable priest possibly slitting his wrists, that alone might have made him hesitate about what to do.

    It’s sad and ironic that there are probably a few bishops who should be in jail. Bishop Finn is not one of them, we do know that much, that punishment would be extreme and we must pray this does not turn into a Catholic and priest-bashing circus in or out of the court. This good man’s life could be ruined. This is a time for Catholics to stand together.

  8. Nicole says:

    I don’t see from what is written in the report by this independent “Firm” that Bishop Finn actually did anything immoral. I also believe that Bishop Finn being a Bishop is a great reason to stand behind him in support.

    Pornography as defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
    2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.

    Missouri law defines the term “child pornography” in § 573.010(2), RSMo, as:
    (a) Any obscene material or performance depicting sexual conduct, sexual contact, or a sexual performance, as these terms are defined in section 556.061, RSMo, and which has as one of its participants or portrays as an observer of such conduct, contact, or performance a minor under the age of eighteen; or
    (b) Any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer?generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct where:

    a. The production of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
    b. Such visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer?generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
    c. Such visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to show that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

    Sexually explicit conduct is defined at § 573.010(18). The term includes “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.” The federal statutes defining child pornography and sexually explicit conduct mirror the Missouri statutes.

    The independent “Firm” who compiled the report present on the website of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph states that it is the OPINION (not legally binding ruling) of the “Firm” that the images cited, which were never viewed by the members of the “Firm”, in the memorandum compiled by Ms. Paula Moss and Ms. Julie Creech, constituted child pornography; just as Mr. Jon Haden, the Diocese’s outside council, stated that, in his study of the law, the photographs which he SAW did not constitute child pornography.

    I also have a general problem with the name of the so-called “exposed” area in the above-mentioned memo, since it seems to me that the anatomical organ named could only be visible under the general circumstances described in the “Firm’s” report with added manipulation, which is not mentioned in either the report or the memo, which leads me to believe that the exposed region of the child is named erroneously. I don’t think it’s proper to mention the specifics here (the language of the memo can be seen in the report on the Kansas City-St. Joseph website), but what the “Firm” describes as the three “nude” photos which Ms. Creech originally found, and what she and Ms. Moss describe in the memo are not equal in terms.

    The images as described in the “Firm’s” report certainly do not meet the definition of pornography in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and it is my opinion that they do not meet the state of Missouri’s definition of child pornography specifically, either. There is no description in the report of any sexually explicit conduct present in the exhibition of the nude genitals or clothed pubic regions of the children in the photographs. They are certainly very, very suspicious images, but “candid” images of immodestly dressed children in public places show NO lasciviousness. Lasciviousness can be defined as a playful inclination to incite sexual desire. From my reading of the report, none of the children photographed, whether nude or clothed, were described as exhibiting their private areas with a playful inclination to incite sexual desire, as most of the images found on the computer were reported to be “candid” images. The priest’s actions were certainly very odd in photographing these areas, and he even seemed to admit some moral guilt in obtaining the images as what was implicit in the report, but the images themselves are neutral matter.

    If we are going to call photos of exposed genitals of children “child pornography” then my medical textbooks would qualify as child pornography. We can use the priest’s manifest intent to judge his actions, but not the images themselves, since the same general type of images found in medical texts or family photo albums or on Facebook would not be condemned.

  9. Philangelus says:

    Nicole, would you allow your daughters to spend an afternoon with Father Ratigan? After all, you don’t think he explicitly broke either Missouri law or violated the Catechism.

    Oh, and putting “Firm” in quotes is an attempt to reduce their credibility, but this “Firm” was selected by the Bishop to come up with this report. The Bishop is hosting their report on the diocesan website. That indicates a certain authorization by the Bishop himself.

  10. chcrix says:

    Thank you Nicole, you have written down many of my own thoughts on this matter.

    Some additional thoughts:

    In my opinion the Bishop did nothing wrong. I am not sure I would have done anything differently from him if this were last December and I had the information available.

    If every bishop had taken things as seriously as this bishop, there would be no abuse issue. He took actions: immediately, effectively, and followed up later.

    If several adults have to sit around and debate the question: ‘is this child pronography?’ I submit that the answer is obvious: No.

    I don’t think this should be viewed as an ‘anti-catholic’ initiative. Rather it is just another case of the modern state trying to prove it is the one true divinity. It can protect you from anything given the right laws. Essentially this is grandstanding first, anti-catholicism second.

    Oh, and I guess it is time to retire the Coppertone girl – or did they do that already? I guess that puppy is doing hard time.

  11. Jim Ryon says:

    Philangelus said:
    “Nicole, would you allow your daughters to spend an afternoon with Father Ratigan? ”

    Of course she wouldn’t. No one here is excusing Ratigan. The question is did Bishop Finn act prudently based on the knowledge he had at the time. A criminal referral is a very serious matter. Noone suspected Ratigan of child abuse, not even the principal who first questioned his behavior. Bishop Finn acted to protect children. The only fault I see on the part of Bishop Finn is that he did not refer the case to his independent review board. However, unless they were overzealous, I don’t think they would have recommended any action at the time other than what the bishop took.

  12. lasorda says:

    From the report:

    “Ms.  Creech  found  hundreds  of  photographs  of  young  children,  primarily  girls.  
    Although  these were  clothed  images, she found them disturbing.  There were,  for  example, 
    photographs  of  girls  in  swimsuits  climbing  up  the  ladder  of  a  slide  that  had  been  taken 
    from  below,  focused  on  the  girls’  crotch  areas.    Other  photographs  had  been  taken  from 
    underneath  a  table,  focusing  on  girls’  crotch  areas.    Yet  other  photos  depicted  short?
    wearing girls who were in a squatting position with their legs spread apart, focused on the 90
    girls’  crotch  areas.    According  to Ms.  Creech,  the  girls  in  these photos appeared to be from 
    eight to ten years old.   
      Ms.  Creech  then  found  a  file  marked  “ – – – – – -.”    Opening  it,  she  found  a  group  of 
    “staged”  photos  of  a  very  young  girl  who  appeared  to  be  two  to  three years old. The first 
    photo  showed  a  little  girl,  face  visible,  standing  and  holding  a  blanket.    In  a  “staged 
    sequence,”  the  photos  depicted  the  girl  lying  down  in  a  bed,  from  the  waist  down,  and 
    focused  on  the  crotch.   The  girl was wearing only  a  diaper,  but with each photo, the diaper 
    was  moved  gradually  to  expose  her  genitals.    By  the  last  photo,  her  genitals  were  fully 
    exposed.  According to Ms. Creech, there were approximately six to eight pictures in this 
    sequence  of  photos;  two  displayed  fully  exposed  genitals  and  one  displayed  her  fully 
    exposed buttocks.  The little girl’s face was not visible in the  staged  sequence,  but  due  to 
    her  apparent  physical  size  and  the  fact  the  photos  were  in  the  same  file,  Ms.  Creech 
    assumed the photos were of the same little girl whose face appeared in the initial picture. 
      Ms.  Creech  also  found  a  set  of  approximately  two  dozen  photos  of  a  sleeping  girl 
    who  appeared  to  be  approximately  seven  to  eight  years  old.    The  girl’s  face  was  visible  in 
    the photos.  In these photos, the girl’s position appeared to have been moved while she was 
    sleeping.  Although the girl was fully clothed, Ms. Creech advised that she felt the photos 
    were  disturbing  and  sexual  in  nature.

    . . . Other  bookmarks  led  to  a  website  for  two?way  mirrors  and  spy  pens,  small 
    cameras  disguised  to  look  like  ballpoint  pens.      Checking  Fr.  Ratigan’s Facebook page, Ms. 
    Creech  found  many  paths  and  connections  to  other  Facebook  pages,  primarily  those  of 
    young girls.”

    Nicole, if you think that a Kansas City jury won’t find the photographs of the toddler “lascivious,” you are deluding yourself.

  13. Ezra says:

    I suggest those who find the Catholic League’s stance compelling read sections 6 to 12 (pp. 89-109) of the independent report hosted on the diocese’s website. While the earlier material on Fr Ratigan already points to a culture of either complacency or incompetence in handling reports, those sections in particular are damning. They certainly make the Catholic League press release look extremely disingenuous. For example,

    Ms. Summers had asked Msgr. Murphy if he was going to try to identify the child in the photo. Around the same time, Jon Haden also advised Msgr. Murphy that it was important for the Diocese to determine the identities of the children in the photographs. Because no one had been able to determine whether the photos were downloaded from the Internet or taken by Fr. Ratigan, there was a distinct possibility that the children in some of the photographs had been abused by Fr. Ratigan in the process of taking the pictures or at other times. Mr. Haden further questioned whether DFS [Missouri Division of Family Services] had been notified and advised that DFS should certainly be notified if any of the children were from the Diocese. According to Msgr. Murphy and Bishop Finn, no steps were taken to identify any of the children in the photographs. In addition, DFS was never notified.

    Further, the IRB [Independent Review Board] was not notified. According to both Msgr. Murphy and Bishop Finn, the IRB was not notified because no identifiable victim was making a complaint. Obviously, however, subjects such as the two to three year?old child in the nude photo were in no position to make a complaint. The nature of the photographs, combined with the fact that no one had ruled out the possibility that Fr. Ratigan, an avid and frequent photographer, had taken at least some of them, gave rise to at least a suspicion of child abuse that should have been investigated.

    The Catholic League also adjusts the chronology. The “more damaging” photographs were found on the day that the laptop was delivered to Bishop Finn’s staff (16th December 2010). Read pp. 89-91 of the report for a deeply creepy description of what was found (posted above by lasorda). Then think that this priest, who attempted suicide the following day, was – rather than being reported to the police – assigned to a Vincentian Mission House, from which base he was still able to have contact with children, take photographs of children, and use the internet unsupervised.

    While I hope Bishop Finn doesn’t end up going to prison, perhaps the sight of a bishop facing a secular court will FINALLY wake up those shepherds who treat threats to clerical reputation as more important than potential risks to the spiritual and physical integrity of children. How would you feel if the director of your kids’ daycare center had behaved in this way faced with similar evidence about a member of his staff? How about a hospital director being confronted with similar evidence about one of his consultant pediatricians?

    I’ll pray for Bishop Finn, but if I were a Kansas City parent, I would want a new shepherd.

  14. Ezra says:

    I suggest those who find the Catholic League’s stance compelling read sections 6 to 12 (pp. 89-109) of the independent report hosted on the diocese’s website. While the earlier material on Fr Ratigan already points to a culture of either complacency or incompetence in handling reports, those sections in particular are damning. They certainly make the Catholic League press release look extremely disingenuous. For example,

    Ms. Summers had asked Msgr. Murphy if he was going to try to identify the child in the photo. Around the same time, Jon Haden also advised Msgr. Murphy that it was important for the Diocese to determine the identities of the children in the photographs. Because no one had been able to determine whether the photos were downloaded from the Internet or taken by Fr. Ratigan, there was a distinct possibility that the children in some of the photographs had been abused by Fr. Ratigan in the process of taking the pictures or at other times. Mr. Haden further questioned whether DFS [Missouri Division of Family Services] had been notified and advised that DFS should certainly be notified if any of the children were from the Diocese. According to Msgr. Murphy and Bishop Finn, no steps were taken to identify any of the children in the photographs. In addition, DFS was never notified.

    Further, the IRB [Independent Review Board] was not notified. According to both Msgr. Murphy and Bishop Finn, the IRB was not notified because no identifiable victim was making a complaint. Obviously, however, subjects such as the two to three year?old child in the nude photo were in no position to make a complaint. The nature of the photographs, combined with the fact that no one had ruled out the possibility that Fr. Ratigan, an avid and frequent photographer, had taken at least some of them, gave rise to at least a suspicion of child abuse that should have been investigated.

    The Catholic League also adjusts the chronology. The “more damaging” photographs were found on the day that the laptop was delivered to Bishop Finn’s staff (16th December 2010). Read pp. 89-91 of the report for a deeply creepy description of what was found (posted above by lasorda). Then think that this priest, who attempted suicide the following day, was – rather than being reported to the police – assigned to a Vincentian Mission House, from which base he was still able to have contact with children, take photographs of children, and use the internet unsupervised.

    While I hope Bishop Finn doesn’t end up going to prison, perhaps the sight of a bishop facing a secular court will FINALLY wake up those shepherds who treat threats to clerical reputation as more important than potential risks to the spiritual and physical integrity of children. How would you feel if the director of your kids’ daycare center had behaved in this way faced with similar evidence about a member of his staff? How about a hospital director being confronted with similar evidence about one of his consultant pediatricians?

    I’ll pray for Bishop Finn, but if I were a Kansas City parent, I would want a new shepherd.

  15. Nicole says:

    Philangelus – interpret my words as you will. I made no attempt to reduce anyone’s credibility, I merely wasn’t compelled to find the name of the firm in my search through the investigative report they made. That’s why I put “Firm” in quotations. I also no made it a point not to concern myself with a judgment of Fr. Ratigan’s actions, since the article is dealing with the attack of Bishop Finn, not Fr. Ratigan. You can tint your interpretation with as much bias and emotion as you wish, but it doesn’t mean that the Bishop actually did anything objectively wrong in how the case was handled, regardless of the lackings and subterfuge of those to whom he had delegated authority who were dealing with the case of Fr. Ratigan.

    lasorda – I made no mention in my final conclusion after reading the pertinent parts of the report that I didn’t believe a Kansas City, MO jury won’t find the photographs of the toddler “lascivious”…so don’t know how I deluded myself :) . I believe a KC jury would, in fact, find these images “lascivious” because they likely would not be mature Catholic jurors who understand the importance of key word definition nor the importance of a man’s good name.

    The real question here is: what obligation does a Bishop have to turn his priest over to secular authorities? I believe there is none. What obligation does a Bishop have to deign to answer a secular court or authority? I believe there is none. Whether or not the Bishop chooses of his own free will to do these is not the question, but rather, does he have the obligation to do these… I think the answer is clearly a “no.” If anyone wishes to offer corrective information, I’m all ears.

  16. worm says:

    The real question here is: what obligation does a Bishop have to turn his priest over to secular authorities? I believe there is none.

    Legal oblication? I’m no laywer. Moral oblication? Absolutely. Not just as a bishop but as a human being.

  17. Nicole says:

    worm, perhaps you would enjoy a re-read of Unam Sanctam? Here is an excerpt:

    “We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: ‘Behold, here are two swords’ [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: ‘Put up thy sword into thy scabbard’ [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

    However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: ‘There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God’ [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

    For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal. This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, but the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: ‘Behold to-day I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms’ and the rest. Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: ‘The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man’ [1 Cor 2:15]. ”

    The priest, Bishop and Pope are not to be judged by the temporal arm, but rather to judge the temporal arm.

  18. Mrs. O says:

    Nicole,
    You may want to read what Pope Benedict has recently stated on the matter of clergy abusing children and people; they are subject to civil law. They should be subject to civil law in the matters of crime especially of this nature.

  19. Ezra says:

    Nicole,

    I have had to edit this comment several times for language, so if your intent was to anger others: congratulations, you succeeded. In any case, it’s pretty clear that the real question is: what obligation does a bishop have to protect his flock from one of his priests who gives the appearance of having a sexual interest in children?

    A priest who attempts to commit suicide after pictures of a toddler being stripped down to her bare buttocks and genitalia are found on his computer (along with hundreds of crotch-focused photos of clothed children) is unlikely to be reacting to the discovery of a couple of innocent family photographs. Unless bishops wish to take responsibility for putting a lot more resources into canonical tribunals (and ensuring the option of jailing their priests in episcopal dungeons), it should be clear that calling on the secular arm is the only option in such circumstances. Anything less endangers the bodies and souls of the most vulnerable members of Christ’s flock. How many suicides, how many apostasies, sprang from priestly sexual abuse of children? Only God knows, but what He shared with us on the subject is pretty chilling:

    Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.