Bishop Robert Finn
September 11, 2012
Last week Catholic Bishop Robert W. Finn, of the diocese of Kansas City, was found guilty of failing to report a priest that was suspected of being a child abuser. It is the first time in recent history that a Bishop is convicted of protecting a pedophile.
The priest, father Ratigan was arrested and sentenced for possession child pornography. He is awaiting sentencing. Most of the pornography found on his laptop were photographs of very young girls that he had taken himself!
The Bishop knew of the child pornography long before father Ratigan was arrested, yet never reported him to the police. Instead he reassigned him to a convent with strict restrictions as to his activities. He was, for instance, not allowed to use computers and he was also to avoid all contact with children. Father Ratigan violated those restrictions as well.
Monsignor Murphy, the Bishop’s second in command, finally reported Father Ratigan to the authorities.
Just prior to his sentencing Bishop Finn made the very disappointing statement: ”I am pleased and grateful that the prosecution and the courts have allowed this matter to complete. The protection of children is paramount. I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt that these events have caused.” He was sentenced to one year of court supervised probation and a $1000.00 fine. The statement is disappointing because it does not acknowledge personal responsibility.
In a letter to the Kansas City Star, Daniel Frank a reader, wrote:
“If a wolf enters a flock, injures a lamb and is moved to another pasture where he injures another lamb, is the shepherd culpable?
Bishop Robert Finn’s defense was shameful. You can parse the words or present the evidence any way you want, but in the end the shepherd failed to protect the lambs….Ultimately, this comes down to the responsibility of a shepherd to protect the flock. He failed more than once.”
In situation of pedophilia, we do not need to know for sure that someone is involved in such criminal activity before reporting it to civil authorities. The law mandates us to report it even if we only have a suspicion.
The intriguing question is why did the Bishop protect Father Ratigan? Was it misplaced empathy? When asked why he had not turned in Father Ratigan he replied that he wanted “to save Father Ratigan’s priesthood.” Our empathy should always, first go to the victims and potential victims. Our duty to protect should supersede any empathy or sympathy for suspected perpetrators.
The prosecutor said: “Defendant Finn is the ultimate authority, the buck stop with him.”
“The buck stops here” is a poker term that means that responsibility is not passed on beyond this point. Both U.S. President Truman and Carter had a sign on their desks with that inscription.
In ethics, responsibility should never be past on. ”The buck” should always stops with you and me, with us.
As Martin Luther once said:
“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”