Friday, August 26, 2011

Updates on Abuse Crisis in Catholic Church: The Netherlands and Kansas City

Since I've been talking about matters Catholic this morning, and this is becoming one of those end-of-week news roundup postings I sometimes do, I want to take note of two stories about which I've intended to blog for some days now. 

The first has to do with the situation in the Catholic church in the Netherlands, which has been in the news for some days now.  And I honestly don't know what to say about it, except that the reports circulating in the media are grim, deeply painful to read, and certainly deserve consideration.  As this statement from David Clohessy of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the AP article attached to it note, Dutch prosecutors are now investigating a "rash of deaths" that occurred at a Catholic boys' home in the town of Heel in the middle of the 20th century.

And as this investigation is underway, news of a similar rash of deaths at a Catholic girls' home in the same community and same time frame has come to light.  SNAP is calling for a government probe of the situation.  Both facilities served mentally-disabled children.  Kevin Clarke posted about this story at America's "In All Things" blog a week or so ago.

My second item updates the story of Father Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese.*  As readers will recall, Ratigan was arrested in May and charged with three counts of child pornography, and it has come to light that Finn knew of Ratigan's danger to children and shielded him, while permitting him continued access to children.

And now, two days ago, ABC's Kansas City affiliate KMBC reported that it has received information that Finn has been subpoenaed by the county's grand jury, as that body investigates and deliberates about what happened with Ratigan.  Whether Finn will actually appear in court remains to be seen.

This subpoena comes on the heels of yet another lawsuit filed against Shawn Ratigan--the second civil lawsuit against him, and the first to be filed in state court.  As the SNAP press release about this to which I've just linked notes, the diocese is also named in the suit.  

To shield the identity of their daughter, the plaintiffs have not disclosed their own identities.  The lawsuit alleges that Bishop Finn has not been forthright about his role in permitting Ratigan access to children even after Finn had information that should have indicated the danger Ratigan posed to children.  It also alleges that both other priests and the nuns of the community of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, to whom Finn sent Ratigan when he learned of Ratigan's behavior, state that Ratigan was generally unsupervised and free to come and go as he wished, while living at this facility.

It will be interesting to see how the legal systems in both the Netherlands and Missouri handle these situations.  As many of us monitoring the abuse crisis in the Catholic church have said for some time, the best hope for effective action to address that crisis lies with the courts and criminal justice system, when the church itself will not police the actions of its dangerous clerics.

* Links to my previous postings about the Ratigan-Finn story:

The graphic is a display of children abused by priests created by SNAP and placed outside the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in May.

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