Friday, September 2, 2011

Report of Consultant re: Situation in Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese Released

The report commissioned by the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic diocese to find out what went wrong when a diocesan priest, Shawn Ratigan, was permitted access to children for many months after it was known he possessed child pornography has now been released.  Joshua McElwee summarizes the report's findings at National Catholic Reporter, noting that former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, the report's author, finds that individuals in authority in the diocese have reacted to credible reports about sexual abuse in ways that jeopardize the safety of children.

McElwee writes,

Among the findings in the 138-page report, which is available online, are:
  • Diocesan leaders, as previously reported in the media, did not inform the diocesan review board of allegations;
  • Responsibility for the investigation of sexual misconduct fell to one office, that of the vicar general;
  • Finn took Ratigan at his word that he would abide by restrictions on his association with children.
Taken together, the report states, findings indicate that "Diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures" for responding to reports of sexual misconduct.

In a pattern that has come to be wearily familiar to those monitoring how the bishops in the U.S. have responded to the abuse crisis, Bishop Robert Finn circumvented the diocesan review board set up in the wake of the damning 2002 Dallas report and made a highly placed monsignor, the diocesan vicar general Robert Murphy, the sole point person to handle the serious allegations that were made about Ratigan a full year before his arrest.

As McElwee notes, SNAP outreach director Barbara Dorris has commented on Graves' report by noting that when bishops refuse to police themselves, "[o]nly vigorous action by police and prosecutors will make kids safer . . . ."  And she's right.

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