Monday, September 10, 2012

More Commentary on Bishop Finn's Criminal Conviction: Grant Gallicho, Mark Silk, Frank Cocozzelli

Several more pieces of valuable commentary on the story of Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City and his conviction last week on charges of having failed to report Father Shawn Ratigan after Finn learned Ratigan had pornographic images of children on his computer:

At Commonweal, Grant Gallicho does excellent work summarizing the Finn case and rebutting the shameful argument of Dr. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League that Finn is innocent (!) and that the Ratigan case does not involve child abuse (!).  Gallicho's posting is long and detailed, and it's difficult for me to point to a single section that encapsulates the argument.  I encourage readers to read the entire piece, just as I also encourage you to refresh your memory of the specifics of the Finn-Ratigan case by clicking on the detailed timeline in Joshua McElwee's NCR article about the Finn conviction (which Pam Cohen may have compiled and for which she deserves great credit, if that's the case).  And I recommend Laurie Goodstein's recent summary of the details of the case in New York Times.

Though it's hard to abstract Gallicho's extensive and well-argued posting, here's one excerpt that encapsulates his argument:

But what is he [i.e., Dr. Donohue] thinking when he calls the “condemnations targeting Finn…as unfair as they are contrived”? The man is guilty of not reporting suspected child abuse. He was informed of Ratigan’s disturbing photos of children (children, not teenagers) on December 16, 2010. There is nothing contrived or unfair about condemning his failure to respond adequately to the threat posed by Ratigan. He chose not to forward the case to his own sexual-abuse review board, and to take as gospel the evaluation of one psychiatrist even though his closest advisers were urging him to send Ratigan to another shrink. And when Finn learned Ratigan was not abiding even the light restrictions the bishop had placed on him, what did he do? He gave him a stern talking-to. What would have happened if Msgr. Murphy hadn’t made the decision to tell Capt. Smith the whole truth? We know what Ratigan did in the meantime. He kept looking at God-knows-what online. He heard kids’ confessions. He had parties for kids and their parents, where he apparently continued his work as an amateur pornographer. Because the bishop failed.

Also valuable: Mark Silk's commentary at Silk's Spiritual Politics blog, to which Gallicho links.  Silk thinks that the importance of Finn's conviction in establishing a legal precedent undercutting the longstanding argument of the Catholic hierarchy that it should be above the law when dealing with intra-ecclesiastical matters cannot be overemphasized:

The importance of establishing that Catholic bishops have the same legal obligation to report suspected child abuse as any other supervisor in society cannot be overemphasized. Since Imperial Rome permitted bishops to adjudicate the criminal misbehavior of priests 1,600 years ago, they have seen themselves as having special discretionary authority. Finn's criminal conviction says otherwise.

Silk concludes by noting that since all Catholic bucks stop at the Vatican's desk, the question that now arises is what Rome will do in response to a bishop's criminal conviction: as Silk notes, "The measure of how serious it is about addressing the sexual abuse crisis and repairing the church's reputation is whether it procedes* to remove Bishop Finn from office forthwith."

In a posting yesterday at Talk to Action yesterday, Frank Cocozzelli echoes Mark Silk's concluding observation.  As a trained lawyer, Frank notes how strong is the case that Finn had constructive knowledge of Ratigan's improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography.  He also reminds us that Finn belongs to the powerful and secretive Catholic right-wing group Opus Dei, and throughout his trial enjoyed the support of the ultra-conservative organization Opus Bono Sacerdotii, which has strong ties to pizza magnate (and Opus Dei member) Tom Monaghan, and to Bill Donohue himself.

Frank calls on the U.S. bishops to censure Donohue, whose claim that "no child was ever abused" by Ratigan is not only false: it places Donohue on the side of the abuser and not on the side of children who, as Gallicho several times reminds us, hardly posed themselves for the salacious pictures Ratigan took of them.  

And then Frank concludes,

If Finn remains at the helm of Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese the Vatican will essentially be telling the faithful that they care far more about high profile reactionary leaders, and little to nothing about the rest of us. 

Frank's absolutely right, it seems to me.  All eyes will be on Rome now, following Finn's conviction.  But I fear that Rome may be far too busy colluding with Cardinals Burke and Dolan in an attempt to engineer a GOP outcome to the current U.S. elections to be very much concerned at present with the criminal conviction of an Opus Dei (and strongly Republican) bishop in the American heartland.

*I.e., "proceeds."

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