The New York Times is reporting that Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, "and the diocese he leads" have been indicted by a county grand jury on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse in the case of a priest who had been accused of taking lewd photographs of young girls.
The Times reports: "The indictment is the first ever of a Catholic bishop in the 25 years since the scandal over sexual abuse by priests first became public in the United States. Bishop Finn is accused of covering up abuse that occurred as recently as last year — almost 10 years since the nation’s Catholic bishops passed a charter pledging to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities."
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CNS reports that Bishop Finn and the diocese entered please of not guilty to the misdemeanor charges.
The charges, brought by the Jackson County prosecutor in relation to the diocese's handling of the case of Father Shawn Ratigan, were acknowledged in an Oct. 14 statement on the diocesan website.
"Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement, the grand jury, the prosecutor's office" and the independent commission appoint by the diocese to study the matter, said Gerald Handley, the bishop's attorney. "We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter."
Father Ratigan was arrested in May on state charges of possessing child pornography. In August, federal prosecutors charged him with producing child pornography. The priest, a former pastor, also is facing accusations made against him in two separate lawsuits filed this summer.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Finn also have been named in the civil suits, which accuse both of failing to keep Father Ratigan away from children apparently after learning disturbing images were found on the priest's computer and being warned of the priest's inappropriate behavior around children.
In early September, an independent report commissioned by the diocese to examine its policies and procedures on assessing child sexual abuse allegations found "shortcomings, inaction and confusing procedures."
The report also said that "diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures for responding to reports" relating to abuse claims.