Friday, October 14, 2011

Diocesan Statement Concerning Action of Jackson County Grand Jury

The Jackson County Prosecutor announced this afternoon Grand Jury indictments surrounding the case of Shawn Ratigan. The Grand Jury returned misdemeanor indictments against Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Diocese itself. Each was charged with failure to report suspected child abuse, a Class A misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to a one year prison term and $1,000 for an individual and up to a $1,000 fine for a corporation. Attorneys for Bishop Finn and the Diocese both entered pleas of not guilty in Jackson County Court.

The following statements were issued by the Diocese and Bishop Finn today.


Statements of the

Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph

and the
Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph

Action of the Jackson County Grand Jury

Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 14, 2011 -- Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph today acknowledged receipt of the misdemeanor charges brought by the Jackson County Prosecutor.  Jean Paul Bradshaw and Tom Bath, counsel for the diocese, entered a plea of not guilty for the diocese. According to Gerald Handley and J.R. Hobbs, counsel for Bishop Finn, the bishop also entered a plea of not guilty.

“Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement, the grand jury, the prosecutor’s office, and the Graves Commission. We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter,” said Gerald Handley, counsel for Bishop Finn.

“In response to these charges Bishop Finn said, “Months ago after the arrest of Shawn Ratigan, I pledged the complete cooperation of the diocese and accountability to law enforcement. We have carried this out faithfully. Diocesan staff and I have given hours of testimony before grand juries, delivered documents, and answered questions fully.”

More importantly, to address the issues that led to this crisis, I reinforced and expanded diocesan procedures. We added the position of ombudsman, effectively moving the ‘gatekeeper function’ outside the Chancery and under the authority of an independent public liaison, a skilled and experienced former prosecutor. I commissioned the Graves Report to accomplish a full independent investigation of the policies and events that led to this crisis.  I ordered the report to be published in its entirety for the sake of full transparency.”

Today, the Jackson County Prosecutor issued these charges against me personally and against the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph.  For our part, we will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

I ask the prayerful support and unity of our priests, our people, the parishes, and the Catholic institutions. With continued dedication, we will persevere in the many good works that are the hallmark of the faithful people of the diocese throughout its 27 counties and nearly 150-year heritage. With ever stronger determination, we will form, teach, and protect children and care for the spiritual and material needs of people who look daily to the diocese for assistance.”

With deep faith, we will weather this storm and never cease to fulfill our mission, even in moments of adversity,” said Bishop Finn.

In addition to full and complete cooperation with all levels of law enforcement, the diocese has taken an array of steps to ensure accountability for the protection of children in diocesan, parish and school programs.

  • June 9 – Engaged Todd Graves, a former U.S. Attorney and national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group, to conduct an independent investigation of events, policies and procedures,
  • June 22 – Expanded diocesan administration with the appointment of Father Joseph Powers as Vicar for Clergy,
  • June 17 – Completed listening sessions with parishioners served by Shawn Ratigan,
  • June 30 – Appointed Jenifer Valenti, a former prosecuting attorney, as ombudsman to field and investigate all reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior by clergy, diocesan personnel and volunteers,
  • August 15 – Reviewed requirements for the mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect with more than 925 employees and made the training available by video conferencing to others,
  • September 1 – Published the complete findings and recommendations of Graves Bartle Marcus and Garrett.