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Crime The Courts

US Bishop Charged For Not Reporting Priest's Child Porn To Police 430

Posted by timothy
from the thought-it-was-just-a-phase dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes "Kansas City's Catholic bishop was charged Friday with not telling police about child pornography found on a priest's computer, making him the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic official indicted on a charge of failing to protect children. Finn has acknowledged that he and other diocese officials knew for months about hundreds of 'disturbing' images of children that were discovered on a priest's computer but did not report the matter to authorities or turn over the computer."
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US Bishop Charged For Not Reporting Priest's Child Porn To Police

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  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday October 14, 2011 @09:47PM (#37721008)

    It would seem strange that an employer would be required to report such a thing, particularly if there was no evidence that any child had been harmed, however, it would appear to be so, the indictment is specifically for "Failure of Mandated Reporter to Report." Here is the relevant Missouri statute [mo.gov].

    PP 4 reads:

    In addition to those persons and officials required to report actual or suspected abuse or neglect, any other person may report in accordance with sections 210.109 to 210.183 if such person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect or observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.

    Does possession of child porn constitute "reasonable cause to suspect"?

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday October 14, 2011 @09:55PM (#37721058) Homepage

      Does possession of child porn constitute "reasonable cause to suspect"?

      You'd have to ask the judge and jury.

      Also, thank you for thinking about the law instead of jumping on the "hate hate hate + guilty until proven innocent" bandwagon. I'd mod you up if I hadn't wasted all my points for the day.

      • by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday October 14, 2011 @10:13PM (#37721166)

        You'd have to ask the judge and jury.

        As far as the law is concerned it's probably not much of an issue, if you asked me and my kid was in that class I'd say "hell yes!" The first part of the law is very much built around what you do if you see or suspect abuse, not abuse that may happen... if the priest's superior knows that his priest-employee has been looking at kiddie porn for 30 years with no instances of abuse, then he can come to a reasonable conclusion that he won't abuse. He should definitely FIRE the guy, and carefully interview everyone around him, the children he has been in contact with, and their families.

        But I guess the families have a right to know why the teacher is leaving, and they'd all be rather motivated to drop a dime on him, so I guess the law is proper -- it compels the mandated person to do what was eventually going to have to happen anyways, even if it were less demanding.

        The problem is, the law is ordering you to ruin someone's career and life when no one has been harmed, when merely firing someone or moving them out of contact with children would be a completely suitable remedy to the danger the law is trying to prevent. If the cops throw up a sting and catch him with kiddie porn, then the law's the law and he should go to jail, but are we ready to force people's friends and coworkers to turn someone in for this?

        • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday October 14, 2011 @10:23PM (#37721246) Homepage

          if the priest's superior knows that his priest-employee has been looking at kiddie porn for 30 years with no instances of abuse, then he can come to a reasonable conclusion that he won't abuse.

          "In a memo dated May 19, 2010, Hess wrote that several people had complained Ratigan was taking compromising pictures of young children and that he allowed them to sit on his lap and reach into his pocket for candy."

          The problem is, the law is ordering you to ruin someone's career and life when no one has been harmed,[...]

          If the porn is a cartoon drawing, then probably no child has been harmed. But that wasn't the case here. "Seven months later, a computer technician working on Ratigan's laptop found hundreds of what he called "disturbing" images of children, most of them fully clothed with the focus on their crotch areas, and a series of pictures of a 2- to 3-year-old girl with her genitals exposed." If someone took crotch shots of my daughter when she was 2, I would certainly consider that "harm."

          • I would certainly consider that "harm."

            How? He looked at them, yes, but what happened? As far as I know, nothing happened or resulted from that. The so-called "victim" probably doesn't even know if someone looked at it (how they got the pictures is another matter, I think).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by domatic (1128127)

          Any child porn with live actors IS documentation of abuse. Anyone who has it is fueling that abuse. It isn't something you just let go.

          I don't agree with hounding people because of nasty cartoons with children but the real thing is another beast altogether. Kids can't give consent. Servicing the market for it is a crime. Being a part of the market for it is a crime.

          And anyhoo this creepazoid wasn't just getting his jollies from horrible pix....

          • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:04AM (#37721744)

            Anyone who has it is fueling that abuse.

            That's probably only true if they bought it. If they silently obtain it from elsewhere (the producers don't even know about it), then I don't see how that is.

            • by sjames (1099)

              That's probably only true if they bought it. If they silently obtain it from elsewhere (the producers don't even know about it), then I don't see how that is.

              According to the *IAA, the latter people are doing the "industry" irreperable harm and will eventually kill it.

              • by julesh (229690)

                That's probably only true if they bought it. If they silently obtain it from elsewhere (the producers don't even know about it), then I don't see how that is.

                According to the *IAA, the latter people are doing the "industry" irreperable harm and will eventually kill it.

                Good point. We should all pirate as much kiddie porn as we can, because doing so will eventually kill the kiddie porn industry...

        • by madprof (4723)

          Ignoring the specific question of whether the person in the story is guilty...

          How can you morally have a problem with the law asking you to report kiddie porn on someone's computer? When you see someone committing a crime like this, what *should* you do? It's not like seeing your friend going 5mph over the speed limit.

          You shouldn't say "this person I found with kiddie porn has not abused any kids that I know of so hey their kiddie porn is probably not worth the attention of authorities" because you have no

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)

      Does possession of child porn constitute "reasonable cause to suspect"?

      I don't know enough about the statute to directly answer that question. It wouldn't surprise me if it did simply given how as a society we treat child porn and anything remotely connected to it. But in this context one doesn't even need to go that far. From the article:

      Finn acknowledged earlier this year that St. Patrick's School Principal Julie Hess had more than a year ago raised concerns that a priest was behaving inappropriately around children, but that he didn't read her written report until after the Rev. Shawn Ratigan was charged with child pornography counts this spring. Ratigan has pleaded not guilty. In a memo dated May 19, 2010, Hess wrote that several people had complained Ratigan was taking compromising pictures of young children and that he allowed them to sit on his lap and reach into his pocket for candy

      So this wasn't just that they had found pictures but that they had found pictures and had of actual behavior. TFA discusses further problems. I don't think a jury will need to think very hard about what exactly constitutes reasonable suspici

    • by Caraig (186934) *

      It would seem strange that an employer would be required to report such a thing, particularly if there was no evidence that any child had been harmed,

      If the pornography is photos or videos of real live children (as opposed to drawings/art/renders) then the argument can be and has been made that children have been materially harmed. Not only were they abused in the taking of the photos, but the photos of them -- doubtless embarrassing, certainly a painful remembrance of what happened to them -- still exist

    • by westlake (615356)

      It would seem strange that an employer would be required to report such a thing, particularly if there was no evidence that any child had been harmed

      The photograph is evidence of the sexual abuse of a child --- the child in the photograph.

      Its production is a criminal act. Its distribution is a criminal act. Its possesion is a criminal act. This is basic.

    • by jdavidb (449077)

      In our legal system, possession of child porn is considered to make the possessor culpable for the abuse of the child.

      Personally, I think it's an easy way for officials to look like they are "doing something" about a particularly heinous problem while the real child abusers may go completely free. We can probably catch hundreds of people who view such pornographic images, but the people who were actually physically involved in creating the images are not apprehended all that often. (It does happen, though

      • by flosofl (626809)

        In our legal system, possession of child porn is considered to make the possessor culpable for the abuse of the child.

        ...and I have zero problem with that. By consuming the media (downloading to view), this "person" is creating demand. The demand is filled by more children being preyed upon.

        This is one of the very few crimes where I do not support rehabilitation or believe in redemption. I don't believe in the death penalty except in the most extreme of circumstances (this is not one). However in the cas

        • this "person" is creating demand.

          But they're not abusing the children themselves, and the "damage" they cause is probably small (there probably needs to be quite a few of them for it to even be sustainable).

          And they're not necessarily even supporting the producers at all (they could get it elsewhere, unknowingly to the producer).

        • I am wholeheartedly behind punitive incarceration and the removal of said "person" from society for the remainder of their sad, little life.

          All because that ""person"" looked at a picture. You, sir, are seriously fucked up.

    • The law says "has been" as well as "may be". Someone had to create the CP. That means someone, somewhere has already sexually abused a child. The possessor of the CP is not relevant as far as reporting it's existence, really.

      Now, there are still corner cases. It is possible he was only in possession of material created without a child such as digital renderings or drawings (which are still illegal in many jurisdictions) or photography for medical or other legitimate purposes (such as a parent photograph

    • I don't know about Missouri, but according to a U.S. Dept of Justice prosecutor who taught I class I took, yes, if you discover CP, you are required to report it. Always. We were, in fact, told that failure to report was itself a crime. Happily, it's not something I ever stumbled across in any of the investigations I've done, but there's no doubt in my mind that if I had, I'd be making the call.

  • mixed feelings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Friday October 14, 2011 @09:49PM (#37721014) Journal

    I was ambivalent about this at first, but on reflection I think this is a good thing. It helps break up the conspiracy of silence (due to not wanting to embarrass the order) that can shield a molester for years.

    • If it is covering up molestation, then yes; but it is covering up (more accurately, not reporting) possession of child pornography. It seems like the church should not have to report possession of child pornography, but that they should take reasonable in-house steps to limit any potential detriment to young people that that possession might signal. Maybe the particular priest is told not to be alone with a single child, for example, and is disciplined in-house.

      If it were covering up molestation--particul

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Picture of child pornography come from somewhere.

        Plus he also had kids search is pockets for candy; which is pretty damning.

          "I am not comfortable with the idea of criminalizing a person who doesn't report a colleague, except in certain situations. "
        So endangered children aren't the exception?

        Add to all that, it's a misdemeanor.

        Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

        • The picture did come from somewhere--which goes to the producer, not the consumer. Unless the consumer is paying for it.

          The searching pockets for candy is different; I did not see that bit.

          Endangered children *ARE* one of the exceptions, hence "covering up molestation--particularly ongoing molestation." I am not convinced that possession of child pornography by an adult endangers children. If there is any good evidence on the topic, I might chance my mind--but for obvious reasons, it's not the kind of st

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by flosofl (626809)
            What is so hard to understand? Consumption *creates* demand. Demand is fulfilled BY CREATING MORE CHILD PORN. How in the world do you reach the conclusion that possession does not make the owner of said "product" culpable?

            This isn't stuff you can find on USENET anymore. These... creatures... have to seek out distributors of this vile muck. They either supply their own in exchange in a tit-for-tat system, or they pay for it.
          • by hedwards (940851)

            Having child porn is cause for a more thorough investigation, especially if the particular individual in possession is engaged in other odd behaviors with regards to children. And that's the basis for indicting the bishop. Holding onto that knowledge for that many months greatly weakens the police's opportunity to investigate any crimes which might have occurred on top of the apparent possession of child pornography.

            The only concern I have is that there is still no mens rea requirement for possession of chi

        • And misdemeanor criminalization is still criminalization.

          • by hedwards (940851)

            So, what do you think the penalty should be for turning a blind eye to a possible pedophile that has regular close contact with children? And that's the crux of the matter, assuming the reports are accurate, the bishop ultimately is a part of a conspiracy to engage in sex crimes against children.

            • I think without evidence I am not willing to call someone a "possible pedophile" for possession alone. Everyone is a possible pedophile. Labelling anyone a possible pedophile, however, is usually fearmongering. There is also the issue that I am not sure what age we are talking about--I have far less of a problem if we're talking about seventeen-year-olds than I do if we're talking about eight-year-olds.

              As I said, the pockets issue raises serious concerns.

              It is also not clear that the person "turned a bli

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        You've pretty much summed up my misgivings, which is why I was conflicted. But there's been so much press about child molestation in the church, and they've taken so much flack for it -- justifiably so in my opinion -- that to not report child porn given the larger circumstances is absolutely inexcusable.

        If they had a duty to report something, they should have reported it. If they decide not to, they will have to abide by the consequences of that decision, just like we must abide by the consequences of a

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          ...and I'm aware that child porn does not equate to child molestation. But it is a prime indicator.

  • by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Friday October 14, 2011 @09:55PM (#37721056) Homepage
    The parishoners knew for months, if not years, that something strange was going on, but the diocese refused to do anything. There's a letter out there that the principle sent to the Bishop that's quite damning (and that the bishop supposedly never even read).

    http://www.nbcactionnews.com/dpp/news/crime/a-newly-released-letter-by-snap-shows-that-parents-were-concerned-about-father-shawn-ratigan [nbcactionnews.com]

    The church still doesn't appear to be taking this stuff seriously and parents should be concerned.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmcnally (100849)
      Why is this a slashdot story? There are plenty of forums for this terrible story.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday October 14, 2011 @10:08PM (#37721138) Journal
      Honestly, that's the consistent thread with these clergy abuse cases that really makes it a matter of gross institutional rot, rather than an unfortunate but statistically inevitable consequence of having lots and lots of employees in contact with children.

      Overwhelmingly, each organizational layer has shown itself more concerned with coverup than with cleanup, and the church management still seems to be fighting their medieval battle to assert that their club's rules trump civil law... What is even more vexing is that they seem largely to be getting away with it. Some civil payouts, a few old men whose statue of limitations hasn't quite run out; but the leadership has been absolutely teflon throughout the whole affair.
      • by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Friday October 14, 2011 @10:19PM (#37721216) Homepage
        What really bothers me is that the laypeople get it and are trying to do the appropriate thing, but when they run things up the chain the guys up there clearly STILL don't get it. I don't know if it's arrogance or ignorance or what (but the Opus Dei reference makes me wonder about lingering old-school arrogance).
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by demonlapin (527802)
          What do you expect out of a system that denies priests the right to marry? These scandals don't routinely rock the Episcopal, Lutheran, or Orthodox communities, because you can be a priest and still have a sex life in those denominations.
          • by hedwards (940851)

            That's a large part of it, but if you read up on the history of the Catholic Church, particularly the stuff just leading up to the Reformation, it's not exactly news that the Catholic Church considers itself to be above the law.

            What concerns me is when the Pope uses these incidents to drive a homophobic message rather than taking meaningful action to ensure that subordinates understand that cover ups are not to be tolerated in the Church.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Here's what that typical church reaction can get you:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Geoghan [wikipedia.org]

  • the catholic church will say that they owe victims nothing. Pretty sick and twisted.
  • Brain washing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deatypoo (1837038) on Friday October 14, 2011 @10:51PM (#37721396)
    In related news, this week on public radio airwaves, Father Raymond Gravel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Gravel [wikipedia.org] of the Canadian Roman Catholic Church compared the out of court settlement of 18 millions CAD (for 85 victims between 1950 and 1990) to being akin to turning the victims into prostitutes, because they would then be getting money in return of the sexual acts they performed. I almost crashed my car into a local church out of anger.
    • If they were consenting adults, then perhaps.

      If they were children who could not give informed consent, then you start to understand the depth of the problem.
    • There shouldn't be 'out of court' settlements for rape. Simple as that.

      • by J'raxis (248192)

        Why? If the victim is satisfied with the outcome, why should you or the courts or anyone else have any input on the situation?

        • The reason that it's a criminal law is because there's damage done to society as a whole. By your line of reasoning murderers would never have to do any jail time.
  • Said the bishop to the choir boy.
  • Wait a minute. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:32AM (#37721856) Homepage Journal

    I get that it's illegal to possess child porn. I get that it's illegal to make child porn. How in the fuck is it illegal to know that someone else has child porn?

    LK

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:45AM (#37721900)

    For several years, I was pastor of a small Baptist church (on a part-time basis.)

    A few weeks after I started, the flakiest woman in the congregation told me about how the old pastor was a child molester, and nobody would do anything about it, so finally she took matters into her own hands by leaving a letter on the pulpit to make him resign. Didn't know what to think (at the time, didn't know she was the church flake) so I kind of "hmm'd" and nodded and didn't say much. Stayed there for several years, and she decided she didn't like me because I didn't preach from the King James Version and I tended to mention -- God help us -- movies from the pulpit. Watching them was fine, but mentioning them from the pulpit was sacrilege. One Sunday, I found an anonymous letter in the pulpit accusing me of being a child molester. I wasn't about to be run out of the place by this woman, so I called a meeting of the deacons and we dealt with it as a matter of church discipline. She repented and it was, I think, a growth experience for her. I ultimately left the church because my wife left me (long story) but I'm still on good terms with the people there. (I'm now an Anglican, by the way, because I couldn't stand what passes for theological discourse in the Southern Baptist Convention anymore.)

    The point? Not every allegation of clergy sexual abuse is true. Not every accuser is lily white innocent. One of the interesting things about operating a church and being in the ministry is that you have to deal with people who may not always be reliable, because those are the people who need you the most. That's why the Bible says that you shouldn't entertain an accusation against an "elder" (i.e. a priest -- Greek presbyteros) without two or three witnesses.

    That's not to say that the Roman Catholic church doesn't have a problem with how they handle genuine clerical abuse. They do. And, if what is being said in the article even resembles the truth, the Bishop in this case screwed up big time and deserves to be deposed. But I don't remotely believe some of the numbers that are bandied about regarding RC sexual abuse. Some of the people who make allegations were genuinely abused, but I suspect that at least as many have an axe to grind with the church or are looking for a cash payout.

    Okay, said my piece.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "But I don't remotely believe some of the numbers that are bandied about regarding RC sexual abuse.But I don't remotely believe some of the numbers that are bandied about regarding RC sexual abuse."

      How about believing the actual settlements the RCC paid out when they can afford armies of lawyers to fight an injust accusation?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 15, 2011 @01:12AM (#37721998)

    I see a lot of people advocating the merits of "mandated reporting," in various forms. The problem with mandated reporting is that, if you are someone who is dealing with a problem, it means you can't seek help from anyone.

    I had a friend who was a single father, and he had a problem with controlling his temper with his son. It was not so bad that his son was in danger -- he was just stressed out and needed someone to talk to before it got that bad. But he had a truly evil ex-wife waiting in the wings for any excuse to take the son away from him and make sure that he never saw his son again. My friend couldn't afford to take any chances. He couldn't talk honestly to a counselor, because if he did the counselor might decide he had to report it -- and as soon as the phone call was made my friend's ex-wife would find out and legal action (that my friend couldn't afford) would ensue. And going to the ex-wife wouldn't be better for the kids for reasons too complicated to explain. Suffice it to say that she's pretty much a sociopath. He couldn't talk to most friends, because they might report him too. He couldn't talk to an attorney, because he couldn't afford one. Finally, he talked to a pastor, who is not (in Virginia) a mandated reporter. Fortunately, the pastor had taken a lot of counseling classes in seminary and was able to help him. But ... this situation went on for years after my friend knew he needed help. And in a lot of states pastors are mandated reporters.

    Then what does the marginal "offender," who just needs some help without the risk, do? Mandated reporting is like zero-tolerance laws. It's built on the assumption that good rules are better than good people. And that's just not the case.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      If it is bad enough that he can't talk to friends, maybe he is minimizing how bad it is when he talks to you.

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @01:25AM (#37722030)

    "US Bishop Charged For Not Reporting Priest's Child Porn To Police"

    I wonder how much they charged him.

    Signed,
    Obviously Oblivious

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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