The charge is only a misdemeanor, but if prosecutors are able to win a conviction against Kansas City Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn, they could be opening up a whole new front in the national priest abuse crisis.
Finn is accused of violating Missouri’s mandatory reporter law by failing to tell state officials about hundreds of images of suspected child pornography found on the computer of a priest in his diocese.
Experts say a criminal conviction against Finn, the highest-ranking church official charged with shielding an abusive priest, could embolden prosecutors elsewhere to more aggressively pursue members of the church hierarchy who try to protect offending clergy.
The bishop also has acknowledged that a parish principal warned the diocese of suspicious behavior by Ratigan, including that he was taking compromising pictures of children and let them sit on his lap and reach into his pocket for candy. Those warnings occured more than six months before the photos were found.