Magazine article U.S. Catholic

The Buck Stops Where? the Biggest Question in the Sex Abuse Crisis Is Why Some Bishops Still Have Their Jobs

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

The Buck Stops Where? the Biggest Question in the Sex Abuse Crisis Is Why Some Bishops Still Have Their Jobs

Article excerpt

IT COULD HAVE COME OUT OF ANY NEWSPAPER'S POLICE blotter: Adult male arrested for possessing child pornography. The detail that took it from the blotter to the front page was the fact that the offender, Shawn Ratigan, is a priest, and that the diocesan bishop, Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, had quietly transferred Ratigan from a parish to a women's monastery last December without notifying the diocesan review board.

It wasn't until May that the diocese's vicar general reported the case to the police because Ratigan had had contact with a family with young children in his former parish. It was soon after discovered that a year earlier the principal of the parish school where Ratigan was associate pastor had written a detailed letter documenting his inappropriate behavior. The diocese took no action.


Almost 10 years after the sex abuse crisis erupted in Boston, the Finn-Ratigan case leaves many / Catholics somewhere between dumbstruck and outraged. Then again, 2011 has hardly been a quiet year on the sex abuse front. In March the Jesuits of the Pacific Northwest declared bankruptcy with $166 million in liabilities related to sex abuse, followed in April by the North American province of the Christian Brothers.

In Philadelphia, a damning February grand jury report detailing the rape of a child by both a priest and a lay youth minister resulted in charges against them and three other priests. The report also revealed that 37 priests had credible allegations of abuse against them but were still in ministry; Cardinal Justin Rigali suspended 21 of them just before Easter, but he did not suspend himself after his chancery had failed to inform his review board of the allegations.

In May the John Jay Criminal College released its evaluation of the "causes and contexts" of clergy sex abuse with the general conclusion that it is a crime of opportunity best prevented by education and institutional policies that keep children out of danger. But what the study could not answer is why, nearly a decade after the Boston debacle, bishops still fail to follow their own policies and, further, why their failures do not result in their dismissal from office.

On the contrary, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was elected president of the conference of bishops after he failed to act on recommendations from his own lay review board in the 2004 case of Father Daniel McCormack, who abused young boys in his poor West Side parish of St. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.