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A time line in the Bishop Finn case

  • Published Thursday, Sep. 6, 2012, at 10:40 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Sep. 6, 2012, at 11:29 p.m.

A condensed version of evidence that Bishop Robert W. Finn and prosecutors agreed to in Thursday’s court action:

May 19, 2010: Julie Hess, principal of St. Patrick’s School, meets with Vicar General Robert Murphy about concerns of parents and school staff over “boundary issues” between the Rev. Shawn Ratigan and children. Murphy that month informs Finn about the concerns.

June 2010: Finn follows up on the issue with Ratigan, Finn later testifies.

Dec. 16, 2010: A computer technician examines a laptop owned by Ratigan and observes alarming pictures of children. He takes the laptop to a parish official, who calls Murphy and takes him the laptop. Before receiving the laptop, Murphy calls a Kansas City police captain, describing a single photograph of a naked child in a nonsexual pose. The captain says that was not likely considered child pornography.

Dec. 16-17, 2010: Julie Creech, the diocese’s director of information technology, examines the laptop and finds hundreds of photographs characterized as up-skirt pictures or images focused on girls’ crotches. Creech tells Murphy to call the police.

Dec. 17, 2010: Ratigan attempts suicide. Murphy tells Finn of the attempted suicide and the photographs found on the computer. Murphy recalls describing the nature of the photographs to Finn. Finn recalls being told by Murphy there were a couple of similar images of a naked girl 2 to 4 years old with no face visible but a focus on naked genitals.

Dec. 20, 2010: No later than this date the laptop, Creech’s written report and hard copies of some of the photographs are turned over to Jon Haden, an attorney who represents the diocese. Haden sees some photos but not the images on the computer and tells the diocese that in his legal opinion the images are not child pornography.

At some point later, Rebecca Summers, director of communication for the diocese, tells Murphy to call police. Finn and several other officials are under the impression that Murphy had actually shown the Ratigan computer images to police.

Dec. 29, 2010: Finn arranges for Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist in Pennsylvania, to evaluate Ratigan.

Jan. 10, 2011: Fitzgibbons tells Finn that the school principal may have made false accusations against Ratigan and that he has seen young priests mistreated across the country. Finn later testified that Fitzgibbons reported Ratigan is not a risk to children. Ratigan goes on to receive treatment by phone from Fitzgibbons and is assigned to live at the Vincentian House in Independence, but to not work individually or in group sessions with youths.

Feb. 9-10, 2011: After being informed that Ratigan was using Facebook to communicate with young people, Finn places seven restrictions on him.

March 31, 2011: Finn is told that Ratigan attended a birthday party for a sixth-grade girl and had other contact with parish families. Finn tells the psychiatrist.

May 11, 2011: Murphy reports the existence of hundreds of photographs on Ratigan’s computer to police.

May 18, 2011: Ratigan is arrested in Clay County on charges of possession of child pornography. Murphy later testifies that Finn was out of town when he told police about the computer photos and that Finn was “upset” upon learning about it. Finn says he did not think the conversation was heated.

In later developments, from court records and the diocese’s own internal investigation:

June 2011: Diocese hires a former Jackson County assistant prosecutor as its ombudsman to deal with child sex abuse allegations.

Aug. 9, 2011: Ratigan is indicted in federal court for allegedly producing child pornography.

Aug. 25-26, 2011: A Jackson County grand jury opens hearings on how the church handled the Ratigan case. Murphy appears.

Sept. 1, 2011: Former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves releases an investigation of the church’s handling of child abuse cases. The diocese paid for the investigation.

Sept. 16, 2011: Finn appears before a Jackson County grand jury.

Sept. 27, 2011: Finn and Murphy appear before a Clay County grand jury.

Oct. 6, 2011: A Jackson County grand jury indicts Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse in a case involving a priest facing child pornography charges.

Nov. 15, 2011: Finn avoids a possible criminal indictment by agreeing to enter into a diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor. Authorities say they will not prosecute Finn if he lives up to the terms of a five-year diversion agreement.

Aug. 2, 2012: Ratigan pleads guilty in federal court to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography.

Sept. 6, 2012: Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence finds Finn guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse. Finn is sentenced to two years’ probation. Prosecutors dismiss charges against the diocese.

The Star

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