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SPOTLIGHT
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Serious matter

Published on -9/12/2012, 9:11 AM

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We Catholics all take child abuse seriously, including Bishop Finn. Why, Pat Lowrry, do you compare Bishop Finn's situation to Penn State?

Bishop Finn was found guilty on a misdemeanor charge (not a felony charge) for not reporting suspicions sooner, and not guilty on another charge.

Unlike Penn State, this case did not involve child sexual abuse -- no child was ever abused or touched, in any way. Also unlike Penn State, Bishop Finn did report pornographic pictures to the police, but there are those who felt he should have done so sooner.

I personally feel Bishop Finn did what a common reasonable person would do, and there are people who are afraid of looking like they are soft on crime if they don't go after a Catholic leader. Here is the rest of the story.

In December 2011, a computer tech found questionable pictures on Father Shawn Rattigan's computer. The pictures were of kids fully clothed but focused on private areas. One picture was of a nude child. After the discovery, Father Shawn tried to commit suicide. Bishop Finn talked to a police officer, who conferred with another police officer, which was backed up by a lawyer, that the clothed children and one picture of a nude child, not of a sexual nature, did not qualify as pornography.

With that information, Bishop Finn moved Father Shawn out of the parish life to a location where he had no contact with children and ordered him not to have contact with children or use a computer. He ordered a psychiatric evaluation and was told that Father Shawn is not a pedophile, but rather he is depressed.

Bishop Finn placed a superior over Father Shawn to monitor his behavior and ordered a seasoned investigator to further investigate the situation. Sometime in April the investigation report was turned over to Father Shawn's superior revealed Father Shawn had disobeyed his orders and attended a party with children and there were new nude pictures found on a computer.

The superior reported the incident immediately to the police and the following week Bishop Finn gave the police the private investigation report that was used to prosecute Father Shawn. Then the prosecutor turned around and used that report as evidence against Bishop Finn. On Thursday, Bishop Finn was found guilty of one misdemeanor of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse.

I agree with strong punishments for people who commit sexual child abuse or cover it up. But we also must be just and look at the different situations. I remember a while back a newspaper article, where a parent took film to a store to get developed. When a worker developing the pictures saw some naked baby pictures, he turned the parent into the police for child pornography! The public was outraged -- and rightfully so. There needs to be justice somewhere between misconstrued actions and someone actually banging a young person up against a shower wall at Penn State.

When a Catholic priest is accused, even falsely, his career is over. Like I said, I believe Bishop Finn took reasonable steps as a shepherd to protect children, and the priest from malicious harm, and took immediate action when suspicions were confirmed. But, of course, there are those who felt he should have in December 2011, and for consistency's sake, they should applaud the film developer for tuning in the parent of nude baby pictures over to police as pornography.

Michel Werth

Hays

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