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SPOTLIGHT
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Slap on the wrist

Published on -9/7/2012, 10:34 AM

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Considering the severe sanctions imposed on Penn State University after Jerry Sandusky's perverted criminal activities came to light, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph should consider itself fortunate.

In Happy Valley, well-respected and high-ranking figures lost their jobs for glossing over the assistant coach's repeated acts of pedophilia. Financial penalties and post-season bans will affect Penn State for years. Such was the outrage created by the notion that anybody would turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children.

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn discovered Thursday his penalty for failing to report suspected child abuse under his watch. The bishop was handed two years of probation, although if he follows through on court-ordered conditions, the guilty verdict will be wiped from his record. The conditions include Finn attending training on abuse reporting, instructing others in the diocese to report suspicions of such activity, and for the diocese to pay $10,000 to counsel victims of abuse.

Finn was acquitted on a second count and the court dropped two charges against the diocese itself.

The bishop's case was brought forward after the Rev. Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty to producing and attempting to produce child pornography. That priest faces a sentence of life imprisonment.

Aside from the troubling notion of simply not reporting any suspected child abuse, was the time period involved -- 2011. Since 2002, the Catholic Church has been dealing with child molestation issues in a very public manner. Billions of dollars have been spent compensating victims, prompting many dioceses to go bankrupt. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to improve safety for children. Hundreds of clergy have been removed and barred from any church work.

It's not a new issue. Particularly not for Judge John Torrence, who handled Bishop Finn's trial. The judge is a member of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, part of the same diocese.

Finn -- and the diocese -- dodged a bullet on this one. We can only pray the lesson is learned.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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