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Bishop Indicted For Not Reporting Suspected Abuse


The Roman Catholic bishop of Kansas City has been indicted. He is accused of failing to tell police about child pornography he found on another priest's computer. This is the first time a bishop has been indicted for not reporting suspected child abuse. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty has our report.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY, BYLINE: The grand jury found that Bishop Robert Finn had reasonable cause to suspect child abuse after being given the computer of Father Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan was a parish priest who used to visit the local St. Patrick School.

David Clohessy at the victims' group, SNAP, says those images, including a series of photos of a two or three year old girl, were overwhelming.

DAVID CLOHESSY: Bishop Finn is accused of basically sitting on hundreds and hundreds of inappropriate child photos, at least some of which prosecutors believe constitute child porn.

HAGERTY: Clohessy says that Father Ratigan was suspected not just of having child pornography, but also abusing children. In a four page report, the principal of the school had accused the priest of acting inappropriately toward children, including having them search in his pockets for candy. That report, too, was not immediately handed over to police.

Bishop Finn denied any criminal wrongdoing and said he has cooperated with law enforcement in the Ratigan case. He did acknowledge that he and other diocesan officials knew of the photos for some five months without reporting them to the police.

Clohessy says, though it's only a misdemeanor, the indictment is a watershed.

CLOHESSY: It's important, in part, because it will hopefully deter future recklessness and callousness and defeats by bishops and it's important because, hopefully, it will inspire other police and prosecutors to go after not just the lower-level clerics who abuse children, but the higher-level clerics who enable and conceal that abuse.

HAGERTY: The diocese has also been charged for failing to report as required by Missouri law. The diocese says it's taken an array of steps to protect children from abuse. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the religion correspondent for NPR, reporting on the intersection of faith and politics, law, science and culture. Her New York Times best-selling book, "Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality," was published by Riverhead/Penguin Group in May 2009. Among others, Barb has received the American Women in Radio and Television Award, the Headliners Award and the Religion Newswriters Association Award for radio reporting.