Kansas City, Mo., Sep 30, 2014 / 02:59 pm .- The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has confirmed that an archbishop has held a visitation on behalf of the Vatican and met with Bishop Robert Finn, but cannot talk about the reasons for the visit.
Jack Smith, communications director for the diocese, confirmed that Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa visited the diocese on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops and met with Bishop Finn.
“Bishop Finn was informed in advance by the nuncio of the visit and Bishop Finn was in Kansas City when it occurred,” Smith told CNA Sept. 30. “He cooperated with the process and was obligated by the terms of the visitation not to speak of it to anyone, including his senior staff and communications director.”
Smith said the same obligation not to speak “presumably, was conveyed to all who were interviewed.”
“We do not know what, if anything, will proceed following the visit. Since the process and visit are supposed to be secret, we cannot comment further.”
Smith said Bishop Finn is presently in Rome on a pilgrimage and for the diaconate ordination of some of the diocese’s seminarians.
Some reports indicate that the visitation is intended to evaluate the bishop’s leadership of his diocese.
In September 2012, Bishop Finn was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese failed to report that lewd images of children had been found on a laptop belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a priest of the diocese, in December 2010.
The diocese’s vicar general had told Bishop Finn about one of the images, but the bishop did not see them himself.
Fr. Ratigan attempted suicide after the images were discovered and initially had not been expected to live. Diocesan officials told law enforcement officials about the images in May 2011, months after their discovery.
A diocese-commissioned independent investigation said diocesan officials conducted “a limited and improperly conceived investigation” into whether a single image, which the vicar general did not see, constituted child pornography. The diocese’s legal counsel also said that that single image did not constitute child pornography.
Further investigation revealed that the photos had been taken in and around churches where the priest had worked. In 2012, Fr. Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.
Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation for failing to report suspected abuse.
The diocese settled two lawsuits from the parents of two girls photographed by Fr. Ratigan for a total of $1.8 million in February 2014.
The Fr. Ratigan case has also triggered further legal action from an arbitrator who levied a $1.1 million penalty against the diocese, on the grounds that the diocese violated the terms of a 2008 abuse lawsuit settlement in which Bishop Finn and the diocese agreed to report suspected child abusers to law enforcement.
The diocese objected to the arbitrator’s penalty, but it was upheld in court and the diocese paid the fine.