National/World

Judge won't dismiss charge against Missouri bishop

Thursday, April 05, 2012
Bishop Robert Finn, of Kansas City, Mo., leaves a meeting at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops annual fall assembly in Baltimore, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011. Finn was indicted in October for waiting five months to tell police about hundreds of images of alleged child pornography that were found on a priests computer. He is the highest-ranking church member in the sex abuse scandal to face criminal charges.

Bishop Robert Finn, of Kansas City, Mo., leaves a meeting at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall assembly in Baltimore, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011. Finn was indicted in October for waiting five months to tell police about hundreds of images of alleged child pornography that were found on a priest's computer. He is the highest-ranking church member in the sex abuse scandal to face criminal charges. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A Missouri judge refused Thursday to dismiss misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City diocese and its bishop, who is the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official criminally charged with shielding an abusive priest.

Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with failing to report suspected child abuse. Prosecutors say each is a "mandatory reporter" under the state law. Defense attorneys argued the law is unconstitutionally vague, and that Finn wasn't the diocese's designated reporter.

"This Court finds and concludes that persons of ordinary intelligence have no difficulty understanding the meaning of 'immediately report,'" Circuit Judge John Torrence wrote in his ruling.

Torrence also denied a request by attorneys for Finn and the diocese to have the cases tried separately if they advanced, saying there is no reason to have two separate trials in a case involving most of the same facts.

Finn has acknowledged he was told in December 2010 about hundreds of images of small children, some of them pornographic, found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's computer - several months before the diocese turned over a disk containing the photos to local police. The bishop also has acknowledged that a parish principal raised concerns about Ratigan's behavior around children in May 2010, half a year before the photos were found.

A computer technician working on the laptop had discovered the images, many of which were focused on the crotch areas of the clothed children. One series showed the exposed genitals of a girl believed to be 3 or 4 years old.

Ratigan was charged last May with three state child pornography counts. He was then charged in June with 13 federal counts of producing, possessing and attempting to produce child porn. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed.

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