Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Roman Catholic Church and Wayward Priests: Why Don't They Get It?

I do not understand it, really. Why they don't get it.

Why is the Roman Catholic Church still dealing with sexually sinning priests by trying to cover it all up? Why don't they just act like normal citizens and go straight to law enforcement authorities with the first hint of trouble like anyone else? I suppose that part of it is bound up in their theology of Church--the belief in the Roman Catholic Church being the only certified and real expression of Church. It's a little harder to admit you have problems if you think your church's leader is infallible.

To make sure it's clear I have no axes to grind, let me just say that I am not Roman Catholic. I was baptized as a baby into the RC Church, but never confirmed. In fact, I didn't even know I was baptized as an infant until I was 28. I am a Protestant Christian, generally conservative to evangelical in theology and attend and have membership at a United Methodist Church.

That being said, let me wade into the case of Father Shawn Ratigan, the north Kansas City priest in custody with child pornography charges pending. His clerical supervisor, Bishop Robert Finn of KC-St. Joseph Diocese, is guilty of "the cover up"--big time. First, Bishop Finn, when learning that Father Ratigan's laptop was infested with images of under aged girls, some of which were "up skirt" shots, instead of reporting it to the law and letting the prosecutor decide what to do, elected to keep it in house, trying to decided if it was "bad enough" to worry about? (Evidently, it was bad enough to move the priest into a position where he would be less likely to be around children.) In addition, it seems the good bishop never looked at the offending photos himself. Then after the in house investigation, the offending laptop was turned over to Fr. Ratigan's family who "destroyed it." (A good strong magnet would remove all traces of memory from the machine--they would not have had to destroy it mechanically if they didn't want to.) As if that wasn't enough covering up, a letter from the principal of the school affiliated with Fr. Ratigan's church, written in May 2010, related many concerns about the priest's actions around minor girls. Again, the bishop chose not to read this letter himself, nor talk personally with Fr. Ratigan.
So we have the letter from May 2010, the pictures from December 2010, a placement away from the church and school as Fr. Ratigan received counseling--tantamount to me to be an admission by the church that the priest was in trouble--and finally, with Ratigan continuing to seek contact with children--law enforcement intervention was sought by a police officer affiliated with the bishop's office. It took one full year to get this pedophile away from the minor children of the St. Patrick's church parish and into the firm hands of law enforcement. Why? Why did it take so long?

Is it because Fr. Ratigan is "conservative" like the pope and the bishop and was leading in a way that they approved of? (Please note, I have no clue what it means to be a conservative RC or a liberal RC.) Is it because of some distorted idea that clergy are somehow special and not constrained to follow the same laws and morals as laity? Is it fear of the public relations problems that admitting a pedophile cleric is among the priesthood?

None of that should matter. Protecting the people who come to the church looking to be spiritually fed, and in particular, protecting the children from harm has to be the first priority. When the Roman Catholic Church covers up, moving sexually sick priests from one parish to another, or not allowing enforcement of the law to occur in a timely manner, the harm done is far greater than if the crime was taken care of in a timely manner to start. When priestly misconduct is not disciplined by the hierarchy of the church, victims feel worthless and angry, outsiders view the institution as untrustworthy and stupid and those with issues about God have more fuel for their fire.

Absolute 100% transparency and ruthless work to extirpate sexually deviant clergy is the only course of action for any organization that calls itself a Christian church. Anything else is not acceptable, and furthermore, is not like the Savior the church proclaims.

Like I said, I do not understand why the Roman Catholic Church does not get this and incidents like this one keep happening.


Bob G. said...

Yeah, you'd THINK they would take the hint..after all this time.

They ought to remember what it COULD be like should they be living in the days of the Spanish Inquisition.

Oh, there would be wailing in the streets...from the PRIESTS!
(and we're talking venial sins here)

Good call.

STay safe out there.

bill kostar said...

The church is like most enormous institutions, maybe moreso, which will almost always find it easier to try to cover things up with manipulating statistics and public relations than to go through the pain of admitting mistakes and actually changing things, even after untoward events happen repeatedly.
Not unlike KCMO city governments and the KCPD looking the other way, rolling out a new committee to study the issue, and then returning to the same tired routine with the same old people. Happens in business, too.
That's why the American public has such a low regard and little respect for most of our institutions.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that they do use the Holy Word of God--- The Bible as their guide. Man DOES not need to go to a priest to ask for forgivness, that is why Christ came and died for our sins. He is the only one to forgive us not the pope who is a sinner just like the rest of us, and needs a Savior also.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Oh, again. Again, again, again.

As far as I'm concerned, you are SPOT-ON as to what the Catholic church should do--"'fess up."

It's a sacrament they expect their laity to undergo--confession, I mean--and they're doing a terrible job of modeling virtue on more than one area.

My heart goes out to the children taken advantage of, on the 'net and in the rectory, or indeed anywhere.

Thanks for an upstanding post.
Ann T.