A Jackson County grand jury has indicted Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.
The charges, announced at a news conference today, make Finn — leader of the 134,000-member diocese — the highest-ranking Catholic official in the nation to face criminal prosecution in a child sexual abuse case.
The charges stemmed from the long-simmering controversy surrounding the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who is facing child pornography charges in Clay County and federal court.
“This is a significant charge,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. “To my knowledge, a charge like this has not been leveled before.”
In a statement, the diocese said its lawyers entered a plea of not guilty for the diocese. According to Gerald Handley and J.R. Hobbs, lawyers for Bishop Finn, the bishop also entered a plea of not guilty.