Priest Accused of Abuse to Resume Limited Duties

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet will allow a priest to resume limited duties after the Vatican determined his alleged sexual relationship with a teenager in the 1970s didn’t meet the criteria of a crime under church law at that time.

The diocese said the Rev. F. Lee Ryan will minister to homebound parishioners of St. Edmund Catholic Church in Watseka, south of Kankakee, and St. Joseph Mission in Crescent City. Ryan was removed from the ministry in 2010 because of the allegations.

A 52-year-old Florida man had alleged that he was 14 when he and Ryan began the relationship.

Church officials said the man’s complaint was assessed by a local review board, then sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Catholic officials in Rome decided that because of church law in the 1970s, which stated that 14 was the age of consent, Ryan did not commit a serious crime by the church’s standards and could not be permanently removed from ministry, a spokesman for Bishop R. Daniel Conlon said.

The diocese did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press late Thursday seeking comment from Ryan.
The church didn’t identify the man, who told the Joliet Herald-Review and Chicago Tribune that he did not inform police or church officials at the time, but decided two years ago to tell his mother what had happened. A victims’ advocate who works for the diocese arranged for him to submit a complaint to the church.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests criticized the diocese for allowing Ryan to return to some of his duties as a priest.

“This is a shocking and dangerous move by Bishop Conlon,” SNAP said, noting that the bishop leads the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on sexual abuse. “What part of ‘one strike and you’re out’ do Catholic officials not understand?”
Last month, Conlon told a national conference of church child welfare workers in Omaha, Neb., that the hierarchy’s credibility has been badly damaged by the clergy sex abuse scandal.

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Ex-Greenwich pastor reports to prison

The former pastor of a Greenwich church sentenced in July for federal obstruction of justice has reported to a Brooklyn, N.Y., prison, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Michael Moynihan, 59, who was sentenced to five months in jail followed by two years of supervised release, is now at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Located near the Gowanus Bay, the prison is classified as an administrative facility, a type of institution intended for the detention of pretrial offenders, dangerous or escape-prone inmates, or for treatment of inmates with medical problems, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The Brooklyn facility is capable of holding male and female inmates in all security categories.

Moynihan was to report to prison Sept. 3; a prison employee on Thursday would not confirm when he reported.

Moynihan resigned from St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in 2007 amid allegations he diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars in church funds to pay for personal expenses.

He pleaded guilty in December 2011 to the obstruction charge, which stemmed from lies he told federal officials investigating the possible misappropriation of funds.

He met with FBI agents to provide information about how the funds were spent and, in a December 2010 interview, told agents he had not forged a signature on a letter, although he knew he signed another person’s name without the authority to do so, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

An investigation by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport found in 2008 that Moynihan could not account for church money he kept in secret accounts and engaged in a pattern of deception when confronted.

Moynihan also provided false and misleading information to accountants retained by the diocese, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Though most of approximately $2 million in expenditures from two accounts went toward documented legitimate expenses or expenses that appeared to be appropriate, Moynihan used about $300,000 in church funds to pay his credit card bills, authorities said.

Attorney Audrey Felsen, who represents Moynihan with attorney Mark Sherman, said after Moynihan’s sentencing that about $300,000 has not been accounted for to the diocese’s satisfaction.

Moynihan must pay over $400,000 in restitution to the diocese and must complete 120 hours of community service as part of his sentence.

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U.S. Roman Catholics outraged over child sex abuse scandal; call for bishop’s resignation

Calls for Bishop Robert Finn’s resignation intensified the day after he became the highest-ranking U.S. church official to be convicted of a crime related to a child sexual abuse scandal.

Soon after a Missouri judge found Bishop Finn guilty Thursday of one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse to the state, unhappy Roman Catholics began discussing ways to get the bishop out of office on a Facebook page titled “Bishop Finn Must Go.”

Among the posts was one that listed contact information for the Vatican and urged parishioners to voice their displeasure with Bishop Finn at the highest levels. Pope Benedict XVI alone has authority over bishops. Through the decades-long abuse scandal, only one U.S. bishop has stepped down over his failures to stop abusive clergy: Cardinal Bernard Law – who, in 2002, resigned as head of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Jackson County Judge John M. Torrence sentenced Bishop Finn to two years of supervised probation. If the bishop abides by a set of stipulations from the judge, the conviction will be wiped from his record in 2014.

“Now that our justice system says he’s guilty, he has lost his ability to lead our diocese,” Patricia Rotert, a Catholic church member in Kansas City, said Friday. “He’s lost his credibility. There is turmoil and angst around him and I don’t think he can bring people together.”

Bishop Finn’s attorneys would not comment on the bishop’s future in the church, saying it was a legal matter.

However, Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph spokesman Jack Smith indicated that Bishop Finn wasn’t going anywhere.

“The bishop looks forward to continuing to perform his duties, including carrying out the important obligations placed on him by the court,” Mr. Smith said in an emailed statement Friday.

Bishop Finn’s conviction comes four years after the church paid $10 million to settle 47 pending sexual abuse claims against the diocese and 12 of its priests. When announcing that deal in 2008, Bishop Finn apologized for the abuse that occurred at the hands of current and former clergy members, and promised that steps were being taken to make sure such abuse never happened again.

The diocese posted an update about the 2008 settlement on its website in June 2011 stating that Bishop Finn had written 118 letters of apology to plaintiffs or their families. That same month, Bishop Finn apologized for not responding to warnings the diocese received a year earlier from a parish principal detailing suspicious behavior by the Reverand Shawn Ratigan around children.

Instead of reading the memo and looking into the claims, Bishop Finn left it up to subordinates to handle the matter. He later admitted it was a year before he finally read a five-page document that a parish elementary school principal wrote detailing suspicious activities by Rev. Ratigan around children.

Bishop Finn also was informed of nude photos of children found on Rev. Ratigan’s laptop computer in December 2010, but instead of turning them over to police, Bishop Finn sent Rev. Ratigan to live at a convent in Independence, Mo.

Monsignor Robert Murphy turned the photos over to police in May 2011 — against Bishop Finn’s wishes, according to court documents — after Rev. Ratigan continued to violate Bishop Finn’s orders to stay away from children and not take any pictures of them.

Rev. Ratigan pleaded guilty last month to five child pornography counts, but hasn’t been sentenced. Prosecutors have requested he spend the rest of his life in prison.

Bishop Finn apologized again Thursday in court for the pain caused by his failure to report Rev. Ratigan.

The bishop has avoided facing charges in Missouri’s Clay County, where Rev. Ratigan was charged, after reaching a settlement in November 2011. For five years, Bishop Finn must report to the Clay County prosecutor directly each month about any suspected child abuse in the diocese’s facilities in the county.

“I said for years that we wouldn’t be in the mess we were in today if about 30 bishops had said `I made a mistake, I’m sorry, I take full responsibility and I resign,“’ said the Reverand Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “I think we’re at a state in the life of the church when a bishop is convicted of a misdemeanor, found guilty of not doing what he was supposed to do, I think he should resign for the good of the diocese and the good of the church.”

Support for Bishop Finn’s resignation is far from unanimous. Some say they agree he made a mistake, but it’s not one that should force him out, especially with even more stringent safeguards in place to protect children.

“There’s always been fights in the church, and there will continue to be fights in the church,” said Kansas City parishioner Bruce Burkhart, a member of the Serra Club, which supports and promotes priests.

“I think people may walk away, but that’s their business,” he said. “If they think their children are any more safe in public schools, or in another church setting where people are working with youth, the data indicate they’re not. The Catholic Church in America is probably now today the safest place for children.”

While Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged in the U.S. with shielding an abusive priest, Albany Law School professor Timothy Lytton said the June conviction of Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia broke the ice on criminal convictions against members of the Catholic hierarchy.

Monsignor Lynn, who supervised other clergy as an aide to the cardinal, was convicted of felony child endangerment and became the first U.S. church official sent to prison for his handling of abuse complaints. He is appealing his three- to six-year sentence.

Still, Bishop Finn’s conviction is significant because it proves Monsignor Lynn’s criminal prosecution was not an isolated event, but instead something that is likely to embolden prosecutors to go after church leaders who fail to protect children.

“Kansas City might mark a trend,” Mr. Lytton said. “It’s no longer good enough to just file civil suits; criminal justice may be much quicker to get involved. Kansas City normalizes this kind of reaction to the scandal.”

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Bishop Finn found guilty of one of two counts of failure to report suspected child abuse


A Jackson County judge found Bishop Robert Finn guilty on Thursday on one count of failing to report suspected child abuse. He was found not guilty on the other count. The state asked the judge to put Finn on probation, according to court reports.

A judge granted the state’s request for court-supervised probation. The conditions include mandated reporter training, institute training for clergy and a $10,000 fund for victims of abuse.

After the verdict was read, Finn spoke to the court, saying he regretted what happened and was sorry for the hurt the events caused, according to court reports.

After the ruling, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker dropped all charges against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Finn was charged with the misdemeanors for not reporting suspected child abuse from Dec. 2012 to May 2011 in connection with allegations against Rev. Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan pleaded guilty to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempting to produce child pornography in August.

According to court documents, after being informed of pornographic photographs of young girls found on Ratigan’s computer, Finn sent the priest to a hospital for psychiatric care instead of reporting him to authorities.

The diocese didn’t turn over evidence to law enforcement until May 2011, after Finn found out Ratigan had violated orders to stay away from children.

Read the full indictment:

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