Diocese works to heal after Bishop Finn verdict

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Hours after Bishop Robert Finn was found guilty of one of two counts of failing to report suspected child abuse, diocese officials said he conducted a confirmation service for more than forty young people.

The service in Blue Springs, Mo., had been planned for months. No families canceled and Finn shows no signs of stepping down a day after the verdict came down.

"That (decision) is between the Bishop and his superiors," said Jude Huntz, the chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. The Diocese has taken praise and heat since Father Shawn Ratigan faced child pornography charges and Finn was charged for failing to report him.

During Thursday's verdict, the judge pointed to a history of abuse in the church.

"I hope this ends a long, dark, chapter," said Judge John Torrence.

But looking forward, the diocese will work to heal. Amid Finn's conditions of his probation he must institute Mandated Reporter training for all clergy in the diocese and start a $10,000 fund to be used to counsel abuse victims. Finn also sent priests a letter today about how to handle their services this weekend.

"It is not an easy process," said Huntz about the nine items outlined in Finn's probation. "It is gonna take a lot of work and I think that is probably something a lot of people won't see or know about."

Huntz also pointed to action already completed by the diocese like hiring Ombudsman Jenifer Valenti, a former Jackson County assistant prosecutor, and the creation of the Office of Child and Youth Protection.

 In the offices of the Child Abuse Protection Association in Independence, a video plays showing a church and statues of children held by angels. "Hear Their Cries" is a video directed specifically to faith-based groups in mandatory reporter training which the agency performs. CAPA has reached out to the diocese.

"Our staff that completes that training has been doing the training for over thirty years," said staff member Jody McCreedy.

Finn has to take mandated reporter training, too. CAPA's class lasts a few hours and outlines how to spot signs of abuse as well as the legal responsibilities of being a mandated reporter.  

Charges against the diocese have been dropped. Finn's conviction will be wiped clean if he doesn't fail to report again during his two-year probation. Diocese officials don't want that to stop anyone from ever coming forward.

"Even if you failed to report in the past, it is important to report now," said Jenifer Valenti, the ombudsman with the diocese. "Because if that person or abuser is still walking free, it needs to be addressed. "

To report child abuse in Missouri, call the hotline at 1-800-392-3738. In Kansas, call 1-800-922-5330.

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