First Catholic Bishop Indicted for Covering Up Sexual Abuse

"This is about protecting children," said prosecutor Jean Peters Baker

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Angry Kansas City parishioners won a major symbolic victory when a county grand jury indicted bishop Robert Flynn on Friday. The jury charged both Flynn and the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph with misdemeanor charges for not reporting on possible sexual abuse by one of his priests. Rev. Shawn Ratigan was arrested and indicted himself this May, The New York Times notes, on "charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls, most recently during an Easter egg hunt last spring." Finn is the first bishop to be indicted since the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal flared up in the 1980s. He's pleading not guilty.

While the indictment is a sign of progress for justice, it further highlights how the Catholic Church has come up short when it comes to self-policing cases of sexual abuse. The Times highlights the public anger that led to the latest development in Finn's years-long scandal:

Stoking much of the anger is the fact that only three years ago, Bishop Finn settled lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10 million and agreed to a long list of preventive measures, among them to immediately report anyone suspected of being a pedophile to law enforcement authorities.

Finn's indictment comes six months after the Catholic Church vowed to work with police on reporting sexual abuse. The effort coincides with a condemning report from Amnesty International, who flagged the Catholic Church as a human rights abuser for failing to protect children. "Such failures," the report reads, "included not removing alleged perpetrators from their posts pending proper investigations, not co-operating with judicial authorities to bring them to justice and not ensuring proper reparation to victims."

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in Kansas City said bluntly, "This is about protecting children." Nevertheless, there still seems to be some resistance from the church and Finn who said, "We will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.