KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a deal to avoid a second round of criminal charges, a Roman Catholic bishop in Kansas City has agreed to meet monthly with a county prosecutor to detail every suspicious episode involving abuse of a child in his diocese for the next five years.
Bishop Robert Finn spoke with other clergy members at the annual fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore on Monday.
The bishop, Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, was indicted in October by a grand jury in Jackson County for failure to report a priest accused of taking pornographic pictures of girls. Bishop Finn is the first American prelate to face indictment on charges of mishandling an abuse case.
The agreement announced on Tuesday between Bishop Finn and the prosecuting attorney of neighboring Clay County, Daniel White, leaves the bishop open to prosecution for misdemeanor charges for five years, if he does not continue to meet with the prosecutor and report all episodes. But victims’ advocates criticized the deal as cozy and ineffectual, compared with previous agreements between bishops and prosecutors.
The investigations in Kansas City stem from the bishop’s supervision of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who has been accused of taking photographs of the crotches of girls as young as 6 in local parishes and homes over many years. The bishop learned of the photos last December after a technician fixing the priest’s computer expressed serious alarm, but the diocese did not turn them over to the police until May. In that period, Father Ratigan is accused of taking more lewd photographs of girls at places including a church-sponsored Easter egg hunt.
Mr. White said in an interview that the agreement would build accountability and protect children, saying that a four-month grand jury investigation showed that “good people were having difficulty making good choices.”