Earth to the Catholic Church: if you won’t go after your priests, the law will go after you.
That’s the lesson that Bishop Robert W. Finn learned recently. The leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was convicted in court for not telling police that one of his priests, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, had taken hundreds of lewd images of the genitalia of little girls – some as young as 2 years of age.
Ratigan, age 46, has pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges. If convicted, he could face a minimum 15 years in prison.
Finn’s historic conviction is the first time that a Catholic bishop in the United States had been held accountable in criminal court in the nearly three decades since the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals first came to light. Continue reading →
As a recovering Catholic (and educated by the nuns of Mt. Mary Immaculate Academy, a convent boarding school), I’ve been closely following the systemic child sexual abuse scandals that have disgraced this church for many years.
And as somebody who has spent over three decades in the public relations field, I’ve also been following one inept church leader after another who conspired to protect predator priests in some kind of bizarrely inexcusable attempt to safeguard the reputation of their institution. This was commonly done by simply transferring known abusers from parish to parish where they could then find fresh new victims. Recently, I read this conclusion in a famous report:
“The most saddening finding is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders for the safety and welfare of the child victims. There was no attempt to investigate, to identify victims, or to protect any other children from similar conduct.”
The trouble is, these words were not written about the Roman Catholic church. Continue reading →
Happy Anniversary to us! Me and The Nag. Actually, one and the same. Two short years ago today, I launched this baby sibling to my Heart Sisters blog.
My first post here was about how to read the extra-fine print at the bottom of scientific journal articles to see who’s paying for the positive results being reported in research studies. I’d already built up quite a head of steam over at Heart Sisters about what’s known as marketing-based medicine. I was on a roll, except the roll had almost nothing to do with my important focus of women and heart disease – our #1 killer. As a heart attack survivor who now takes a fistful of cardiac meds every day, I realized that I had no clue which of these drugs were being prescribed for me based on industry-influenced medical journal articles and tainted clinical research. And worse – neither did my doctors.
Best to separate the sibs, I decided, so I could easily divide the emerging cardiology updates there and the marketing rants over here. Continue reading →
Just for fun when we’re talking shop, my PR friends sometimes like to evaluate escalating public scandals by asking each other: “What do you think might be the best damage control strategy for this crisis?”Here’s an example: over a 15-year period, our local Catholic Bishop Remi De Roo used church funds to invest in a failing horse-breeding venture, all without bothering to ask anybody for permission. In desperation, he then tried to secretly cover his horse-breeding losses with a real estate deal that also went terribly wrong – once again using the church’s money.
For the sake of clarity, let’s call this “stealing”. De Roo’s Catholic diocese was left with a debt of over $12 million to cover his losses. But the church never did press criminal charges against him.
It seems that as far as the Catholic church is concerned, wayward priests who choose to commit crimes – from stealing $12 million to sexually abusing minors – don’t need to face the same legal consequences that you or I would face. And from a public relations viewpoint, my PR pals agree, that’s a disastrous perception. Continue reading →