JESUSLAND—Two big stories that mix sex and religion popped over the weekend, both involving Catholics and children—and neither of them make the 'Holy Mother Church' look good.
On this side of the ocean, in an unprecedented move, a grand jury in Jackson County, Missouri, announced that it had unsealed indictments voted on Oct. 6 against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph as well as its leader, Bishop Robert Finn, for failing to report child abuse allegedly committed by Father Shawn Ratigan, who himself remains under federal indictment for 13 counts of producing, attempting to produce and possession of child pornography—like when he allegedly tried to take sexually explicit photos of a 12-year-old girl when Ratigan was assigned to a "mission house" (aka convent) in Independence. He also continued to attend children’s parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families and even presided at a girl’s first communion with Finn's approval.
And this was after Ratigan had been transferred from St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Kansas City for allegedly taking nude and "upskirt" photos of kids attending the parish elementary school—actions which have resulted in at least three lawsuits against Ratigan and the diocese by the distraught parents of some of the molested kids.
But what led to last Friday's indictments of the diocese and its bishop was, among other things, the "whistleblower" letter written by St. Patrick School principal Julie Hess to Finn in May, 2010, wherein Hess stated that there was a growing concern by parents over Ratigan's inappropriate behavior around children.
"Although concerns about Father Shawn surfaced early in the school year," Hess's letter states, "in the last week they have grown much stronger. The proverbial 'straw that broke the camel’s back' was reported to me by phone last Thursday, May 13, 2010. During a school field trip to Platte Falls, Father allowed a fourth-grade girl to sit on his lap and lean her body back against him. He did not immediately move to re-direct her; she sat there for at least five minutes, until teachers moved to stand next to him. Then he rose and went to play Frisbee with a group of students."
However, Finn apparently ignored the letter, and did not contact law enforcement about it even after hundreds of child porn photos were discovered on Ratigan's laptop in December 2010 when he took it in for repairs. Instead, Finn merely transferred Ratigan from the parish school to the Independence mission house.
"On or between Dec. 16 of 2010 and May 11 of 2011," stated Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker at a press conference on Friday, "in the County of Jackson, state of Missouri, the defendant [Finn] was a mandated reporter and had reasonable cause to suspect a child may have been subjected to abuse due to the following things: Previous knowledge of concerns regarding Father Ratigan and children, the discovery of hundreds of photographs of children on Father Ratigan’s laptop including a child’s naked vagina, upskirt images and images focused on the crotch area in violation of restrictions that were placed on Father Ratigan."
The church is also under investigation in Clay County regarding child sexual abuse issues, and although Finn and Monsignor Robert Murphy testified before that grand jury last month, no indictments have yet been voted out of that jury.
Across the pond, however, Spain's Catholic hierarchy have been involved in what may be an even more insidious scandal: stolen babies.
According to a report in the Daily Mail (UK), a documentary which will air on BBC2 in Britain and Scotland Tuesday night will examine the fact that, for more than 50 years beginning in 1939, the Catholic Church in Spain, through a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns, stole more than 300,000 babies from their mothers—many but not all unmarried—telling the moms that the kids had been born dead, then selling the kids to Catholic couples all over the world to raise as their own.
And if the birth mothers wanted to see their dead newborns, the hospitals kept a couple of real dead ones in the freezer which could be brought out and shown as "proof."
The scandal, which forms the basis for the BBC2 program, This World: Spain's Stolen Babies, was first revealed after the "father" of stolen baby Juan Luis Moreno confessed to his now-grown "son" that he and another couple, the "parents" of Antonio Barroso, had both bought the babies from a priest in the northern Spanish city of Zaragoza for 200,000 pesetas—slightly less than $90,000—each.
"That was the price of an apartment back then," Mr Barroso told the BBC. "My parents paid it in installments over the course of 10 years because they did not have enough money."
The baby-selling apparently stopped in 1987, when the Spanish government took over the job of regulating adoptions from the hospitals.
Also featured in the documentary is an interview with Ines Perez, now 89, who admitted that a priest had encouraged her to fake a pregnancy, complete with padding which he had supplied, so she could be given a baby girl due to be born at Madrid’s San Ramon clinic, reputedly one of the major baby-selling centers, in 1969.
And that 300,000 figure may be low: "There are believed to be thousands more cases that will never come to light because the stolen children fear their adoptive parents will be seen as criminals," the Daily Mail reported. "Many of the families of stolen babies have taken DNA tests in the hope of eventually being matched with their children. Some matches have already been made, but without a nationally coordinated database, reuniting lost relatives will be a very difficult process."
(Pictured: Two views of Shawn Ratigan)