Prosecutors in the misdemeanor case against Bishop Robert Finn argued Friday that they need detailed information from the Catholic diocese about how it previously handled reports of child abuse.
At a hearing before Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence, Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Trisha Lacey said such information is critical if lawyers representing Finn plan to say he followed standard policies and procedures in his handling of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan case.
Finn and the diocese are charged with failing to report suspicions of child abuse related to Ratigan, who faces state and federal child pornography charges.
Lacey said the state is entitled to rebuttal evidence as well as material related to its main case against the bishop.
“That’s highly relevant and material,” Lacey said. “They cannot hide behind policies and procedures when they were not followed.”
Earlier, prosecutors had asked for specific information from diocesan records about possible child abuse allegations against 10 priests and monks. On Friday, Lacey narrowed her request to information about five priests.
Lawyers representing Finn have said he was not duty bound to report Ratigan because another cleric in the diocese was the church’s designated child abuse reporter under state law.
Lawyer Jean Paul Bradshaw, who represents the diocese, noted that, unlike Finn, the church was not planning on raising a “policies and procedures” defense. And evaluating how the diocese and its bishop responded to allegations of decades-old abuse would not be material, Bradshaw said.
“It is completely irrelevant,” Bradshaw said. “They’ve made no showing that this would lead to admissible evidence.”
Torrence also heard lawyer arguments about whether the diocese should turn over the complete witness statements from those interviewed by former U.S. attorney Todd Graves during his investigation of the Ratigan matter for the church.
In some cases, that material may be covered by the attorney-client privilege or could be construed as a lawyer’s private work papers, attorneys for Finn and the diocese argued.
Lacey responded that the privilege likely was waived when Graves’ report was published last summer.
Torrence took the matter under advisement and said he planned to rule in about 10 days.
Lawyers also met privately with Torrence for about 40 minutes before the hearing opened and set another session to discuss progress on the case for Aug. 16.
The trial currently is scheduled for Sept. 24.