Jackson County hearing set in case against bishop, diocese

A Jackson County judge on Wednesday set a June hearing to hear lawyers discuss evidence questions in the misdemeanor case against Kansas City’s Catholic bishop and the diocese he serves.

Judge John Torrence blocked out two hours for arguments at the June 15 hearing, according to Jackson County court records.

Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City St. Joseph each face one count of failure to report suspicions of child abuse. The charges relate to how they handled the Rev. Shawn Ratigan case between December 2010 and May 2011.

Ratigan faces state and federal child pornography charges related to dozens of lewd photos of young girls that diocesan leaders found on his laptop computer.

Both Finn and the diocese have pleaded not guilty.

Earlier this month, prosecutors asked Torrence to approve a large request for records from diocesan archives, detailing the diocese’s responses to child abuse allegations both before and after Bishop Robert Finn began serving here in May 2004.

Defense lawyers responded by asking Torrence to have prosecutors demonstrate that the request was reasonable, relevant and material to the case.

Attorney J.R. Hobbs, who represents Finn, said Wednesday that the planned hearing grew out of an informal conference at which the judge invited the lawyers to discuss their issues and, if possible, resolve them by agreement.

“He then set a hearing to litigate any unresolved issues,” Hobbs said.