(Reuters) – The first indictment of a U.S. bishop for failing to report child pornography would have been groundbreaking in itself but legal experts say a second charge — against the diocese — is almost as rare.
Bishop Robert Finn of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph appeared in court on Friday on one count of failure to report child abuse. Prosecutors in Jackson County, Missouri, alleged Finn knew in December 2010 about hundreds of photos of children on Reverend Shawn Ratigan’s laptop but did not notify authorities for five months.
Finn pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Prosecutors leveled a second charge against the diocese itself, which also pleaded not guilty.
“You don’t want to tarnish the name of the Catholic Church, which can do many good things,” said Brian Klopfenstein, a former prosecutor in Missouri. “But maybe they felt they had to do something profound to get people’s attention.”
Prosecutors are often wary about charging entities, as opposed to individuals. In one famous case, the U.S. government was criticized after it indicted accounting giant Arthur Andersen in 2002, which led to the loss of several thousand jobs.