Pope Francis appoints new bishop for Kansas City-St. Joseph

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Holy See Press Office announced on Tuesday morning that they have selected a new bishop for Kansas City- St.Joseph.

Pope Francis appointed Springfield--Cape Girardeau Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., as the seventh bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Bishop Johnston

Bishop Johnston

Bishop Johnston's official installation will be in Kansas City on November 4th, but he spoke to Well-Wishers Tuesday about his plans to move the Diocese forward. In his speech he said he doesn't know why the Pope chose him for this role but says he will embrace it with open arms.

"I believe that the diocese still has a great need for some healing," Bishop Johnston said. "But I also believe the one that truly heals is Jesus. I see my role as the Bishop a sort of being a physician's assistant. To be the person that facilitates some of that healing."

Jack Smith from the Diocese of Kansas City -St. Joseph describes Bishop Johnston as a bridge builder.

"His Episcopal motto is that the love of Christ urges us on," Smith says.

Bishop Johnston has a masters of divinity degree and worked in Knoxville previously. He also served on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's Committee on Child and Youth Protection. In addition, he is currently the Episcopal liaison to the National Council of Catholic Women.

Bishop Johnston replaces Bishop Finn who resigned in April after 10 years. Bishop Finn is the first U.S. Bishop to be convicted of a misdemeanor for failing to report diocese priest, Rev. Shawn Ratigan for suspected child sex abuse.  Ratigan, was sentenced to 50 years in prison with no chance for parole after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

Prosecutors say the diocese discovered child pornography on Ratigan’s computer in December of 2010 but didn’t turn them over to police until May of 2011, nearly six months later.  Finn was found guilty of failure to report suspected child abuse and not guilty on another failure to report child abuse charge by Judge John Torrence in connection to the case.  He was sentenced to two years probation, which was suspended. He will also have to attend a mandated sexual abuse reporter training program, and implement an FBI sex-abuse reporting training course for clergy.

Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann has been serving as the Apostolic Administrator of the Missouri diocese, while a replacement for Finn was being chosen.

Timeline of the diocese troubles:

  • December 2010: computer tech. finds child porn on computer of Fr. Shawn Ratigan. Diocese moves Ratigan to different facility
  • May 2011: Ratigan arrested
  • October 2011: Jackson Co. Prosecutor charges Bishop Robert Finn with failure to report abuse
  • August 2012: Ratigan pleads guilty
  • September 2012: Finn goes to trial, gets probation
  • September 2013: Ratigan sentenced to 50 years in prison (also goes on trial in Clay County)
  • 2014: Vatican begins official investigation
  • April 2015: Finn resigns

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or "SNAP" disapproves of the new Bishop. In a statement, SNAP says Johnston is no friend of kids or victims. SNAP claims Johnston has repeatedly ignored their requests to act on priests accused of being serial predators.


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