Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has been indicted by a grand jury on misdemeanor child endangerment charges in a case concerning a priest accused of collecting child pornography, Jackson County officials revealed Friday.
The Kansas City Star reports that Finn would become the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to face criminal prosecution if allegations that he covered up suspected sexual abuse of children by a priest proves to be true.
Finn heads the Catholic Diocese of Kansas-St. Joseph, which is made up of 134,000 members.
The diocese is being represented by Jean Paul Bradshaw and Tom Bath, who have entered a "not guilty" plea for the diocese, the Kansas City Star reports. Finn's attorneys, Gerald Handley and J.R. Hobbs, also entered a "not guilty" plea for the bishop.
The Catholic bishop and the diocese are accused of violating state child abuse laws for failing to alert authorities about the findings of an internal investigation, which revealed "troubling photos" of young girls on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's computer.
Federal prosecutors filed child pornography charges against Ratigan earlier this year, the Kansas City Star reports. Ratigan pleaded not guilty.
The diocese reportedly conducted a probe of Ratigan after receiving numerous complaints about his behavior around children.
Finn has acknowledged that he and other diocese officials knew about hundreds of "disturbing" photos of children on a computer used by Ratigan for five months before Ratigan was charged, according to AP.
The AP reports that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says Finn had "reasonable cause" to suspect a child had been abused after learning of the images and should have alerted police according to state law.
The class A misdemeanor charge Finn faces carries a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000, said Peters-Baker, according to CNN.