A Jackson County grand jury has charged the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn with failure to report suspected child abuse. The charge alleges that church officials failed to report images of children allegedly taken by Father Shawn Ratigan who faces state and federal child pornography charges when those images were originally discovered in December of last year.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker says Finn appeared in court to face the charge this afternoon and both the Bishop and Diocese entered pleas of not guilty.

The misdemeanor charge carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and a one-thousand dollar fine if there is a conviction.

A Jackson County grand jury has indicted Bishop Robert Finn on a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse.

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph also was charged with failure to report.

The charges, announced at a news conference today, make Finn — leader of the 134,000-member diocese — the highest-ranking Catholic official in the nation to face criminal prosecution in a child sexual abuse case.

“This is a significant charge,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says. “To my knowledge, a charge like this has not been leveled before.”

Finn has denied any criminal wrongdoing. His cousel says efforts will continue to resolve the matter.

Ray Read with Missourinet affiliate KCMO contributed to this report.