Priest Faces Child Porn Charges

By Kim Norvell
St. Joseph News-Press
May 19, 2011

Shawn F. Ratigan

A priest who formerly worked in St. Joseph has been charged in Kansas City with three counts of possession of child pornography after detectives found pornographic images on his church and personal computers.

According to court documents, the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan, who formerly served as a priest at St. Mary Church in St. Joseph, was arrested at the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, Mo., on Wednesday. Ratigan allegedly possessed multiple pornographic images of girls under the age of 12.

The Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department was notified of the allegations on May 13.

Court documents state that on Dec. 16, a computer repair person located the images, including “up-skirt pictures that were covertly taken,” as well as a nude photo of a minor female on Ratigan’s personal computer. Church officials seized the computer and turned it over to the diocese IT department for review.

The following day, Ratigan failed to show up for mass. He was found unconscious in his garage in Kansas City with a suicide note apologizing to his church and his family, according to court documents. Ratigan was hospitalized for psychiatric care.

Court documents state the church diocese made copies of the images found on the laptop and turned the computer over to his family, who later destroyed it.

On May 13, a disk containing the images was turned over to detectives, who determined that many of them “were taken in and around the churches and schools Ratigan has been associated with.”

On Monday, a church in St. Joseph turned over a desktop computer that Ratigan previously used as his personal computer, where detectives found the same type of pornographic images, court documents state.

Detectives found more images Thursday while serving a search warrant of his belongings, where they found pornographic images of a 3- or 4-year-old girl.

Officer Darin Snapp, public information officer for the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department, said he could not comment on the case as the investigation is still ongoing. According to court records, additional digital media belonging to Ratigan is being reviewed for evidence and several female victims are being interviewed.

According to a statement released by The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Ratigan has had no parish assignment since January.

“The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is profoundly saddened to learn that Father Shawn Ratigan has been charged with the possession of child pornography. Charges came about after the diocese discovered troubling images on his personal computer and sought the advice of local law enforcement professionals,” the statement said. “First and foremost, the diocese is concerned for the safety and welfare of the unidentified children and their families. We acknowledge that the use of pornography is a very painful and corrosive influence in our culture, and we pray for the recovery of any child who has been exploited in this manner.”

The diocese said Ratigan was the parochial administrator for both St. Mary Church in St. Joseph and St. Joseph Mission in Easton, Mo., from July 2005 to June 2009. According to News-Press archives, he also led First Monday, a mass for young adults on the first Monday of every month at Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Ratigan is being held on a $200,000 cash bond.

Kim Norvell can be reached at


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