Former St. Joseph Priest Charged with Child Porn Possession

St. Joe Channel
May 20, 2011

Father Shawn Ratigan, who previously worked at St. Mary's Catholic Church in St. Joseph, was arrested and charged with three counts of possessing child pornography in Clay County, Missouri on Wednesday.

According to a probable cause statement from the Kansas City Police Department, a computer repair person found pornographic images on Ratigan's computer on December 16, 2010. The images included photos focused on girls' genitals while clothed; a nude photo of a girl younger than 18 was also found on the computer.

The repair person returned the computer to the Kansas City church where the computer was originally located and notified them of the images. The church notified police on May 13, 2011. Church officials turned the computer over to an IT person from the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for review.

The Diocese made a copy of the images found on the computer, then released the computer to Ratigan's family. The probable cause statement from police indicates Ratigan's family then destroyed the computer.

The day after the discovery of the images, Ratigan failed to show up for 8:30 Mass. When church officials went to check on him at his home, they found Ratigan unconscious in his closed garage with his motorcycle running. A suicide note was also found in his home at that time. Ratigan was hospitalized for psychiatric care.

After a Kansas City church gave the disk of images to the Kansas City Police Department on May 13, detectives determined many of the images were taken in and around the churches and schools Ratigan had been associated with.

On Monday, May 16, a St. Joseph church where Ratigan had previously worked turned over a computer to detectives. Police say many similar images were found on that computer, as well.

On Wednesday, Ratigan's family turned over camera and computer equipment to police.

Several of the girls in the photos have been identified and are in the process of being interviewed by police.

Ratigan's bail is set at $200,000.

The Diocese released a statement regarding Ratigan's situation:

"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.

"First and foremost, the diocese is concerned for the safety and welfare of the unidentified children and their families. We acknowledge that 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.

"Since January 2011, Father Ratigan has lived at a private priests' residence in Independence, Missouri, and has had no parish assignment.

"As a community of faith, we are called to protect the life and dignity of all people, especially children who are vulnerable. Preventing and reporting the suspicion of abuse is a required response to what we are called to do as followers of Jesus."


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