Kc Area Bishop Regrets Diocese Actions on Priest

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
May 21, 2011

Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese said he knew for months about "disturbing" images of children found on an area priest's computer, but said authorities told him the images weren't pornography.

The priest, Shawn Francis Ratigan, 45, was charged Thursday in Clay County with three counts of child pornography and was being held on $200,000 bond. Court records don't list a lawyer for Ratigan.

Finn said in a two-page statement released Friday that when the images were found in December, the diocese contacted a Kansas City police officer and described one of the disturbing photos. The diocese also showed more images to legal counsel, according to The Kansas City Star.

Finn said the officer and legal counsel said the images didn't constitute child pornography "as they did not depict sexual conduct or contact."

"I deeply regret that we didn't ask the police earlier to conduct a full investigation," Finn's statement said.

Clay County prosecutors allege that Ratigan photographed several girls in and around churches where he had been associated over the years. Some of the photos were "up-skirt" images of clothed girls ages 12 and younger. At least one nude photo focused on the genitals of a girl.

The church found out about the images in December after a technician fixing Ratigan's computer discovered the images, according to court documents. The technician gave the laptop to diocesan officials and told them what he'd found.

Finn said the diocese contacted a Kansas City police officer and described "one of the more disturbing images." Rebecca Summers, diocese spokeswoman, said she didn't know who the officer was, how the photo was described or which photo was described.

Capt. Steve Young, a police spokesman, said diocesan officials reached out to a ranking police officer who serves on a diocesan committee.

"They said: 'We have a single image of a young naked girl on a computer, nothing sexual in nature. Is that child pornography?'" Young said.

The officer said no, Young said. He said the officer was not shown the photo or told there were other images.

Young said there was no reason to release the officer's name.

Finn's statement said the day after the church was notified about the images, Ratigan attempted suicide. Court records said he left a note saying he was sorry "to the kids and his family" for any harm. He was then hospitalized for psychiatric care.

Finn's statement said Ratigan was sent out of state for a follow-up review and that afterward he went to live with his mother until the diocese could find him a residence. He also was told to continue counseling and ordered not to be around children, Finn said.

Finn said Ratigan did not have his computer or his camera during that time. Diocesan officials made copies of the images and in early March gave the laptop to Ratigan's family members after they asked for it. The family destroyed the computer, according to court documents.

In late March, Finn said he confronted Ratigan again after receiving reports that Ratigan had violated some of the restrictions when he attended a parade and a child's birthday party. Finn said Ratigan then continued to disregard the requirements that the bishop had issued.

On May 12, the diocese contacted the same police officer whom church officials had previously consulted. That officer then recommended that the diocese file a report with the Police Department's Cyber Crimes Against Children Unit. Finn said along with their report, diocesan officials gave cyber crimes investigators the electronic images recovered from Ratigan's computer in December.

St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City, where Ratigan was an associate pastor, held a meeting Friday evening to address parents' concerns.

"It's just common sense, you go to the police," parishioner Randy Farrell said.

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