|Bishop Says He Failed in Ratigan Case
By Glenn E. Rice and Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
May 27, 2011
A leader of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese today acknowledged his failure to properly respond to warnings about a priest now accused of possessing child pornography.
“I must also acknowledge my own failings,” said a deflated Bishop Robert Finn as he read from a brief statement during a hastily called news conference.
“As Bishop, I owe it to people to say things must change.”
Finn also said today that it was only late Thursday when he read a memo presented to the diocese more than a year ago. The memo detailed troubling interactions that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan had with children.
The principal of St. Patrick School in Kansas City, North, wrote the memo warning diocesan officials that parents and teachers were concerned about Ratigan’s behavior, including hundreds of pictures that the priest took.
Ratigan, 45, of Kansas City, North was charged last week with three counts of possessing child pornography taken around churches and schools where he had worked. He pleaded not guilty to those charges Monday in Clay County court.
His attorney, John P. O’Connor declined comment today.
Finn told reporters that the memo was given to Monsignor Robert Murphy, the vicar general of the diocese, in May 2010. In the following days, Finn said, Murphy gave him a brief verbal summary of the memo and a meeting that Murphy had with Ratigan after receiving the report.
“Monsignor Murphy told me that he had thoroughly discussed these concerns with Shawn Ratigan and how he was to change his behavior,” Finn said.
“Shawn Ratigan expressed the willingness and the desire to make these changes.”
Finn also said that he did not believe anyone else on the diocesan staff read the report.
“Hindsight makes it clear that I should have requested from Monsignor Murphy an actual copy of the report,” he said.
Also today, the chairman of the diocese’s review board, which is charged with advising the bishop on sex abuse allegations, told The Star that the board only learned of the case against Ratigan last week when the criminal charges were filed.
Jim Caccamo said he was “flabbergasted” and that he has been inundated with phone calls from angry Catholics.
Finn said at the time the diocese received the report more than a year ago, “we had no knowledge of any inappropriate photographs or images in Shawn Ratigan’s possession.”
Those were not discovered until December 2010, Finn said.
Prosecutors have alleged that Ratigan photographed children in and around churches where he had been assigned in the diocese. He remains in custody on $200,000 bond.
Some of the photos were “up-skirt” images of clothed girls ages 12 and younger, according to court documents, and at least one nude photo focused on a girl’s genitals.
Ratigan was at St. Patrick Parish in the Northland for about a year and St. Mary Church in St. Joseph before that.
Finn said he has met with parishioners from St. Patrick Church as well as priests, diocesan staff and the review board chairman.
“As a result of these meetings, I have asked the Independent Review Board to expand its role in receiving and evaluating reports of misconduct with children,” he said.
Finn said he would be meeting with others to determine how best to change the diocese’s internal structure, reporting and procedures.
“The changes could be unsettling but more than ever, I realize that they are necessary,” he said.
To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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