|Review Board Meets Today about Charge against Priest
By Judy L. Thomas And Glenn E. Rice
Kansas City Star
June 1, 2011
A review board established by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph years ago to assess sex abuse allegations is meeting this afternoon to discuss the handling of a priest charged with possessing child pornography.
Monsignor Robert Murphy, the vicar general who came under fire last week for failing to take action when concerns were first raised about the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, is expected to attend the meeting, the board chairman said. Murphy is a member of the eight-member board, according to the diocese’s website.
The review board meets at 1 p.m. at the Catholic Center, 20 W. 9th St.
Jim Caccamo, chairman of the review board, said the board already had a meeting scheduled when the news about Ratigan erupted.
“There are three agenda items,” Caccamo said. “This is one indeed.”
Caccamo said review board meetings are closed to the public.
Ratigan, 45, of Kansas City, North, has been charged with three counts of possessing child pornography taken around churches and schools where he had worked. 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 has pleaded not guilty to those charges in Clay County court and remains in custody on $200,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 16.
Last week, Bishop Robert Finn conceded he did not heed several warnings about Ratigan’s past behavior, including hundreds of pictures that the priest took. The admission came after it was revealed that the principal of St. Patrick School sent diocesan officials a memo more than a year ago detailing concerns of teachers and parents about Ratigan’s troubling behavior and interactions with children, including hugging and touching considered inappropriate.
For example, during a field trip in May 2010, Ratigan allegedly allowed a fourth-grade girl to sit on his lap and lean her body against him. Another time, a parent said she found “a pair of girl’s panties inside one of the planters in Ratigan’s back yard,” the memo said.
Finn said last week that Murphy briefed him about the memo last year but that he did not ask to read it.
Meanwhile, word is spreading about an article in The Catholic Key, the diocesan newspaper, that describes a trip Ratigan took to Guatemala in 2007 with students from Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph.
According to the 2007 article, 13 Catholic teenagers from St. Joseph — 12 of whom were students at Bishop LeBlond — went to San Andreas Itzapa in June to work with the poor. The town is a sister city of St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City.
The article said that Ratigan, who was the Bishop LeBlond chaplain at the time and also an administrator at St. Mary’s Parish in St. Joseph, had first visited Guatemala when he was an associate pastor of St. Thomas More. It said Ratigan “used his connections with the Kansas City parish to arrange the mission trip for the St. Joseph youth.”
| Judy L. Thomas, email@example.com
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