Review Board to Report to Bishop on Charge against Priest

By Judy L. Thomas and Glenn E. Rice
Kansas City Star
June 1, 2011

A review board that met privately for two hours Wednesday came up with a recommendation on dealing with cases such as a priest now accused of possessing child pornography.

Jim Caccamo, chairman of the review board, told The Kansas City Star on Wednesday that he plans to present the recommendation today to Bishop Robert Finn.

Caccamo would not provide details of the proposal but said the board wanted to meet with the bishop "and find out how can we guarantee that this kind of stuff won't happen in the future."

Caccamo and a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said it would be up to the bishop whether to discuss the content of the proposal. Caccamo also confirmed that the police captain whose opinion diocesan officials sought on a photo taken by the priest is a member of the review board.

Capt. Richard Smith of the Kansas City Police Department was contacted in December by the diocese after photos were discovered on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's laptop. But Smith was only told about one photo and was not made aware that there were other more graphic images on the computer.

"He wasn't told it was Kansas City, Missouri, and he wasn't told the specifics," Caccamo said. "So the evidence that was presented to him was verbal and minimal.

"I don't think anybody is served well with partial information. It is a matter of having the integrity and honesty to speak the truth with love."

Smith could not be reached for comment, and Capt. Steve Young, a police spokesman, said they could not discuss an ongoing investigation.

The diocese's handling of Ratigan's case continued to evoke strong reaction Wednesday from an activist group that represents clergy sex abuse victims. And a news conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today by two law firms that have filed priest sex abuse lawsuits across the country.

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, Finn conceded that he did not heed several warnings about Ratigan's past behavior, including hundreds of pictures that the priest took. The statement came after it was revealed that the principal of St. Patrick School sent diocesan officials a memo more than a year ago detailing concerns teachers and parents had about Ratigan's behavior and interactions with children, including hugging and touching that they considered inappropriate.

Finn said last week that Monsignor Robert Murphy, the vicar general, briefed him about the memo last year but that he did not ask to read it. Finn said that when he finally read it last Thursday, "I was ashamed at the fact we had not done enough to respond to that."

Caccamo said the review board did not get around to talking Wednesday about expanding its scope when it comes to assessing sex abuse cases — something the bishop said on Friday that he would like to do.

"But that is my intent," Caccamo said. "I think we've got to do that."

Murphy, who came under fire last week for failing to take action when concerns were first raised about Ratigan, is a member of the eight-member review board and attended Wednesday's meeting.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests gathered outside The Catholic Center on Wednesday as the review board meeting was under way inside.

The group urged Finn to visit the location of each of Ratigan's pastoral and administrative assignments to meet with parishioners and parents and encourage victims and witnesses to contact authorities.

Ratigan has worked in parishes in Buchanan, Clay and Jackson counties.

"It is important that the bishop aggressively seeks out victims and whistle blowers to cut through the longstanding culture of secrecy in the church," said SNAP executive director David Clohessy.

SNAP is holding an open meeting tonight in Kansas City, North, to discuss the issue. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Kansas City North Community Center.

To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to


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