Catholic Priest Faces Federal Charges of Making, Possessing Child Porn

By Mark Morris and Glenn E. Rice
Kansas City Star
August 9, 2011

The Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan

A Catholic priest charged with possessing child pornography in Clay County now faces similar, but much more serious, counts in federal court.

A federal grand jury today indicted the Rev. Shawn Francis Ratigan, 45, with 13 counts of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography — including producing of child porn in a church choir loft.

Ratigan could face at least 15 years, and up to 30 years, in prison if convicted on all counts.

U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips is expected to discuss the new charges at a press conference late this afternoon in Kansas City.

State authorities charged Ratigan in May after church officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph turned over images of children they had discovered on the priest’s computer.

According to state court records, the pictures allegedly included so-called “up-skirt” photos of girls under the age of 12 and a nude photo of a girl that focused on her genitals.

After searching CDs and an external hard drive belonging to Ratigan, police found what they alleged were “14 different images of child pornography of a 3-4 year old female” and four other images of child porn.

Investigators also seized a computer that Ratigan used while working in St. Joseph.

The furor surrounding Ratigan’s arrest has wounded both local Catholics and the diocese, which three years ago paid $10 million to settle lawsuits filed by more than 40 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Bishop Robert Finn acknowledged that in 2010 a diocesan school principal complained about Ratigan’s conduct around children and that church officials knew about the computer images months before they handed them over to authorities.

Finn has said he did not read the principal’s complaints about Ratigan until after the priest had been charged in May. And when the diocese learned about the computer images in December 2010, its lawyers advised that they did not “constitute child pornography, as they did not depict sexual conduct or contact,” Finn said in a statement in May.

In June the diocese announced that it was removing Msgr. Robert Murphy from his role in overseeing sexual-abuse allegations against priests after he came under fire for his handling of questions about Ratigan.

Finn hired former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to investigate how the diocese handled the issue. Graves’ report is expected soon.

And earlier this month, the National Catholic Reporter quoted the diocese as saying it was delaying a capital campaign "in light of the current challenge."

According to the newspaper, which is based in Kansas City, the diocese had asked priests whether the fundraising campaign should continue since the Ratigan case "came to the forefront of our attention." Of the priests that responded, 75 percent recommended a delay, the paper reported.

Following his ordination in 2004, Ratigan served as associate pastor at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Kansas City from June 2004 to June 2005. He then worked as parochial administrator with a dual assignment to St. Mary Catholic Church in St. Joseph and at St. Joseph Mission in Easton, Mo., from July 2005 to June 2009. He was pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City from July 2009 to December 2010.

To contact Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send e-mail to

To contact Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send e-mail to


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