|Priest Faces Another Civil Suit in Sex Case
By Jeff Martin
August 13, 2011
Independence, MO —
An additional civil lawsuit has been filed against the Kansas City Catholic priest facing a 13-count federal indictment and three state charges involving child pornography.
The Rev. Shawn Ratigan, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn were named in the lawsuit filed Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence.
Ratigan is accused of child sexual abuse, failure to supervise children, fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. Allegations against the diocese are the same, except for the child sexual abuse.
The lawsuit, filed by the parents of a minor child who was 9 years old at the time, accuses Ratigan of continuing to abuse young girls while at the Sisters of St. Francis Convent in Independence, where he was sent in February following what church leaders, specifically Bishop Finn, called a carbon monoxide poisoning accident.
According to the lawsuit, Ratigan had recovered from that incident at a Kansas hospital and, later, at his mother’s house. When he was released, he was sent to the Independence convent, a mission dedicated to “education, including elementary age boys and girls.”
The lawsuit accuses the bishop and diocese of mischaracterizing Ratigan’s illness after a suicide attempt, “requesting children and parishioners to send get well cards to him and requesting prayers by the parishioners for his recovery.”
Parents and staff were not made aware of prior complaints against him, according to the lawsuit, and he was permitted to have access to computer equipment and the children.
Complaints continued during his stay at the convent, including spending several weekends away from the convent, often staying with Catholic parishioners who had young children, according to the lawsuit.
On Easter Sunday, Ratigan invited certain children and their parents to the convent for Mass followed by an Easter egg hunt, the plaintiffs say in the lawsuit. During the hunt, Ratigan took sexually explicit photographs of one of the children, according to the document.
Ratigan was later arrested in mid-May on three counts of possessing child pornography. On Aug. 9, he was charged in a 13-count indictment alleging he exploited five children age 2 to 12 over five years.
Two days after Ratigan’s arrest in May, Finn released a statement, saying, “I deeply regret that we didn’t ask the police earlier to conduct a full investigation.”
As early as 2006 there were complaints about Ratigan and his behavior with children, according to the court documents. When he became a priest at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Ratigan was accused of photographing and taking visual images of young girls.
In May 2010, nearly a year before he was sent to the convent in Independence, the principal at St. Patrick’s School and Parish in Kansas City reported to the Diocese concerns she had with Ratigan and his behavior with children, including actions that fit the profile of a child predator; that he repeatedly violated church policies regarding physical boundaries with children, and Ratigan’s insistence that he had to right to be close to the children.
On Dec. 16, 2010, Ratigan reported having problems with his laptop computer. The machine was taken to a repairman, who found several explicit images of girls under the age of 12.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit alleges that the diocese and Bishop Finn, a defendant, possessed the child pornography found on Ratigan’s computer for about seven months before contacting police.
Ratigan remains in jail in Clay County.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph released the following statement:
“Through media reports, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has learned that the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is promoting the filing of a civil suit in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of a child victim of Shawn Ratigan.
“While SNAP’s announcement includes a number of factual inaccuracies, the diocese will not otherwise comment on their allegations.
“Most importantly, the diocese would like to directly say to the parents of this child, ‘Our utmost concerns are for you, your daughter, and the anguish of your family. While we do not know your names or the nature of your relationship with Shawn Ratigan, we condemn the destructive behaviors attributed to him.’
“U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips stated this week that people who exploit children victimize the entire community. The diocese affirms that statement.”
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