New Lawsuit Claims Cathedral Student As Victim

By Kim Norvell
St. Joseph News-Press
September 22, 2011

A new federal lawsuit claims a priest who has been charged in state and federal courts took pornographic photos of a student from Cathedral School of St. Joseph.

The lawsuit, filed by her parents on behalf of Jane Doe 186, accuses the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan of sexually exploiting a minor female by producing and distributing pornography that depicted her in a sexually explicit way. The lawsuit also names the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn, alleging they "aided and abetted" Rev. Ratigan's conduct for six months after the photographs were found on his computer by concealing them from law enforcement.

The lawsuit didn't reveal the family's identity or give the student's age at the time of the abuse.

"As we see so often, this case appears to be one of top officials concerned about reputation over safety of children," said Jeff Anderson, an attorney who filed the suit. "We applaud the courage of this family for taking action to make this problem known in order to protect children in the future."

Through a written statement, Rebecca Summers, spokeswoman for the diocese, said the diocese found many inaccurate statements throughout the lawsuit, however officials intend to "place these false statements into the hands of the court."

"The fundamental concern of the diocese is for the child and her family," the statement reads. "The actions attributed to Shawn Ratigan betrayed their trust and violated the dignity of their daughter ... The diocese urges anyone with knowledge of sexual abuse current or historical to make a confidential report to the ombudsman, at (816) 812-2500, or"

According to the complaint, Rev. Ratigan met the plaintiff and her parents in 2006 when he officiated her great grandfather's funeral at St. Mary Church. Beginning in 2008, Rev. Ratigan allegedly took sexually explicit images of the girl while she was wearing her bathing suit. The lawsuit also claims Rev. Ratigan took photographs of the fully clothed girl while she was sleeping.

"The photographs show that Plaintiff's position was moved by Defendant Ratigan while sleeping in order to pose Plaintiff in a sexually suggestive manner," the lawsuit alleges.

The photographs were then allegedly uploaded and distributed over the internet. Multiple pornographic images, including those that allegedly depict Jane Doe 186, were found on Rev. Ratigan's computer in December.

Mr. Anderson said the lawsuit uses a federal law, Masha's Law, which allows an abuse victim to file a civil suit against anyone who produced, distributed or possessed any sexually explicit images of him or her. In this case, the plaintiff is claiming the diocese and Bishop Finn duplicated and distributed images Rev. Ratigan created in an attempt to conceal evidence from law enforcement.

This is the third civil suit to be filed against Rev. Ratigan since his arrest in Clay County in May, when he was charged with three counts of possessing child pornography. He also faces 13 federal counts of producing and possessing child pornography.

Rev. Ratigan was the parochial administrator for both St. Mary Church in St. Joseph and St. Joseph Mission in Easton, Mo., from July 2005 to June 2009. He also served as chaplain for Bishop Le Blond.


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