Testimony about Bishop ‘misspoken’ in Priest Sex Abuse Case
By Judy Thomas and Mark Morris
Kansas City Star
August 30, 2012
Diocesan staffer had said Finn told her, “Boys will be boys,” in reaction to priest’s lewd photos.
In sworn testimony made public Thursday, an employee of Kansas City’s Roman Catholic diocese reported that Bishop Robert Finn said that “boys will be boys” when told of lewd images on a priest’s laptop.
But late Thursday night the employee backed away from that testimony.
John Gromowsky, an attorney representing Julie Creech, the computer systems manager for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said that she had “misspoken” in deposition testimony taken in a civil case and hoped to correct it.
In the Aug. 17 deposition, Creech said that Finn had said, “Sometimes boys will be boys,” when she raised concerns about how the diocese was handling the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, on whose laptop computer she had seen lewd photos of young girls.
“The statement Julie Creech attributed to Bishop Finn during her deposition that ‘boys will be boys’ is not consistent with her recollection of any conversations she had with the bishop concerning the Shawn Ratigan matter,” a statement released by Gromowsky said. “Following the deposition, Julie realized she had misspoken.”
The statement gave no explanation for why Creech’s testimony differed from her recollections.
Creech’s testimony was included in a court filing Thursday morning in a civil case against Ratigan, Finn and the diocese. The Star first reported the remarks on its website Thursday afternoon.
Creech’s written statement Thursday evening did not contest that she made the comment under oath. It said only that she was mistaken.
The Creech deposition comments came at a sensitive time for Finn and the diocese. Both will go to trial Sept. 24 on misdemeanor charges of failing to report to government authorities suspected child abuse related to Ratigan. The statement appeared to reveal a hitherto unknown meeting between Creech and Finn on the issue.
State prosecutors previously had identified Creech as a witness in their case against Finn and the diocese. A prosecutor’s spokesman declined to comment Thursday on the Creech deposition in the civil case.
The diocese and lawyers representing Finn also declined to comment Thursday.
Rebecca Randles, the lawyer representing a girl and her parents who filed the civil lawsuit, also declined to comment.
Though Creech’s concerns in December 2010 about the contents of Ratigan’s laptop previously had been reported in a fact-finding study commissioned by the diocese, no meeting with Finn had been disclosed until Thursday.
According to the study, prepared by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, Creech examined Ratigan’s laptop on Dec. 16, 2010, and saw hundreds of disturbing photographs of young children, primarily girls. That evening, Creech called then-Vicar General Robert Murphy and advised him to call police, the study said. The diocese did not report the suspected abuse until May 2011.
In the Graves report, Finn said he hadn’t seen what was on the computer.
The civil motion filed Thursday quotes Creech as being concerned when a diocesan employee told her that Murphy said Creech had not found “lewd” photographs on the computer. In a partial deposition transcript filed in the civil case, Creech said she approached Finn about the diocese’s response to the Ratigan discoveries.
Finn, she noted, was not specific as to what actions the diocese would take.
“He did indicate that, you know, sometimes priests do things that they shouldn’t, and he said, you know, he said, ‘Sometimes boys will be boys,’?” Creech said in the deposition.
Creech said in the deposition that she had no indication that Finn had ever seen any of the photographs from Ratigan’s computer and that the bishop never told her that he had.
Creech also said in the deposition that she was “upset” during her meeting with Finn.
“I think I was upset in a different way than he was because of what I had seen,” Creech said.
In the written statement issued Thursday evening, Gromowsky said they hoped to revise the deposition using procedures that would allow her to “acknowledge and correct her mistaken testimony.”
“Because the deposition was so recently completed, Julie has not yet had a chance to do that, so we were certainly surprised to learn that an unverified copy of her testimony was attached to a pleading in a civil case,” Gromowsky said.
The Star had left a message asking for comment from Creech at her office Thursday afternoon.
Finn has maintained that he never saw the images and that he had delegated the diocese’s initial response and management to his subordinates.
Ratigan attempted suicide just after the diocese learned of the pictures. After hospitalizing Ratigan and sending him for a mental evaluation, Finn reassigned him to an Independence mission house and said he ordered him to stay away from children, computers and cameras.
After Ratigan repeatedly violated those orders, the diocese reported him to police. A few days later, on May 19, 2011, state authorities charged him with possession of child pornography. Federal authorities charged him later.
The civil lawsuit in which the deposition pages were filed Thursday alleges that Ratigan engaged a 9-year-old girl in sexually explicit conduct as late as May 2011 — about five months after the diocese learned of the pictures.
Randles filed Thursday’s motion in a dispute with lawyers for the diocese over whether she had misrepresented facts of the case at a recent court hearing. In her motion, Randles said her client in the civil case, identified in court records as Jane Doe 49, was one of the girls whom Ratigan recently admitted photographing when he pleaded guilty in his federal case.
Randles wrote that she filed portions of the Creech deposition to establish that the diocese and its leaders knew of the lewd photos.
To contact Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to email@example.com