Bishop Strikes Deal with Prosecutor to Avoid Criminal Citation

By Deann Smith
November 16, 2011

LIBERTY, MO (KCTV) - Kansas City's bishop and the Clay County prosecutor have struck a deal to prevent the church leader from facing another criminal charge for his handling of a priest accused of possessing child pornography.

Clay County Prosecutor Dan White and Robert Finn, bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, announced the agreement Tuesday. The agreement only covers the diocese in Clay County.

Finn agreed to give the prosecutor unprecedented authority to review allegations of child abuse or suspicious activities for the next five years.

"I think it goes a long way to protecting kids in our community and ultimately that was my goal," White said.

The prosecutor now won't ask a grand jury to consider citing Finn and the diocese for their handling of Father Shawn Ratigan who has been accused of taking sexually explicit pictures of children.

The handling of Ratigan led a Jackson County grand jury to indict Finn and the diocese for failing to report suspected child abuse. Each were issued a single misdemeanor citation by the grand jury.

The grand jurors said diocese officials and Finn had reasonable cause to believe that Ratigan was taking sexually explicit pictures of children. Ratigan has been charged in Clay County Circuit Court and indicted by a federal grand jury. A Clay County grand jury superseded the charges in Clay County and issued him Tuesday with three counts of possessing child pornography.

White and Finn must meet monthly under the agreement signed Tuesday. White said the church's past reporting system was flawed and he wants to give confidence to Clay County residents that problems will be addressed promptly and effectively.

"This will be a learning experience for the bishop," White said.

In a statement, Finn said he was grateful to resolve the matter.

"The children of our community must be our first priority," Finn said. "Each deserves no more and no less. I stand ready to do all within my power not only to satisfy this agreement but also to ensure the welfare and safety of all children under our care."

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