Kansas City diocese settles two lawsuits involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan for $1.8 million

By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
February 21, 2014

The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese has settled two more lawsuits totaling $1.8 million involving a priest now serving prison time for producing child pornography.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Jack Grate on Friday approved a $1.275 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by two parents on behalf of their minor daughter against the diocese, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn.

And on Wednesday, Circuit Judge Jim Kanatzar approved a $525,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed last year by two parents and their minor daughter. That suit also named the diocese, Ratigan and Finn as defendants.

In addition, Grate and Kanatzar each entered a $500,000 default judgment against Ratigan, who failed to respond to the lawsuits.

The settlements bring to $3.75 million the total the diocese has paid out so far in cases involving Ratigan.

“We hope that settlements of this kind will make the diocese place the safety of children first and foremost from here on out,” said Rebecca Randles, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in both cases.

A diocesan spokesman confirmed the settlements Friday and said they were funded by the diocese’s internal self-insurance fund and its external carrier, the National Catholic Risk Retention Group.

“We continue to pray for all those harmed by sexual abuse,” said Jack Smith, the diocese’s communications director.

The pornography scandal erupted after a computer technician discovered hundreds of lewd photos of young girls on Ratigan’s laptop in December 2010. A Jackson County judge later found Finn guilty of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to police or state child welfare authorities after the discovery of the photographs. Finn was sentenced to two years of probation for the misdemeanor.

Ratigan pleaded guilty last year to five child pornography charges and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

The lawsuit settled Friday was filed in November 2012 in Jackson County Circuit Court. It said Ratigan engaged a girl — identified as Jane Doe 96 — in sexually explicit conduct from 2009 to 2011, when she was 10 to 12 years old.

According to the lawsuit, Ratigan took pictures of the girl in the nude as well as with her underclothes arranged to expose her naked buttocks and vaginal area. Some pictures were taken several months after the diocese discovered the photos on Ratigan’s computer, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also said Catholic officials had been warned about Ratigan’s troubling behavior and knew of disturbing images on his laptop but failed to take immediate action.

The lawsuit settled Wednesday was filed in May 2013 in Jackson County Circuit Court. It said Ratigan took photos of the girl — identified as Jane Doe 127 — when she was 9 years old and younger in poses that displayed her underwear, buttocks and vaginal area. Some of the photos depicted her in the nude, and others showed her with underclothes arranged to expose her private parts.

Because the diocese failed to take immediate action when the troubling images were discovered, the lawsuit said, the girl continued to have contact with Ratigan and he continued to take pornographic photos of her.

The diocese settled two other lawsuits last year stemming from Ratigan’s actions. One, filed in U.S. District Court by the parents of a young northern Missouri girl, was settled in May for $600,000. The other was filed in Jackson County by a minor girl and her parents and settled in October for $1.35 million. Both named the diocese, Ratigan and Finn as defendants.

Two additional civil lawsuits involving Ratigan are pending. A seventh case, filed in U.S. District Court, was dismissed last year.

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