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Grand Jury to investigate priest child pornographer Shawn Ratigan; Bishop Finn receives subpoena

August 25, 2011

The Kansas City Star is reporting today that a grand jury in Jackson County Missouri will begin investigating the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan, a priest in the diocese of Kansas City is being charged in both state and federal courts with the production and possession of child pornography. The focus of the investigation remains unclear yet sources to the Kansas City Star are indicating that the grand jury will examine how the Catholic hierarchy addressed the Ratigan case.

Ratigan was arrested in May when child pornography was found on his computer. A computer repairman had noticed the pornography on Ratigan’s personal computer in December of 2010. Rather than take the computer to the police, where it belonged, the repairman turned it over to the diocese of Kansas City. The diocese in turn did not inform law enforcement officials for five months that they were in possession of child pornography.

Prior to contacting law enforcement the diocese made their own copies of the pornographic images, and returned the computer to members of Ratigan’s family who subsequently destroyed it. Police found similar child pornography on church computers that were used by Ratigan.

When the diocese was asked why it took them five months to turn over Ratigan’s child pornography to law enforcement they responded that they “took the appropriate steps based on the facts as we knew them”.

The “appropriate steps” that the diocese took included the cover-up of Ratigan’s crimes. After learning of the child pornography on his computer the diocese removed Ratigan from parish ministry and sent him to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist. The diocese states he was there to assist the sisters by saying mass for them. Catholics in the diocese of Kansas City were never told why Ratigan was helping out the sisters. They were not informed that child pornography had been found on Ratigan’s computer. Instead they were left uninformed about the danger that he posed to their children.

Without this knowledge unsuspecting parents invited Ratigan to their daughter’s birthday party, and he gladly accepted the invitation. He also attended a St. Patrick’s Day parade with families and friends, another violation of the “restrictions” that Bishop Finn had placed on him.

Finn also never brought the revelations of Ratigan’s child pornography collection to his own diocesan review board. The diocesan review boards were established by the Dallas Charter in 2002 to assure Catholics that someone was reviewing child sex abuse reports other than the bishop. When asked about the diocese’s failure to notify the board about the child pornography found on Ratigan’s computer, Kansas City board member Jim Caccamo responded that “there’s nothing normal about this”. He stated that he would want to ask the diocese “why did it take five months” for the board to learn of these reports.

An insider at the chancery office had an even stronger reaction saying that review board has been “exposed as a sham”.

The cover up and concealment of the danger that Ratigan posed to children began much sooner than December of 2010, in fact the diocese knew they had a problem on their hands one year before Ratigan was arrested for child pornography.

The principal of St. Patrick grade school, Julie Hess, wrote an impassioned letter to diocesan officials warning them that Ratigan “fit the profile of a child predator”. Ms. Hess recounted the troubling concerns of school staff members, parishioners, and parents. She described how Ratigan would allow students to “climb on him, grab his legs, and reach into his pockets for candy”. Ratigan also would swing girls up over his head even though they were wearing a skirt.

Most disturbing however were the reports brought back from parents who had visited Ratigan’s home. Parents stated that they saw “a giant stuffed animal on the bed in the guestroom and the kitchen hand towels are shaped to look like doll clothes”. In addition a parent “had found a pair of girl’s panties inside one of the planter’s in Father’s back yard”. Parents and teachers began to discuss amongst themselves the possibility that Ratigan was a danger to their children.

Bishop Finn now claims to have never read the letter.

The cover up that the diocese of Kansas City began at least over a year ago is now slowly beginning to unravel.

In June a lawsuit was filed by the parents of a young girl who they report was photographed by Ratigan. The lawsuit names Ratigan, Bishop Finn, and the Kansas City diocese as defendants. The lawsuit states that an employee of the diocese, in 2006, noticed suspicious behavior between Ratigan and a 4 year old child. In addition the suit states that Finn and the diocese possessed and distributed child pornography.

Earlier this month a federal grand jury filed charges against Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan is charged with 13 counts of producing, possessing, and attempting to produce child pornography. The indictment indicates that the victims ranged in age from 2 to 12 years. Ratigan had already been charged with three counts of possession of child porn in Clay County.

Last week federal prosecutors signaled their intention to seek a sentence of life imprisonment for Ratigan if he is convicted.

Now the Kansas City diocese is facing a grand jury investigation into the case of Shawn Ratigan. Sources report that Finn himself has been issued a subpoena. Early information suggests that the grand jury could be looking into how the diocese handled the reports that Ratigan was in possession of child pornography. If this is the case Finn is exactly the person who should have been served with this subpoena.

The case of Shawn Ratigan is a perfect illustration of the lengths that bishops continue to go to in order to cover up the crimes of its clergy. The so called “reforms” of 2002 have been exposed as nothing more than window dressing to give Catholic parents a false sense of security that their children are indeed safe in the church. The law enforcement community in Kansas City is to be commended for their diligence in this ongoing investigation. The church has shown repeatedly that they are unable to institute meaningful change to protect children and they are incapable of conducting internal investigations of its own clergy. These investigations belong with law enforcement.

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