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KC priest pleads not guilty to child porn charges; Bishop Finn apologizes

Catholic World News - May 24, 2011

Five months after officials of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph found disturbing images on the computer of Father Shawn Ratigan, the priest has pled not guilty to child pornography charges.

“In mid December of 2010, I was told that a personal computer belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan was found to have many images of female children,” Bishop Robert Finn said in a statement. “Most of these were images of children at public or parish events. I was told that there were also some small number of images that were much more disturbing, images of an unclothed child who was not identifiable because her face was not visible.”

“The very next day, we contacted a Kansas City, Missouri Police officer and described one of the more disturbing images,” Bishop Finn continued. “At the same time the diocese showed the images to legal counsel. In both instances we were told that, while very troubling, the photographs did not constitute child pornography as they did not depict sexual conduct or contact.”

Following recovery from a suicide attempt, the priest was permitted to celebrate Mass at a nuns’ chapel and not permitted to be near children. Bishop Finn added:

When Shawn continued to disregard these requirements, on May 12 ,Vicar General Monsignor Robert Murphy contacted the same police officer previously consulted to discuss his concerns. That officer facilitated our report to the Cyber Crimes Against Children Unit. Along with our report we provided the electronic images that we had received in December. Detective Maggie McGuire began an investigation. In the past week she conducted interviews and, pursuant to a search warrant, found additional materials, which had never been in our possession and which we did not know existed, and which are alleged to constitute child pornography. On May 19, Shawn Ratigan was arrested and charged in Clay County with three counts of a C felony possession of child pornography. I deeply regret that we didn’t ask the police earlier to conduct a full investigation.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the diocesan review board was not informed of the incident.

Bishop Finn spoke to 300 parishioners at Father Ratigan’s former parish on May 20. “I should have done differently in this regard and I’m sorry,” Bishop Finn reportedly said. “Don’t trust me. Trust our Lord Jesus Christ, trust his Church.”

An alumnus of Mundelein Seminary, Father Ratigan, now 45, was ordained to the priesthood in 2004.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: hartwood01 - May. 25, 2011 3:05 PM ET USA

    Pictures of nude children don't constitute pornography? You don't need the OK from civil authorities to give that a pass. Finn, sitting on this for 5 months, behaved like all the past blind-eyed bishops before him. When will we be delivered from these brain-dead (a kind adjective) bishops?

  • Posted by: rpp - May. 24, 2011 7:20 PM ET USA

    While I think the Bishop may, *in hindsight*, have done more, he did quite a bit. The fact that the material they first saw did not rise to level of criminal material is a key detail. Still, he did take action and tried to limit the priest's contact with children until, presumably, the matter was cleared up. That did not work, so called the authorities. First he showed mercy with caution. When that failed, he brought in the civil authorities. Sounds like a good progression to me.

  • Posted by: JR - May. 24, 2011 7:36 AM ET USA

    I agree it seems the bishop should have handled the situation more proactively. In his defense, the police were contacted the day after discovering the photos, although we're not told exactly what the police were told. What I wonder is why the police didn't begin an investigation immediately.

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