Missouri priest pleads not guilty to felony charges

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph continues to deal with the fallout from the arrest of a priest charged with possession of child pornography.

Father Shawn F. Ratigan, 45, a priest of the diocese, was arrested on May 18 at the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, Mo.

He lived at the adjoining Vincentian Mission House, under the restriction that he would have no contact with minors, since January. Father Ratigan moved there after recovering from a suicide attempt made on Dec. 17, 2010.

The day after his arrest, Father Ratigan was charged in the Circuit Court of Clay County, Mo., with three counts of the Class C felony of possession of child pornography. On May 23, he pled not guilty in the circuit court. He remains on $200,000 bond and his next court appearance will be June 16.

On May 19, the diocese issued a statement expressing sorrow at Father Ratigan’s charges and expressed concern for the safety and welfare of the unidentified children in Father Ratigan’s images, and for their families.

On May 20, Bishop Robert W. Finn outlined details of some facts of the case and expressed deep regret that the diocese didn’t contact police earlier for a full investigation.

“As people of faith, in times of difficulty we rely on prayer and God’s grace to fortify our human efforts,” wrote Bishop Finn. “I pray that the strong anger, shame, disappointment and fear that so many are feeling will be helped by our trust in him.”

Father Ratigan came under scrutiny by diocesan officials after several images of young girls were found on his laptop computer by technicians, after the device had been taken in for servicing in December 2010.

One day after they were made aware of the discovery, diocesan officials contacted a Kansas City, Mo., police officer and described one of the images. The officer told the officials that the image did not constitute child pornography.

After diocesan officials learned that Father Ratigan was violating the restrictions placed upon him, they informed Kansas City, Mo., police on May 13 about the images discovered in December 2010.

The police began an investigation and, after executing a search warrant, found images on a computer Father Ratigan used at a parish where he had been formerly assigned. The diocese had been unaware of these images until discovered by the police.

Father Ratigan was associate pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, Mo., from 2004 to 2005; parochial administrator of St. Mary Parish and St. Joseph Parish in Easton, Mo., from 2005 to 2009; and pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Mo., from 2009 to 2010.

On May 19, 2010, the principal of St. Patrick School in Kansas City, Mo., sent a letter to diocesan officials outlining her concerns about Father Ratigan’s inappropriate behavior with children. The letter became public on May 27.

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