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Over at the Catholic Key – the newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph – Jack Smith has a report on a recent scandal out of that midwest diocese: the apparent mismanagement of a priest accused of possessing child pornography.
As the National Catholic Reporter detailed last week, the diocese had been warned of suspicious behavior by Father Shawn Ratigan months before the diocese removed him from his pastoral responsibilities at St. Patrick’s parish, which it did after disturbing images of children were discovered on his computer. While a police contact had advised the diocese that the images did not legally constitute child pornography, the diocese relieved Ratigan of his administrative duties, ordered him to undergo psychiatric evaluation, and restricted him from having contact with children. After reports that Ratigan had violated his restrictions, the diocese again contacted the police, who launched an investigation that eventually led to Ratigan’s arrest on May 18.
Smith reports that Bishop Robert Finn has apologized for how the Ratigan case was handled – “Things must change,” Bishop Finn said. “I also have to change.” At a forum for members of the St. Patrick community, Bishop Finn also acknowledged that the diocese should have been more aggressive in its handling of the case: “I deeply regret that we didn’t ask the police earlier to conduct a full investigation,” he said.
UPDATE: The parents of a 7-year-old girl name Ratigan, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and Bishop Robert Finn in a lawsuit, claiming the diocese had been warned about Ratigan’s suspicious behavior in 2006.