Parents claim diocese cover up led to priest abusing their daughter


A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted a Catholic priest in connection with possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography.

Shawn Ratigan, 45, took sexually explicit pictures of five girls ranging in age from 2 to 12 years old, U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips announced Tuesday afternoon.

Phillips said that Ratigan committed some of the crimes while on church property, including in a church choir.

The priest with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was previously indicted in Clay County on similar charges.

However, the 13 counts lodged against Ratigan on Tuesday are considered more serious. The indictment includes 11 counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography and two counts of possessing child pornography. He faces at least 15 years in prison and up to 30 years in prison if convicted in federal court.

Federal prosecutors say Ratigan took sexually explicit pictures of girls' private parts starting in 2005 through April 2011. Prosecutors allege that Ratigan took numerous pictures of some of the same girls over a course of several years.

Ratigan was indicted in May with violating Missouri child pornography laws. Prosecutors allege that Ratigan took lewd pictures of young girls, which police say, in court documents, they found uploaded on his personal computer and a church computer.

Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to the allegations in Clay County.

The priest is accused of taking nude pictures of a 3-year-old girl and a 4-year-old girl, according to court documents in Clay County.

Bishop Robert Finn has come under criticism for his handling of the case. Finn previously has said he made some failings in the case, including saying that he was unaware that a principal had complained about Ratigan's behavior around children more than a year before Ratigan was arrested.

In December, Ratigan took his personal laptop in for repairs and a computer technician discovered pornographic images of girls on the laptop, including pictures of girls' vaginas, according to court documents.

The computer repairman alerted the diocese to the images. Church officials then asked a diocese computer technician to review the laptop, according to police investigators. Copies of the image were made but the laptop was turned over to Ratigan's family, who then destroyed the laptop, according to investigators. A church official in December described a single picture over the phone to a police officer, investigators have said.

The diocese didn't give the images to police until May. In the ensuing five months, Ratigan remained with the diocese. Diocese officials have said they contacted police in May after Ratigan ignored warnings to stay away from children.

The federal indictment alleges that Ratigan took sexually explicit pictures of a 12-year-old girl on April 24, which was Easter Sunday, while at the Vincentian Mission House in Independence, MO. Ratigan was living at the property, which is a retirement home for church leaders.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the diocese said officials will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials.

"The diocese expresses its profound concern for anyone who may have been harmed by Shawn Ratigan," according to the statement. "At the same time, the diocese recognizes the special responsibility of our justice system in matters of this nature."

Ratigan served as pastor or assistant pastor at several area parishes. He was parish pastor at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Kansas City and most recently served as chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Eucharist in Independence.

Ratigan is accused of taking sexually explicit pictures of a 6-year-old girl in June 2005, according to the federal indictment. Pictures of that girl was on the laptop turned over to the diocese on Dec. 16, 2010, according to prosecutors.

According to the indictment, Ratigan on Easter Sunday took close-up pictures of the same girl's crotch area while she was standing wearing shorts. She was 12 years old in April when Ratigan surreptitiously took the pictures at an angle in which he was shooting up between her legs, according to the indictment.

The second victim was 2 years old when Ratigan began taking pictures of her, according to the indictment. He took pictures of her at St. Joseph's Church in Easton, including inside the church's choir loft, in May 2006, prosecutors say.

Ratigan again took pictures of the girl when she was 5 years old, according to the indictment. Prosecutors say Ratigan took more than 40 close-up shots of the girl's private area while she stood on the church's front steps on June 3, 2009.

The third victim was 5 years old when Ratigan took photos of her private parts in the summer and fall of 2007, according to court documents. He allegedly took sexually explicit photos again of the sleeping girl in March 2008 while allegedly trying to pull her pants down. He is accused of again taking photos of her in April 2008 and April 2010.

The fourth victim was 7 years old in 2009 when photos were taken of her, according to court documents.

The fifth victim was sleeping in August 2008 and September 2009 when Ratigan pulled down her pants and took pictures of her private parts, according to the indictment. The girl was 8 and 9 years old during this period of time.

Refresh this page for updates on this developing story.

To read previous stories, click here, here, here and here.

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