Kansas City priest faces federal porn charges

KANSAS CITY (AP) — A Kansas City-area Roman Catholic priest, already jailed on state child pornography charges, was charged Tuesday with several federal counts of producing and possessing child pornography, including allegations he took explicit photos of a 2-year-old and tried to take some of a 12-year-old girl on Easter Sunday.

A federal grand jury returned the 13-count indictment charging the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, 45, with six counts of production of child pornography, two counts of possession of child pornography and five counts of attempted production of child pornography.

Ratigan was also charged in May in Clay County Circuit Court with three counts of possessing child pornography, and has been jailed on $200,000 bond. He has pleaded not guilty to the Clay County charges.

John P. O’Connor, Ratigan’s lawyer in the Clay County case, said he could not comment Tuesday because he had not yet seen the federal indictment.

Beth Phillips, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said the indictment sends a “strong message that we will not tolerate this criminal behavior.”

“When a person who has been placed in a position of trust exploits and victimizes children, he victimizes the entire community,” Phillips said.

The federal indictment accuses Ratigan of taking explicit photos of girls he had contact with from 2005 until April 2011. Phillips said she could not discuss how Ratigan knew the girls, who ranged in age from 2 to 12, out of concern for their privacy.

One count in the indictment accuses Ratigan of taking explicit pictures of a 2-year-old girl in the choir loft of St. Joseph’s Church in Easton, Mo. Another count accuses him of trying on April 24, 2011 — Easter Sunday — to take explicit photos of a 12-year-old girl, whom he is alleged to have taken similar photos of when she was 6.

Rebecca Summers, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said it had just learned of the federal charges and had not yet read the indictment or supporting documents.

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

She said the diocese has also “pledges its continued cooperation with law enforcement.”

In June, the diocese announced it had hired a former federal prosecutor to investigate its handling Ratigan’s case. The diocese also said the investigation was part of a plan that included reviewing its policies about reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior by diocese employees.

Bishop Robert Finn has also apologized repeatedly for not taking action earlier against Ratigan.

A separate federal lawsuit filed in Kansas City in June on behalf of a young parishioner accuses Ratigan of taking pornographic pictures of the girl from 2006 to 2010. That lawsuit also claims the diocese and Finn tried to cover up the priest’s crimes to save the church’s reputation.

That lawsuit claims the diocese received complaints about Ratigan as early as 2006 but did not act on them. At the time of those complaints, top diocese officials were in mediation in another sexual abuse lawsuit that resulted in the diocese paying a $10 million settlement in 2008.

As part of that agreement, the diocese vowed to train its priests on sexual abuse and report any suspicions that children were being placed in danger.

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