KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Lawsuits stemming from the actions of a priest who took pornographic photographs of young parishioners have resulted in nearly $4 million in settlements by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, after Jackson County judges approved the latest two deals this week.
Circuit Judge Jack Grate on Friday approved a $1.275 million settlement in a case filed by two parents on behalf of their minor daughter against the diocese, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/OmYWoQ) reported. Two days earlier, Circuit Judge Jim Kanatzar approved a $525,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed last year against the same three defendants by two parents and their minor daughter.
Including two lawsuits it settled last year for nearly $2 million, the diocese now has agreed to pay $3.75 million so far in cases involving Ratigan, with two more lawsuits still pending.
The two judges also each entered a $500,000 default judgment last week against Ratigan, who failed to respond to the lawsuits.
"We hope that settlements of this kind will make the diocese place the safety of children first and foremost from here on out," said Rebecca Randles, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in both cases.
Diocese spokesman Jack Smith confirmed the settlements Friday and said they were funded by the diocese's self-insurance fund and its exterior carrier, the National Catholic Risk Retention Group.
"We continue to pray for all those harmed by sexual abuse," he said.
Ratigan's case erupted after a computer technician discovered hundreds of lewd photographs of young girls on his laptop while making repairs in December 2010.
After learning of the photos, Finn sent Ratigan out of state for psychiatric examination and then sent him to stay at a convent in Independence, where the priest was ordered to stay away from children and avoid taking photographs.
The bishop was found guilty in 2012 of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to police or state welfare authorities. He was sentenced to two years of probation.
Ratigan pleaded guilty in August 2012 to federal child pornography charges and was sentenced last year to 50 years in prison without parole. He also pleaded guilty in Clay County to state child pornography charges.
The lawsuit settled Friday claimed Ratigan had engaged a girl in sexually explicit conduct from 2009 to 2011, when she was 10 to 12 years old. It alleged that the priest took pictures of her in the nude as well as with her underwear arranged to expose her naked privates.
The suit settled Wednesday claimed that Ratigan took explicit photos of a girl when she was 9 years old and younger.