Who is Fr. Shawn Ratigan?

The Kansas City Star has done a remarkable job of digging into this headline-making priest‘s early life, including his childhood and years in the seminary:

Records from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., show that Ratigan entered the school as a freshman undergraduate in 1996, 12 years after he graduated from high school. And though he said later that he’d worried about whether he could do the work, he graduated on schedule in 2000. Ratigan later joined Conception’s Board of Regents with about 30 others, including Finn.

Ratigan followed his work at Conception with four years of graduate theological studies at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.

After his ordination in Kansas City on June 4, 2004, Ratigan joined St. Thomas More parish in Kansas City as associate pastor. Cahill remembered him as always being present for church events.

“He was very outgoing,” she said. “It was a time when the parish needed that sense of involvement.”

Only in retrospect, she said, did she realize that he carried a camera to every event.

And while at St. Thomas More, Ratigan met and became friends with Michele Kerwin and her family.

He taught her daughter knock-knock jokes and would engage Kerwin in long, good-natured theological debates.

“Shawn was conservative,” Kerwin recalled. “He would say, ‘There was a wrong way and the church’s way.’ I would say to him, ‘The church was not always right.’

“He would say, ‘Michele, you just have to trust the church.’ ”

There’s much more, and it’s pretty fascinating.  Read it all.

Comments

  1. It’s good that his history appears to be innocuous.
    It’s scary that his history appears to be innocuous.

    Is he someone with a profoundly immature sexuality – that he saw children as being more sexually mature than they are? There was no mention of whether he ever had girlfriends.

  2. My family (I am grown, married, and now living in a different area of KC) associated fairly closely with Fr. Ratigan. My young brothers served daily mass for him frequently, he was a favorite family confessor, and he came to their house for dinner on occasion. The parish he was assigned to was one we had left when I was about 13 – there were such strong undercurrents of rebellion there (especially among those in parish leadership) it was not a safe place in which to raise children in the Faith. Fr. Ratigan, however, staunchly upheld Church teachings on abortion and family life, and insisted on instituting actual liturgical norms (*gasp* – how dare he?!). He did, from all outward appearances, appear not only stable, but exceptional. The first sign of any trouble was when he attempted, and nearly succeeded, in taking his own life last December. He was an otherwise wonderful, brave man, though now we see that he suffered with a horrible cross of temptation and guilt. All the furies of hell have been unleashed upon him and the Good Bishop here in KC, *especially* because of the influence of the KC Star, a terribly written, biased rag, for which the noblest use is the absorption of puppy pee. Unfortunately, I think I know one of the persons quoted in this article, and I also know they are hardly unbiased observers in this affair. Please join me in praying that the humiliation of public derision, however uncharitable and cruel it may be, purify the soul of Fr. Shawn, and that the Good Bishop be soon released from the gag put upon him by ridiculous lawsuits.

  3. It just goes to show what we are now discovering over time in light of these scandals. Creeps like these aren’t the socially awkward people you can point out and think, “something’s off with that guy, he’s probably a child molester or something sinister…” No, in many cases they will come off as the most charismatic and friendliest people you will ever meet.

    Their type spans liberal and conservative; married and celibate; out-going to introverted personality types and so on… We cannot peg anyone as possessing the “typical child abuser” personality traits (short of actually having a history on acting on these impulses). To do so would be to risk doing our neighbor an injustice as well as letting slide under the radar those who indeed pose a serious risk.

    As parents we need to start using a bit of common-sense and charity. Stop idolizing people (especially religious figures) to the point where you let them become overly familiar with family members thus opening up opportunities where boundaries can be crossed. Think charitably of everyone. But keep in mind that what lies behind every person you meet, however friendly or weird they may be, is the possibility of a great sinner or truly a great saint.

  4. I would also add one other thing – even sexual predators (I might add that there is not currently any evidence that Fr. Shawn has molested anyone) are children of God, doubly so when they are priests. I know many would balk at me for saying this, but we should be careful to love the sinner and hate the sin, even, perhaps especially, child abusers, upon whom the world unleashes so much unmitigated hate. Many of them despise what they do, and despise themselves so much that they often want to die (they have a VERY high suicide rate, especially after they reach prison). They are truly very, very broken and ill. I know it is hard to have mercy on these people – God knows, I know that all too well. However, it behooves a Christian to remember that they will be judged as they judge others. My family and I do not feel any rage towards Fr. Shawn, per se – we do not believe that he was putting on an act to fool anyone. We think that’s going overboard. So far, all we really know is that he suffered from dark temptations, which were very much at odds with the Faith to which he was a rather conscientious minister, and these temptations, unfortunately, won him over. We are unsettled, of course, but not enraged. We wish people would simply see all this publicity as a massive prayer request, because heaven knows, Fr. Shawn, and Bishop Finn, need those prayers very, very much.

    “Lord, grant me a holy heart that sees always what is true and pure
    and is not frightened at the sight of sin, but creates order wherever it goes.”
    - St. Thomas More

  5. John David says:

    Emily,

    Thank you for your post and a reminder of what being a Christian means, even, when dealing with something so troubling as a child predator or abuser; that all that is good about a person; that he is still a child of God can be lost because of such a deep, serious and unwanted flaw. Yes, Father Sawn is, indeed, in my prayers.

  6. Is there an email address to send links or stories to Deacon’s Bench?

    [The email is in my biography, but here: dcngreg@gmail.com. Dcn. G.]

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  1. [...] Greg KandraYou may remember the story that sent shockwaves around the country last summer, about the Missouri priest accused of possessing child pornography.  His case led to a U.S. bishop facing criminal charges. Last week, the man at the center of the [...]

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