The sad story of Kansas City just seems to get worse.
The Kansas City Catholic Diocese is defending itself against a groundbreaking lawsuit involving the alleged distribution of child pornography.
The attorney representing a family suing the Kansas City Catholic Diocese says this is the first time that someone has sued the Catholic Church for violating federal child pornography laws.
“The (federal) law has pretty severe penalties for anyone who holds or views or otherwise distributes any kind of pornography. And we believe that the allegations against the diocese fall clearly and firmly within (the federal) law,” attorney Rebecca Randles told KCTV’s Stacey Cameron.
The allegations center around a Kansas City priest and how the diocese handled complaints about Shawn Ratigan, including the discovery of a picture of a naked girl on his personal laptop. The priest was living at the Sisters of St. Frances of the Holy Eucharist in Independence when he was arrested in May.
The 45-year-old Ratigan has been charged in Clay County Circuit Court with violating Missouri child pornography laws. Prosecutors allege that Ratigan took lewd pictures of young girls, which police in court documents say they found uploaded on his personal computer and a church computer.
Ratigan has pleaded not guilty.
Finn previously has said he made some failings in the case, including saying that he unaware that a principal had complained about Ratigan’s behavior around children more than a year before Ratigan was arrested. Finn has tapped former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to investigate the diocese’s handling of the case.
Ratigan is accused of taking nude pictures of a three-year-old girl and four-year-old girl, according to court documents. Randles also alleges that child pornography was found on a camera owned by Ratigan.
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.
Finn has apologized for his actions.