Report finds flaws in KC diocese abuse response

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - The Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese accepted harsh criticism from an independent investigation of the group's handling of recent abuse allegations.

Bishop Robert Finn called the 141-page report key to change in his diocese. It reads like a court ruling. The author, former U.S. attorney Todd Graves, found four primary flaws in how the diocese dealt with sex abuse allegations against priests Shawn Ratigan and Michael Tierney.

First, the diocese's gate-keeping process ran through a single office, the Vicar General. In Ratigan's case, Vicar General Robert Murphy did his own limited investigation instead of referring the case to an independent review board.

Graves also said diocese leaders relied on the judgment of others instead of its own review board then failed to timely disclose policy.

The report also said Bishop Finn misplaced trust in Shawn Ratigan's agreement to comply with restrictions.

The attorney for a man filing a new abuse lawsuit against the diocese is not surprised.

"We've gotten dozens of calls and a number of clients," said Rebecca Randles.

In a statement, Bishop Finn said change is already underway.

"The Graves report affirms the decision to establish and appoint an Ombudsman," Bishop Finn said. "Jennifer Valenti, appointed Ombudsman in late June, is an experienced prosecutor and possesses the authority as gatekeeper to receive and investigate, independently, any complaint involving the sexual abuse of minors."

The report makes five recommendations. It suggests the diocese mandate all employees and volunteers with knowledge of abuse report it to police and Missouri Family Services. It also asks that an Ombudsman be told of each report. The Ombudsman should investigate each. The diocese should also notify an independent review board. Finally, the diocese should offer greater victim support.

All of them have the diocese attention, Bishop Finn said.

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