Bishop ashamed after reading letter detailing allegations of inappropriate behavior by Ratigan

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Bishop Robert Finn of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph said he read, for the first time Thursday night, a letter written to the diocese in May 2010 by the principal at St. Patrick's School detailing allegations of inappropriate behavior by Rev. Shawn Ratigan.

In the letter, Principal Julie Hess said she wrote it because of a growing concern by parents over the inappropriate behavior of Ratigan around children. The letter said that Ratigan seemed to have "no physical boundaries."

At a news conference Friday, the bishop said when he read the letter for the first time Thursday night, he felt that "we" had not done enough.

"I was flabbergasted at the multitude of inappropriate behaviors that Julie had reported. And from a human standpoint, I felt great shame," said Finn.

Finn said Rev. Msgr. Robert Murphy, a senior official with the diocese, discussed the letter last year, point by point, with Ratigan and told him to change his behavior. But Ratigan was not removed from his position at that time.

The bishop said he never read the letter last year, he just got a report about the letter.

"I don't think I realized the magnitude of it from the report I got," said Finn.  

Finn said that internal procedures for handling these allegations will be reviewed.

"In hindsight, I should have asked for a copy of the letter. I should have launched an investigation in December," Finn said.

Last Thursday, prosecutors charged Ratigan with three felony counts of possessing child pornography.

According to the probable cause statement , the Kansas City Missouri Police Department was notified May 13, 2011 that on Dec. 16, 2010 that a priest at a local church had been having issues with a computer. IT personnel located several graphic images of females under the age of 12. The computer repair person returned the computer to the church and apprised them of the contents located.

The statement also indicated that on Dec. 17, 2010 Ratigan failed to show up for 8:30 mass. Church officials and EMS located an unconscious Ratigan in his garage with the door closed and motorcycle running. It adds that a suicide note was found at the residence stating he was sorry to the church, the kids and his family. He was admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care.

The statement said that the church diocese made a copy of the images that were located on the laptop computer and then released the laptop to Ratigan's family who then destroyed the computer.

The disk was turned over to detectives on May 13, 2011.

The document stated that "many of the images were taken in and around the churches and schools Ratigan has been associated with." A St. Joseph, Missouri church that Ratigan previously worked at also provided police with a desktop computer on May 16 which was found to have several images similar to those found on the laptop.

During the news conference Friday, the bishop answered some, but not all, questions from reporters.

Finn took responsibility for the way the situation was handled. He felt shame and he didn't realize the magnitude of the problem. Finn also said he did not see the pictures that the computer store found on Ratigan's latop.

Ratigan's next court appearance is June 16.

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