Report criticizes Missouri diocese on priest porn case

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 02, 2011 1:48 PM
Report criticizes Missouri diocese on priest porn case

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - Catholic church officials in Kansas City are pledging to review immediately a new report on how to protect children after a local priest was charged in May with possessing child pornography.

A law firm hired by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph found in the report that diocese leaders "failed to follow their own policies and procedures" in responding to reports that priest Shawn Ratigan had hundreds of child pornography images on his laptop computer.

Bishop Robert Finn has met with high-level diocese officials to carry out recommendations in the 141-page report, diocese spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said on Friday.

The law firm, headed by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves of Kansas City, was hired by the diocese to investigate how the Ratigan case was handled. Ratigan, 45, faces federal and state child pornography charges.

According to the report, former diocese Vicar General Robert Murphy made superficial investigation of the images on Ratigan's computer and did not promptly report them to a special review board that advises Finn.

He merely described one of the photos over the phone "in a neutral manner" with a board member, who is a police captain, the report said.

In addition, while Finn did not know as much as Murphy about the Ratigan case, Finn should have investigated it more fully instead of trusting Ratigan to comply with restrictions the diocese placed on him in interacting with children after the initial review, the report said.

"Our investigation identified shortcomings, inaction and confusing procedures, but we believe Bishop Finn and the leadership of the diocese understand the gravity of the issues and take these recommendations seriously," Graves said in a statement issued with the report.

Finn posted a statement on the diocese website praising the Graves' recommendations.

"We understand their importance and are focusing on them so we establish clear, strong and unequivocal procedures for all diocesan personnel and volunteers to ensure the safety of our children today and into the future," Finn said.

The Graves report recommends that any diocese employee or volunteer report current abuses of any minor to police and state family services offices. It also recommends that the diocese ombudsman and review board be notified of all such reports and immediately investigate.

Finally, it says the diocese should take greater steps to offer more victim support and to notify the public when priests are removed due to credible child abuse allegations.

(Writing and reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Bohan)