Saturday, June 4, 2011

Righteous Anger

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is in the middle of another priest scandal and I for one am angry.  Not so much because of the scandal of what the priest did.   Every organization is going to have people who mess up, who are criminals and how tarnish an organizations reputation.   I am angry because of the scandal the diocese created when it failed to do anything with this priest.   I've defended the church over the years saying that she has learned from the mistakes of the past and put protections in place to protect her children.   But, in my opinion, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph acted like it was pre-2001 and protected a priest instead of protecting the innocent.  This has only tarnished the Roman Catholic Church, the priesthood and I believe that heads should roll and people charged criminally.

A little background---in December, 2010 a computer technician working on Fr. Shawn Ratigan's computer found pornographic images of young girls.  He turned the information over to church officials at St. Patrick's church who in turn gave the computer to diocesan officials.    Those officials failed to turn the matter over to police authorities.  Instead, they asked a police official--who was serving on a committee in the diocese--for his opinion.  Only they held back the information.  They told him they had a single image of a girl and described it. Based on how they described it--the police official advised that it wasn't pornography.

The day after the information was given to the diocese, Mr. Ratigan (I'm sorry, I can't dignify him and call him "Fr. Ratigan) attempted suicide.  He was sent out of state for treatment and then placed at a residence in Independence with certain instructions to avoid young children.  He disobeyed and went to the St. Patrick's Day Parade as well as a child's birthday party.

It was then that the police official was recontacted and he advised the diocese to file a report with the department's cyber crime unit.  In the investigation, they found more pornographic images of young girls.   Mr. Ratigan was then charged in Clay County with possessing pornographic images of children taken around churches and schools where he served.  He has plead not guilty.

It took church officials five months to file a criminal report.  It get's worse.   A year ago in May, Julie Hess, the principal of the school where Mr. Ratigan was working sent a letter to the diocese expressing her concerns of the inappropriate behavior displayed by Mr. Ratigan towards children.  Behavior such as allowing kids to reach into his pocket for candy, allowing kids to cuddle with him and sit on his lap, having stuffed animals in his apartment as well as taking lots of photographs of children.

The diocese vicar general, Msgr Robert Murphy, met with Mr. Ratigan and discussed the items with him and set guidelines.

I'm sorry but that was wrong.  I sincerely hope that Msgr Murphy was just incredibly naive because those warnings that Ms. Hess gave should have shot up red flags.  They are the types of things that should make cold chills go down the back of any parent along  with bells, whistles and alarms screaming.   I, as a parent, would not allow my kids around someone like that.

I am so angry at the behavior of diocesan officials.   Steps should have been taken.  The lack of follow up and attempts to cover up have damaged the church.  They put children at risk.   Responsibility starts at the top with Bishop Robert Finn.  He has admitted his failings saying that he himself did not actually read the memo given to Msgr Murphy and that he regretted not going to the police in December.    Ultimately, the buck stops with Bishop Finn and I honestly hope he was not given the information that he should have been given.  I'm not convinced that he should step down as some are calling for.

I do believe that heads should roll.  I believe people should be fired.  I think people should be charged criminally for not taking information to the police.  Obviously, there was doubt or they would not have contacted the police official.  Obviously, there was cover up or else they would not have only revealed one image.  I would be willing to bet that if given more information, the police official would have given the the advice he gave in May---to file a report and allow a full investigation be done.

I'm angry and I believe rightfully so.   I'm do not mean ill will towards anyone.  Mr. Ratigan is who he is--that's between him and God and I'm holding my tongue about what I'd really like to say about him.  The people who I am saying should be fired made mistakes.  Everyone makes them.  They just should not be allowed to remain in their position and allowed to make them again.

None of this takes away from my faith in God or the Catholic Church.  I'm not leaving Peter because of Judas.  But steps MUST be taken to ensure this does not occur again.


  1. Well said, man made sins should not be blamed on the church but the church officials must be held accountable and be responsible for what happened in this situation.....God Bless

  2. I have been mulling and mulling whether to write about this. I feel much the same you do. I feel very much that our diocese acted as though it was the 20th century.

    My eldest daughter as in proximity a few times while he was in Independence because of some Apostolic projects she worked on with the sisters and she attended Mass. The leaders of her group have stated that the girls were always in a group and always attended by them (the adults) and Ratigan was never around the girls alone. I sincerely hope that is true.

    I am trying to work through my anger. Like you, I'm not leaving the Church over our priest said a couple weeks ago, "Put your faith in Jesus Christ..." and I do...but it's difficult and dangerous not to take steps to eliminate these instances happening again.

  3. I am not in your diocese, even your continent but this is awful and I am angry also. You are all in my prayers.

  4. I do not live in your diocese nor even on your continent, but I share your anger and grief. You all will be in my prayers today.

  5. I am not convinced the fact time line you stipulate above is the truth. I have received a different timeline - particularly with regard to what the original police officer consulted saw or did not see.

    I also wonder if the suicide attempt invoked federal HIPPA regulations regarding the release of information about Fr. Ratigan, and his condition - particularly the now known probable cause of his attempted suicide.

    I am not at all comfortable with the kind of judgements you have made in this post, because they are predicated on a time line of facts that, quite frankly, cannot be independently verified. We will not likely know what exactly happened and when, and to lump these set of circumstances into the "righteous anger" that arose from the revelations of sexual abuse in 2002 is at the least imprudent, and the worst, incitement of scandal.

  6. It's the timeline that has been in the paper and no one in the diocese has refuted it. It's not like it's a matter of days or weeks. It's a matter of months.

    I would say that the timeline is pretty accurate considering Bishop Finn has admitted failures. If you have another one I'd be interested in hearing it.