New charge sought against KC bishop, diocese

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BND.com (serving Soutwestern Illinois and the St. Louis region)

08 May 2012

The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri prosecutors have asked a judge to add a second misdemeanor charge against a Kansas City diocese and its bishop, who is the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official criminally charged with shielding an abusive priest.

The Jackson County prosecutor’s office announced Monday that it had filed a motion to add a charge of failure to report suspicions of child abuse. Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph already face one count of that charge over the way they managed the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who has pleaded not guilty to child pornography charges stemming from claims that he took hundreds of pornographic pictures of children. After the images were found on Ratigan’s computer, the diocese waited five months to turn copies of them over to police.

Prosecutors also want the diocese to turn over a broad swath of records detailing how it has handled child abuse allegations.

Lawyer Gerald Handley, who represents Finn, said Monday that the bishop’s attorneys were still reviewing the filings. A spokeswoman for the diocese declined to comment, saying the church’s lawyers have not yet seen any paperwork.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a news release that the original charge covered events from December 2010 to May 2011. The new charge splits that span into two separate time frames.

The first period would cover December 2010 to February 2011, a span in which the church learned of the photographs. During this time, Ratigan also attempted suicide and was sent for medical treatment. The second period would begin Feb. 11, 2011, the date Finn sent Ratigan a letter outlining restrictions on his conduct.

The diocese went to police with the photos last May after the church received reports Ratigan had violated orders to stay away from children.

“This is the best approach going into trial,” Baker said.

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