The chairman of the review board that handles child sexual abuse allegations in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese is stepping down.
Jim Caccamo, who headed the diocese’s Independent Review Board during a tumultuous period that saw a priest charged with child pornography and the bishop indicted for allegedly failing to report suspected child abuse, recently submitted his resignation.
“I’m whipped. I’m exhausted,” Caccamo said. “This has not been an easy thing.
“My fellow Catholics are real people who are hurting and suffering over this, and I hear from them. I care about my church, I care about the children.”
Caccamo said his resignation is effective Feb. 22, but he has agreed to stay on until Bishop Robert Finn appoints a replacement.
The review board assesses child sexual abuse allegations and makes recommendations to the bishop on how they should be handled.
When asked for a comment, the diocese provided an excerpt from a letter Finn wrote to Caccamo last week.
“I am very grateful for your service to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and to the greater community,” Finn wrote. “Since joining the (board) in 2005, your enthusiasm and strong determination have been a wonderful benefit to our children and young people.”
Finn came under fire last year for his handling of the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who has been charged in state and federal courts with possession of child pornography. A grand jury in October indicted Finn and the diocese on misdemeanor counts of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case.
When Ratigan was arrested, Caccamo complained that the review board had been told nothing about the priest’s problems — even though the bishop had placed restrictions on him months earlier. Caccamo also said he had been stunned to learn about a memo written by the principal of St. Patrick School in Kansas City, North, a year before Ratigan’s arrest, warning diocesan officials that parents and teachers were concerned about his behavior.
“I was flabbergasted,” Caccamo said at the time. “To learn that they’ve known this for well over a year and then not tell the Independent Review Board, I must say that it just took my breath away.”
In June, Caccamo commended the diocese for hiring former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to lead an investigation into its handling of the Ratigan case and that of the Rev. Michael Tierney, who was removed from his duties for what Bishop Finn said were credible allegations of child sexual abuse.
Caccamo, a cradle Catholic and longtime children’s advocate, was appointed to the review board by Bishop Raymond Boland in 2005 and became chairman about two years ago. The board has seven members and two ex-officio members, including Jenifer Valenti, the diocesan ombudsman whose position was created last June.
Caccamo said the hiring of Valenti and Carrie Cooper, director of the newly created Department of Child and Youth Protection, “means that there are some good systems now in place.”
What he hopes for now, Caccamo said, is cultural change.
“I would love to see the diocese have a culture of protecting children so that the first thing that comes to people’s minds in whatever the diocese does is the children,” he said. “I think it’s moving that way, but it has a ways to go.”