KC diocese settles claims for $200,000 involving former priest convicted of child pornography

Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing child pornography and sentenced to 21 years in 2013.
Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing child pornography and sentenced to 21 years in 2013. The Kansas City Star

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has settled two claims totaling $200,000 involving a former priest now serving prison time for producing child pornography.

The claims were made by a parent who alleged that Shawn Ratigan took obscene photos of her two minor daughters.

The out-of-court settlements, finalized last week, stemmed from a “friendly lawsuit” filed against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners in 2014 in Jackson County Associate Circuit Court. Rebecca Randles, an attorney representing the family, said the lawsuit was filed to determine whether police had photos in their investigative files that would prove the girls were victims of Ratigan.

“Once it was determined that in fact pictures existed, we were able to settle the claims before filing a civil suit,” Randles said.

Diocesan spokesman Jack Smith on Monday confirmed the settlements and said they included an offer of counseling for the two girls and their mother if they desire it. He said the settlements will be funded by the diocese’s internal self-insurance program.

The settlements bring to nearly $4 million the amount the diocese has paid out to plaintiffs in cases involving Ratigan. Four lawsuits were settled in 2013 and 2014 for $1.35 million, $600,000, $1.275 million and $525,000. Another case, filed in 2011, is on appeal by the plaintiffs. A hearing has been set for Oct. 27 in the Western District Court of Appeals in Kansas City.

The pornography scandal erupted after a computer technician discovered hundreds of lewd photos of young girls on Ratigan’s laptop in December 2010. A Jackson County judge later found then-Bishop Robert Finn guilty of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to police or state child welfare authorities after the discovery of the photographs. Finn was sentenced to two years of probation for the misdemeanor.

Ratigan pleaded guilty in 2013 to federal charges of producing and attempting to produce child pornography and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He has since been removed from the priesthood.

Judy L. Thomas: 816-234-4334, @judylthomas