Un prete cattolico, Shawn Francis Ratigan, è stato accusato di detenzione e produzione di materiale pedopornografico, nei locali della sua stessa chiesa nella Clay County, in Kansas. A scoprire le immagini compromettenti nel suo pc, proprio membri della Chiesa, che poi l’avrebbero denunciato. Secondo gli inquirenti, il sacerdote avrebbe avuto incontri con bambine dal giugno del 2005 fino alla domenica di pasqua di quest’anno, quando è stato scoperto. Almeno in tre casi ciò sarebbe accaduto dentro la chiesa, riporta tra l’altro il Kansas City Star.
Ratigan rischia almeno 15 anni di carcere se sarà provata l’accusa di produzione delle immagini incriminate. Dal canto suo la diocesi di Kansas City, tramite il portavoce Rebecca Summers, ha fatto sapere che continuerà a cooperare con la giustizia. La stessa diocesi aveva già pagato circa 10 milioni di dollari per risarcire più di 40 vittime di abusi da parte di preti pedofili.
Federal child-porn charges filed against priest Shawn Ratigan
By MARK MORRIS and GLENN E. RICE
The Kansas City Star
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A Roman Catholic priest took pornographic pictures of children on church property, including in a choir loft, a federal grand jury alleged Tuesday.
The most recent incident allegedly happened Easter Sunday, more than four months after church officials first learned of lewd photographs on the Rev. Shawn Francis Ratigan’s computer and nearly a month before they turned him in to police.
Ratigan, 45, already faces three counts of possession of child pornography in Clay County. The federal charges — 13 counts of possession, producing and attempting to produce child pornography — are much more serious and could lead to mandatory-minimum sentences of 15 years in prison if he is convicted on the production counts.
The indictment lists five girls as victims, ranging in age from 2 to 12 years old.
U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips said the charges were the consequences for Ratigan’s profound betrayal of the children he was ordained to serve.
“When a person who has been placed in a position of trust exploits and victimizes children, he victimizes the entire community,” Phillips said. “The indictment today sends a strong message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Rebecca Summers, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, released a written statement that said, “The diocese expresses its profound concern for anyone who may have been harmed by Shawn Ratigan. At the same time, the diocese recognizes the special responsibility of our justice system in matters of this nature.”
Summers also said the diocese continues to cooperate with law enforcement.
Ratigan’s lawyer, P.J. O’Connor, had no comment.
The new charges allege a series of abusive encounters with five girls beginning in June 2005, a year and one week after Ratigan’s ordination, and ending on Easter Sunday.
At least three of those encounters occurred on church property.
In May 2006, Ratigan purportedly took pornographic pictures of a 2-year-old girl’s vagina and pubic area at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Easton, Mo. One such session allegedly occurred in the church’s choir loft.
Three years later, Ratigan took at least 40 close-up shots of the girl’s shorts, underneath her skirt, while on the steps of the Easton church, the indictment alleged.
Church authorities seized Ratigan’s computer on Dec. 16. The next day, he attempted suicide after writing a remorseful note. After Ratigan’s release from medical and psychiatric treatment, his superiors assigned him to the Vincentian Mission House in Independence.
There, on Easter Sunday, April 24, he allegedly took surreptitious and close-up crotch photos of a 12-year-old girl’s shorts, the indictment alleged.
That incident occurred just weeks after Bishop Robert Finn had confronted Ratigan about his contact with minors at a St. Patrick’s Day parade and at a child’s birthday party.
Lawyer Rebecca Randles, who attended a news conference in which the grand jury indictment was announced, said that the most recent allegation of abuse “makes my stomach turn” because church officials already had removed Ratigan from a Kansas City church because of questions about his behavior around children.
Randles already has filed a suit against the church related to the Ratigan case.
The indictment also alleged that the Easter incident was not Ratigan’s first contact with that victim. Six years before, when the girl was 6 years old, he had taken photos of the girl’s vagina and pubic area, the indictment alleged.
Prosecutors alleged that Ratigan took or attempted to take pornographic pictures of a 5-year-old victim in the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2008. During the second incident, he purportedly tried to expose her by pulling her pants down as she slept.
In June 2009, Ratigan allegedly took close-up photos of a 7-year-old girl’s crotch as she wore a bathing suit.
And between August 2008 and September 2009, he pulled down the pants of another sleeping girl, who turned 9 during that period, to take pornographic photographs, the indictment alleged.
The indictment does not specify where some of the incidents occurred.
State authorities charged Ratigan in May after church officials turned over images of children they had discovered on his computer.
According to state court records, the pictures allegedly included so-called “up-skirt” photos of girls under the age of 12 and a nude photo of a girl that focused on her genitals.
After searching CDs and an external hard drive belonging to Ratigan, police found what they alleged were “14 different images of child pornography of a 3-4 year old female” and four other images of child porn.
Investigators also seized a computer that Ratigan used while working in St. Joseph.
The furor surrounding Ratigan’s arrest has wounded both local Catholics and the diocese, which three years ago paid $10 million to settle lawsuits filed by more than 40 victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Matthew Copple of Gladstone, whose child attends St. Patrick School, said he was sick about the charges, but not surprised.
“I don’t know what more you can do,” Copple said. “I really hope the diocese really learns a lesson from this.”
Finn acknowledged last spring that in 2010 a diocesan school principal complained about Ratigan’s conduct around children, and that church officials knew about the computer images months before they handed them over to authorities.
Finn has said he did not read the principal’s complaints until after Ratigan had been charged in Clay County in May. And when the diocese learned about the computer images in December, its lawyers advised that they did not “constitute child pornography, as they did not depict sexual conduct or contact,” Finn said in a statement in May.
In June the diocese announced that it was removing Monsignor Robert Murphy from his role in overseeing sexual-abuse allegations against priests after he came under fire for his handling of questions about Ratigan.
Finn hired former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to investigate how the diocese handled the issue. Graves’ report is expected soon.
And earlier this month, the National Catholic Reporter quoted the diocese as saying it was delaying a capital campaign “in light of the current challenge.”
According to the newspaper, which is based in Kansas City, the diocese had asked priests whether the fundraising campaign should continue since the Ratigan case “came to the forefront of our attention.” Of the priests that responded, 75 percent recommended a delay, the paper reported.
Following his ordination in 2004, Ratigan served as associate pastor at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Kansas City from June 2004 to June 2005. He then worked as parochial administrator with a dual assignment to St. Mary Catholic Church in St. Joseph and at St. Joseph in Easton, Mo., from July 2005 to June 2009. He was pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City from July 2009 to December 2010.
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