Report: KC diocese put children in jeopardy

September 2, 2011

(RNS) The Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph could have
put children in jeopardy when it failed to follow guidelines for
reporting clergy sexual abuse, according to a report commissioned by the
Missouri-based diocese.

The internal investigation, led by a former U.S. attorney, came
after the Rev. Shawn Ratigan was arrested for possessing child
pornography last May.

A Catholic school principal alerted Bishop Robert Finn to
child-abuse concerns about Ratigan in May 2010, but diocesan officials
failed to prevent the priest from having contact with children,
according to the 141-page report.

Diocesan officials also failed to inform the police, or an
independent review board that church guidelines suggest should receive
all accusations to help determine credibility, according to the report.
"Individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways
that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes,
schools, and families," the report states.

The report recommends that any diocesan employee or volunteer who
receives information about sexual abuse by clergy inform police and
state officials. The independent review board should also be notified of
all accusations, the report states.

Finn called the recommendations "comprehensive, thoughtful and
detailed."

"We understand their importance and are focusing on them so we
establish clear, strong and unequivocal procedures for all diocesan
personnel and volunteers that ensure the safety of our children today
and into the future," he said.

The nation's Catholic bishops were criticized for not amending their
sexual abuse policies at a semiannual meeting in June, even after
high-profile cases in Kansas City and Philadelphia raised questions
about the policies' effectiveness.