On Friday, September 6th, 2019, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of released the names of 19 priests who have been accused and/or found guilty of sexually assaulting children. In fact, Bishop James Johnston Jr. stated that each man listed had "substantial allegations" against them. Have you been sexually abused at church? Contact our lawyers who represent victims across the states including in Pennsylvania Catholic church sexual assault lawsuit.
Of the nineteen on this recently released list, thirteen have died. Two have been removed from ministry and four have been laicized which means they have been removed as clergy by the Catholic Church. In fact, one of the priests who has been defrocked is Shawn Ratigan, who is now serving 50 years in prison for producing child pornography.
The current bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph, Bishop Johnston, has said that he hopes the release of these names will help the survivors to heal. However, support from Catholic Church officials has been very rare when it comes to reported cases of child sexual assault. Shawn Ratigan's case is just one example of the attempts by the church to hide sexual assaults by priests. In 2010, the former bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph, Bishop Finn, received some upsetting news - one of the priests in his area had attempted to commit suicide. That priest was Shawn Ratigan and he made his attempt by running his motorcycle in a closed garage. The bishop was shocked, given that he had a good relationship with Ratigan and thought he was a good choice to run a parish. Then the truth came out - the day before the attempted suicide, a computer technician had discovered child pornography images on Ratigan's computer.
It turns out that this revelation shouldn't have surprised the bishop too much, however. A few months before, the principal of the parochial school that was part of Ratigan's parish had sent a memorandum to the diocese and bishop stating that: “Parents, staff members, and parishioners are discussing his actions and whether or not he may be a child molester.
They have researched pedophilia on the Internet and took in sample articles with examples of how Father Shawn’s actions fit the profile of a child predator.” This was sent after Ratigan had attempted to contact an 8th-grade student via social media, he had placed a girl in his lap during a bus trip, and had an inappropriate "peer to peer" relationship with a 5th-grade girl.
Parents who went by his residence also reported what appeared to be a small child or dolls clothing at his home. The bishop had a talk with Ratigan and told him to take the report seriously but indicated that he just believed there were "boundary issues". If only he had taken the complaint seriously. It was Ratigan himself who took his laptop to a computer technician for repair. The technician was horrified by the images of the genitals and torsos of children that he discovered while attempting to repair the laptop. He took the laptop to the parish deacon who later testified that the technician was so upset that he couldn't open the computer due to his hands shaking.
The deacon then delivered it to Monsignor Murphy, a priest second in command to Bishop Finn. Monsignor Murphy, in turn, took the computer to a technology staff member hired by the diocese who discovered hundreds of inappropriate photos of children's crotches. Even more disturbing was that most of the photos appeared to have been taken with a personal camera and were not pornography downloaded on the internet, indicating that the priest was actively taking part in creating child pornography.
Despite the horrific images discovered on Ratigan's personal computer, Bishop Finn failed to contact police. Monsignor Murphy did, however, he told the officer he spoke with that it was only one nude image, that the image was of a family member, and that it was not a sexual pose. He then asked if that would be considered pornography and was told no. When it was discovered that he had left a suicide note saying he apologized for the harm he caused children, the bishop had a psychiatrist see Ratigan.
The bishop claimed that the psychiatrist told him that Ratigan was not a danger to children and that the suicide attempt had been made due to false accusations by the school principal. The bishop then made the choice to not take the matter to the police but to instead place restrictions on Ratigan, saying that he could not use a computer and could not contact children. He was removed from his position and moved to serve as a chaplain in Independence, Mo.
Despite these restrictions, he was not monitored. In the five months after his suicide attempt, Ratigan attended several children's birthday parties, used social media to contact children, and was caught taking pictures of a parishioner's daughter's crotch under a table when they invited him over for dinner. The bishop still did not take action.
Nearly a year after the report from the principal, Monsignor Murphy went against the bishop's wishes and finally contacted police because he came to the conclusion that the man was a pedophile. He let them know that hundreds of pictures of child pornography had been discovered on Ratigan's computer. Ratigan was finally arrested and was found guilty of creating child pornography. He will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. Although he has not been formally charged or found guilty of it, the evidence presented at Ratigan's trial also suggested that he may have molested some of the children he took inappropriate pictures of.
Although Bishop Johnston is working hard to help his community heal from the sexual assault of children throughout the diocese, the reality is that a public apology isn't enough. Thankfully, the survivors of child sexual assault by a clergy member have powerful legal options. A sexual assault lawsuit can help to provide for any medical treatments needed by the survivor, as well as their physical and emotional pain. Monetary compensation may not be able to change the past but it can make the future a brighter one.
A sexual assault lawsuit is a form of a civil lawsuit that is filed against both the abuser and those who made it possible for the abuse to continue. Those eligible to file the lawsuit typically include the survivor and the parents of the survivor. The legal process has several phases:
This legal process can go smoothly if the plaintiff chooses to work with an experienced legal team.
If you or a loved one were abused by a member of the clergy, let Abuse Guardians help you fight for justice and for compensation. Our attorneys believe and support the survivors of sexual assault. With decades of combined experience and a passion for the law, you'll know that you are working with a legal team you can trust. You can take legal action while keeping your identity protected. Contact our law office for a free consultation and to learn more about how to remain anonymous while standing strong against your abuser.