By Jack Smith
Catholic Key Editor
KANSAS CITY — Former Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph pastor, Shawn Ratigan, pled guilty in federal court August 2 to five counts of sexual exploitation of children through the production or attempted production of sexually explicit photos. The counts relate to photos Ratigan took of five minor girls between June 2005 and September 2009.
Ratigan had earlier pled not guilty to 13 federal charges of child sexual exploitation. Before accepting Ratigan’s change of plea on five counts, U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Fenner explained that each count carried a sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison. Sentences for each count could be imposed concurrently or consecutively.
Although no plea agreement was entered into the record, David Ketchmark, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, indicated at a press conference following the hearing that he intends to drop the remaining charges and seek a virtual life sentence.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph issued a public statement expressing “its profound concern for anyone who may have been harmed by Shawn Ratigan,” and urging “prayer for all affected by his actions.”
“The diocese is fundamentally committed to ensure that every report of sexual abuse, boundary violation or misconduct is addressed thoroughly and immediately,” the statement said.
Following Ratigan’s arrest in 2011, Bishop Robert Finn appointed Jenifer Valenti, a former assistant prosecuting attorney in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, as an independent Ombudsman. Valenti was charged with receiving and investigating all reports of sexual misconduct or suspicious behavior by clergy, lay employees and volunteers in the Diocese.
Valenti’s report on her first full year of service as Ombudsman is on pages six and seven in this issue of The Catholic Key.