September 11, 2012, New York Times
Just how flagrant does a pedophile need to be before the people around him contact the police? Just how far beyond … loading up his laptop with photos of little girls’ crotches does he have to go? I’m referring to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a Catholic priest in Missouri whose superiors acted … despicably. In May 2010, the principal of a parochial school next door to the parish where Father Ratigan served sent a memorandum to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It flagged his odd behavior, including his habit of instructing children to reach into his pockets for candy. In December 2010, hundreds of troubling, furtively taken photographs were found on his laptop. One showed a toddler’s genitals. In what jail or prison cell, you might ask, did Father Ratigan spend the first half of 2011? None. After the photos were discovered, he … was reassigned by Bishop Robert W. Finn, the head of the diocese, to a new post as a chaplain to an order of nuns. There he was allowed to celebrate Mass for youth groups and host an Easter egg hunt, and he was caught taking a photograph under the table, up the skirt of the daughter of parishioners who had invited him into their home. In May 2011, a diocesan official finally told police about the extent of Father Ratigan’s cache of child pornography. He was convicted of possession of it in August 2011. And last week Bishop Finn was convicted of failing to report him to law enforcement authorities, and got two years of probation. He’s the first American bishop to be found criminally culpable for his inaction in the face of suspected child abuse. It was a long time coming.