KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A Roman Catholic priest in Kansas City, Mo., has pleaded guilty to producing child pornography in a federal case that also led to charges against a bishop for failing to report suspected child abuse.
The Rev. Shawn Ratigan had been scheduled for trial later this month. He was charged with child pornography in May 2011 after police received a flash drive from the priest's computer that contained hundreds of images of children, most of them clothed, with the focus on their crotch areas. Prosecutors alleged he also photographed girls, sometimes under their skirts, in and around churches where he had worked in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Sentencing guidelines suggest Ratigan will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison.
The case opened old wounds for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. In 2008 it agreed to pay 47 clergy abuse victims a total of $10 million and promised to train its priests about sexual abuse awareness and to report any suspicions that children were being placed in danger.
The case against Ratigan also led to misdemeanor criminal charges against the diocese and Bishop Robert Finn -- the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to be charged with shielding an abusive priest -- for failing to report suspected child abuse to the state. Both have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial in September.
Ratigan's behavior was reported to diocese officials in May 2010, seven months before hundreds of disturbing images were found on his laptop and a full year before church officials reported him to police.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)