In a ruling just made public, arbitrator Hollis Hanover ordered that the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City -St. Joseph wasn’t doing everything it should have to protect children from sexual abuse. He also ordered the Archdiocese to pay the victims $1.1 million.
The arbitration ruling stems from the settlement of a 2008 case filed against the dioceses by victims of sexual abuse by priests. In that settlement, the diocese agreed to 19 commitments to protect children from future abuse. The commitments ranged from following state reporting laws for suspected abusers to sending letters of apology to victims’ family members.
But in the wake of the Father Shawn Ratigan case, the victims sued the diocese again in 2011, saying that the diocese clearly wasn’t holding its commitments. Ratigan was a priest accused of taking inappropriate photos of children in his parish. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison on child pornography charges.
Rebecca Randles, attorney for the victims in the arbitration, says her clients are going to continue to hold the diocese accountable for shielding children from abuse. And it could lead to more court cases.
“The important thing is that there is someone there watching. And if the dioceses continues to violate this agreement, then these plaintiffs will continue to come forward and try to enforce it,” she said.
Hanover’s ruling is filled with harsh language for the archdiocese. For instance, Hanover rails against the how the diocese handled the Ratigan situation. He notes that several diocese officials were aware that Ratigan had “boundary issues” with touching children and that he had inappropriate images of young girls on his computer.
Still, Hanover notes in his ruling, Ratigan nobody called police and Bishop Robert Finn told another church official that Ratigan should not have contact with children, not be allowed to use a computer without supervision and use a camera in limited situations.
“The bishop imposed these restrictions on Fr. Ratigan because he believed him to be a child pornographer. No other inference makes sense,” Hanover wrote.
The archdiocese is fighting the ruling, which will now go before a judge.