Who knew what in Kansas City Catholic priest’s child porn case?

December 5, 2011

(Father Shawn Ratigan is pictured sitting atop his motorcycle, in this undated photograph obtained on November 24, 2011. REUTERS/Ratigan family photo/Handout)

Computer technician Ken Kes was supposed to be repairing a laptop for a local priest as part of his work for a Catholic Diocese in Kansas City. But as Kes opened a series of picture files stored on the computer, he slowly realized that the odd images of young children were not merely strange; they seemed pornographic.

“I looked at the first one. It was a young girl climbing up the back of a pickup truck and I thought, huh, that’s kind of a neat shot,” the 59-year-old Kes recalled. “The next one that I clicked on was a girl… climbing out of swimming pool and all it showed was her rear end. Then there was a little girl on the grass with her legs spread. All you could see was the area from her belly button to her knees.”

By the time Kes got to a graphic photo of a little girl on a bed, exposed below the waist, his hands were shaking and he was in full panic.

“I stopped looking right there and got on the phone,” he said.

That discovery last December yielded hundreds of such photos on the laptop of Father Shawn Ratigan, ultimately landing the 46-year-old priest in jail on multiple child pornography charges. He is awaiting trial next summer after pleading not guilty and remains jailed.

And, in what Catholic experts say is a first-ever event, authorities have filed criminal charges against Bishop Robert Finn, the leader of the 133,000-member Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, because despite knowing about the pictures, Finn did not alert authorities.

Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official to face criminal charges in the United States in connection with a child sexual abuse case. He is slated for a preliminary court hearing December 15 on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report a child might be subject to abuse.

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