Deal reached in Catholic lawsuit in US



Kansas City: A lawsuit filed against a US diocese and its bishop by a girl who was 2 when a priest took pornographic photos of her has tentatively been settled for USD 600,000, a lawyer for the girl said.

The Catholic church continues to struggle to handle abuse claims across the country. This case comes after the church paid USD 10 million to settle earlier, unrelated claims against the diocese and the bishop promised such abuse wouldn't happen again.

Gregg Meyers told The Associated Press yesterday about the deal before it had been officially announced. He said it was reached soon after a US District judge dismissed one of two counts in the suit against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn.

The judge dismissed one count alleging the bishop and diocese aided and abetted priest Shawn Ratigan in his possession of child pornography. The judge said the diocese and bishop didn't know about hundreds of lewd photos on Ratigan's laptop computer until after he had committed the crime.

Ratigan pleaded guilty in August to taking pornographic photos of the girl in May 2006 at a church. He awaits sentencing.

The case led to a misdemeanor conviction against Finn for failing to notify police or state child welfare authorities about the photos.

The lawsuit's second count accused the bishop and diocese of receiving, possessing or distributing pornographic images of the girl.

Jack Smith, a spokesman for the Kansas City diocese, confirmed the deal but said it still must be approved by a judge because the plaintiff is a minor.

"I haven't seen all the terms of the settlement as they were agreed to, but I can confirm USD 600,000 was the amount," Smith said. He said the deal actually addresses two lawsuits, including one the girl's parents had planned to file in state court this week.

Finn's conviction came four years after the church paid USD 10 million to settle 47 pending sexual abuse claims against the diocese and 12 of its priests. When announcing that deal, Finn apologized and promised that steps were being taken to make sure such abuse never happened again.

In June 2011, Finn apologized for not responding to warnings the diocese received a year earlier from a parish school principal detailing suspicious behavior by Ratigan around children. Finn had left it up to subordinates to handle the matter.

He later admitted it was a year before he finally read the five-page document the principal wrote.

PTI