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Kansas City diocese announces sexual misconduct probe

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - A Catholic bishop is enlisting the help of a former U.S. attorney to investigate alleged sexual improprieties by priests in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Bishop Robert Finn announced on Thursday that Todd Graves, recently the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, will look into allegations against the Reverend Shawn F. Ratigan, charged with possessing child pornography. Ratigan has pleaded not guilty.

Graves, former co-chair of the Child Exploitation Working Group for the Department of Justice, will also review the diocese's codes governing ethics and sexual misconduct, Finn said in a news release.

Finn said his goal is to bring clarity to the "shame, anger and confusion" that surrounds Ratigan's arrest May 19.

Finn has come under fire for not heeding warnings about Ratigan and he has apologized repeatedly in recent weeks. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the diocese in recent years for failing to prevent sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Besides appointing Graves, the diocese has stepped up its review process of any allegations against clergy. It will appoint an independent public liaison and ombudsman to investigate reports of misconduct and it will do a detailed review of personnel training, Finn said.

"These are initial steps," Finn stated. "Other actions are forthcoming."

The Missouri announcement came on the same day the beleaguered Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia named a new head of child protection, hiring her away from the prosecutor's office pursuing charges in a spiraling priest sex abuse case.

Leslie Davila will lead the Office of Child and Youth Protection, the archdiocese announced.

Until now, Davila had been victim assistance coordinator for the Philadelphia District Attorney, responsible for protecting young people and overseeing efforts to heal those sexually abused as minors.

The prosecutor's office oversaw a grand jury that earlier this year issued a scathing report on how the church has handled the scandal. The jury had identified 37 cases of abuse and the investigation resulted in criminal charges against four priests and a school church teacher.

(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Editing by James B. Kelleher and Jerry Norton)