Judge Orders Diocese Into Arbitration with Alleged Abuse Victims

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has been ordered into arbitration to determine if it violated the terms of a 2008 settlement with alleged priest abuse victims.

Victims of abuse say it's an important victory for them. They say it will make kids safer in the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. A Jackson County judge has ordered the Diocese into arbitration to determine whether church leaders violated a 2008 settlement with a group of people who say they were abused by priests.

Robert Bates is one of 47 plaintiffs who sued the Diocese in Kansas City. Bates claims he was sexually abused by a priest for two to three years starting when he was nine-years-old. He was serving as an altar boy at the time.

"I was very afraid. I started to cry and I started to pray," Bates said. "I asked God to save me. And right at that point, another priest walked into the room. I thought God heard my prayer, thank you. Thought I was saved. The guy walked in, looked and saw what was going on and said, Oh, excuse me, and left the room. I died that day."

Four years ago Bates' group settled its suit for $10 million and a commitment by the church to make 19 specific changes. The most important was mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse claims to police and implementation of new policies to safeguard children in the future. In 2011, when the Diocese kept Father Shawn Ratigatin in the ministry after learning of credible allegations against him, the victim's group demanded arbitration claiming the church had violated its agreement to change.

"When we heard about Father Ratigan and the amount of time it took to report him to the police, we were appalled, sickened, betrayed," said Michael Hunter. "We felt that it was a farce, these agreements. By forcing this second arbitration we want accountability. We want the diocese to live up to these 19 agreements they made with us."

A Jackson County judge ruled arbitration is appropriate. Lawyers for those who say they've been abused want the Diocese to prove it met state child abuse reporting requirements and followed sexual misconduct policies it was supposed to implement.

David Frye and attorney for the Diocese has not returned phone calls to FOX 4 seeking comment on the judge's ruling ordering arbitration.

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