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Expert on Child Spirituality Pleads Guilty To Possessing Child Porn

(UPDATED) Professor from Wheaton, Biola, Vanguard, and Toccoa Falls was known for his work on the spiritual formation of children.

Update (Feb. 26): Donald Ratcliff, former Wheaton college professor who authored books on child development and spirituality, has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for possessing hundreds of images and videos of child pornography, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"I am a fallen man," Ratcliff said to a DuPage County judge yesterday. "I was given great opportunities and I squandered them."

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Update (Aug. 5): Donald Ratcliff, a former Wheaton College professor accused of making pornographic images of children available for download over the Internet, pleaded guilty today to felony possession of child pornography. In exchange, prosecutors dropped nine other felony charges against him, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Ratcliff, who was fired by Wheaton College two weeks after his arrest in March 2012, faces up to seven years in prison but could be eligible for parole, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. His sentencing is Oct. 9.

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[Originally published as "Expert on Child Spirituality Arrested on Child Porn Charges" on Mar. 2, 2012, at 1:18 p.m.]

A Wheaton College professor noted for his work on the spiritual formation of children was arrested Thursday for allegedly possessing child pornography.

Donald Ratcliff, the Price-Lebar Professor of Christian Education at Wheaton, was charged after an investigation that tracked Web users trading child porn. Investigators say they found pornographic images of preteen children on at least six computers seized from Ratcliff's home.

Police also seized two guns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition from his home. Ratcliff did not have a firearm owner's identification card and faces charges for possession of the munitions. Ratcliff's attorney told The Daily Herald the guns are "family heirlooms," but added no further comment on the case.

Judge Elizabeth Sexton set Ratcliff's bail at $750,000 Friday morning. Sexton also ordered that should he post bond, Ratcliff cannot have contact with anyone under 18 or use a computer or the Internet until his March 8 hearing. Ratcliff would have to post 10 percent of the bail to be released.

Ratcliff has studied and been an expert on children's spiritual formation for more than three decades. Before arriving at Wheaton in 2006, Ratcliff taught at Biola University, Vanguard University, and Toccoa Falls College. He also served as an adjunct at Talbot School of Theology. On a webpage promoting his most recent book ChildFaith, Ratcliff described the importance of children and families in the church, writing, "Children are not the church of the future; they are very much the church today!" Christianity Today interviewed Ratcliff about his work in 2010.

In a brief statement Thursday, Wheaton said Ratcliff has been placed on administrative leave.

Related Topics:Crime
Posted:March 5, 2013 at 5:11PM
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