Couple leaves words 'priest rapist' off Wheaton cemetery tombstone

By Chacour Koop
Chicago Daily Herald
December 31, 2017

The grave marker at Assumption Cemetery in Wheaton for Marguerite Ridgeway of Lisle says "She supported priest sexual abuse victims." Ridgeway is buried next to her daughter at the cemetery owned by the Joliet diocese.
Photo by Jack Ruhl

Jack and Diane Ruhl fought with the Joliet Diocese over the proposed wording "she supported priest rapist victims" on his mother's tombstone.
Photo by Jack Ruhl

Fighting for "priest rapist victims" was an important part of life for Marguerite Ridgeway of Lisle, shown here wearing a necklace featuring the "Blessed Mother." Her son, Jack Ruhl, wanted to include that phrase on her gravestone but was told the words are too explicit for a cemetery.
Photo by Jack Ruhl

"She supported priest rapist victims" is not chiseled into the grave marker for Jack Ruhl's mother.

Instead, the tombstone he and his wife, Diane Ruhl, installed at Assumption Cemetery in Wheaton a few days before Christmas says, "She supported priest sexual abuse victims."

It's a compromise the Michigan couple made with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, which called the proposed wording too explicit. Ruhl conceded that this was the best he could do for his mother, Marguerite N. Ridgeway of Lisle, who died in July 2015.

"Nowadays and for some time, there's been so much ambiguity about what sexual abuse is," Ruhl said in a phone interview Saturday. "I wanted to use the word rape because to me it stands for the most extreme, dehumanizing act one person can inflict upon another."

Ridgeway converted to Catholicism after her marriage and was devout for many years until she learned of allegations that a priest had sexually abused Diane Ruhl, her daughter-in-law, Ruhl said.

Ridgeway closely monitored cases of sexual abuse by priests as they emerged in the 2000s, Jack Ruhl said.

In 2003, Diane Ruhl was among several women who filed lawsuits against a Jesuit priest at Loyola University accusing him of sexual abuse.

"The pain still lingers," Jack Ruhl said. "It was really difficult because our faith was so important to us, and the rug was pulled out from under us."

Though Ridgeway turned from the Catholic church, she still arranged to be buried in the cemetery owned by the Joliet Diocese because her daughter is buried there, Ruhl said. Ruhl said he believes his mother is pleased with the statement on her grave marker.

"If just one person, one child or one vulnerable adult -- just one -- is spared from what we've had to go through, then I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish," Ruhl said.

A spokesman for the Joliet Diocese did not immediately return an email Saturday seeking comment.


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