Joliet Brothers Sue Church, Urge It to Confront Absue

By Ted Slowik
Chicago Sun-Times [Joliet IL]
October 15, 2003

JOLIET--Two of seven brothers who say they were sexually abused by three Joliet Diocese priests stood outside the Summit Street chancery Tuesday and called for parishioners to demand greater accountability from local church leaders.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in DuPage County, the brothers allege they were sexually abused by the Rev. John Slown, the Rev. Arno Dennerlein and the Rev. Richard Ruffalo during the 1960s while they were students and parishioners at St. John the Baptist in Winfield.

Slown would have dinner at the family's home and then molest the boys after the parents granted the priest permission to tuck the boys into bed, the brothers said. Slown introduced Dennerlein and Ruffalo to the family, they said, leading to other incidents of sexual abuse.

John Welch, 51, is a businessman who now lives with his wife and children in Atlanta. His brother, Jeff Welch, 46, of New Jersey, choked back tears as he explained why he traveled to Joliet to announce the allegations in the hopes that others abused by priests will come forward.

"I'm here because I don't want to see anyone else hurt by these predators. It's time the Catholic Church starts recognizing that this is a crime," he said.

The brothers were joined by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, and by members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who blasted the Joliet Diocese's track record for handling allegations of sexually abusive priests.

Diocesan spokesman John Cullen disputed that, citing new background checks and training for adults who work with children.

"We've done a lot of things to protect children," Cullen said

John Welch said Slown began abusing him when he was 10 in 1962 and that the abuse continued for six years. When the family moved to New Jersey in 1970, he told the pastor of his parish there what happened, and the monsignor told him he would take care of it, Welch said.

Instead, Slown continued to abuse his younger brothers during visits to New Jersey, he said.

Slown was convicted of sexually abusing a boy in DuPage County in 1983 and left the priesthood. A message left at his home in Colorado was not returned Tuesday.

Welch said he saw Slown abuse other boys.

When contacted by phone Tuesday at his home in Winfield, Dennerlein would not answer questions.

Ruffalo died in 1997 at 62.


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