Files Released on 2 MO Predator Priests

By David Clohessy
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
September 16, 2013

Files released on two predator priests

Each abused in CA but spent time in MO

They’re with a St. Louis-based religious order     

Victims blast MO Catholic officials for “continued secrecy

SNAP to prelates: “Reach out to others who may be in pain

More than 200 pages of records about two predator priests who worked in Missouri have just been released. In response, a support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging three Missouri bishops to “reach out” to others who may have been molested by them.

One priest worked primarily in eastern Missouri, most recently in the 1980s at St. Gabriel’s in St. Louis city. The other priest worked at a college and a parish in Cape Girardeau (then a part of the St. Louis archdiocese). 

Both Fr. John Edward Ruhl and Fr. John V. “Jack” Farris belonged to the St. Louis-based western region of the Vincentians but spent much of their careers in California, where child sex abuse suits were filed against them. Both also spent time at the now-closed St. Mary’s seminary in Perryville in the 1960s. More than 120 pages of records about both men were disclosed last week and are posted here:

Fr. Farris is a Kansas City native who went to St. John's seminary in Kansas City and was ordained in 1949 by then St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop Charles Helmsing. Fr. Farris was primarily assigned to eight or nine St. Louis area church facilities from 1958-1999, with one year at the Evangelical Center in Cape Girardeau in 1985-1986. (See page 44 of the records for more details.)

Fr. Ruhl is a Chicago native who worked at St. Vincent’s College and St. Vincent parish in Cape Girardeau in the mid-1960s. He was ordained in 1964 by then-St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop George Gottwald.

The lawsuits against both priests were settled in 2007, with a provision that personnel documents about the clerics – and hundreds of other child molesting priests, nuns, and brothers – would be publicly disclosed. Despite that agreement, Catholic officials have filed repeated legal motions delaying the disclosures for almost seven years. Last week, however, some of the records were released.

Fr. Farris is accused of molesting a child in California from 1951-54. He was then sent to a series of parishes in Missouri beginning in 1957.

In the 1980s, Farris spent time at St. Cletus’ parish in St. Charles and St. Vincent de Paul’s parish in Soulard. He passed away in 2003.

Fr. Ruhl is accused of molesting three children from 1970-82. In 2002, an abuse report was made to his church supervisors in California that he molested a child several times in the early 1970s. Another confidential memo dated 1993 was written after a young man contacted church officials and said he’d been molested by Fr. Ruhl at a seminary in 1976.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, “a follow-up note said Fr. Ruhl had been given a lie-detector test after a previous accusation and ‘there was reason to suspect that there had possibly been other inappropriate behaviors.’”

Fr. Ruhl left the order and became a priest of the Diocese of Orange in California. For much of his career, Fr. Ruhl was supervised by Fr. Andrew Bellisario, the former superior general of the Vincentians Western Province.

The Vincentians have been prominent in the history of the church in St. Louis area, starting and running, for many years, Kenrick Seminary.

Another Vincentian priest, Fr. Vincent Bryce, now lives and works on the edge of the St. Louis University campus, despite having admitted that he repeatedly molested a boy.

Other accused abusive Vincentians who have worked in Missouri include Fr. Richard L. Lause in St. Louis and Fr. James Lawbaugh and Fr. Thomas Parrott in Kansas City. Civil child sex abuse and cover up cases involving all three of them have been settled.

Now leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, want Catholic officials in three dioceses – Kansas City, Springfield-Cape Girardeau and St. Louis - to 

--publicly announce the release of these files and post them on diocesan websites, and

--use diocesan and parish websites to urge more victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward so that those who committed or concealed crimes will be prosecuted and jailed, kids will be safer and victims will get help.

In the St. Louis archdiocese, the Vincentians run the Aquinas Institute of Theology and have often worked at several parishes including St. Catherine Laboure parish at 9740 Sappington in South County and St. Vincent dePaul parish at 1408 S. 10th St. in south city.

In the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese, the Vincentians have worked at Holy Trinity parish in Aurora, Christ the Savior parish in Brewer and Sacred Heart parish Verona.



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