When Marguerite Ridgeway died in 2015, she was no longer the devout Catholic she became in her adult life. She was shaken up after the allegations of sexual abuse within the Church came to light and she realized that supporting the Church meant tacitly supporting the system that led to all the scandals.
She wasn’t quite ready to leave the faith entirely, though, which is why she made plans to be buried in Assumption Cemetery, where her daughter was buried, despite being run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet (Illinois).
Her son Jack Ruhl recently decided to add a marker to her gravestone that said a few words about how she supported the victims of Church abuse. He even sent the Diocese $350 for the inscription.
But they rejected his request saying it went too far.
Apparently the phrase “She supported priest rapist victims” rubs some people the wrong way.
An attorney for the diocese in an Oct. 6 letter proposed removing the word “rapist” and substituting softer language, such as “She supported clergy sex abuse victims,” or “She supported victims of clergy sex abuse.”
“This is not a subject that we at the Diocese of Joliet shy away from; it is a sad chapter in our history that we think about daily,” diocese attorney Maureen Harton said in the letter. “Our concern must be with the many people who visit Assumption Cemetery with the expectation that their quiet time with their loved ones will be peaceful, tranquil and free of stress and anxiety.”
“I don’t understand why this marker is controversial in the least,” [Ruhl] said in an Oct. 4 email to diocese officials. “It states, ‘She supported priest rapist victims.’ Doesn’t the Diocese of Joliet also support priest rapist victims?”
It’s not like the phrase is inaccurate. Those priests were rapists, and there were victims. The only controversy is that telling the truth makes the Church look bad.
Ultimately, the Diocese will have final say over what inscription is allowed. So it’s not like this will go to a legal battle even as the two sides continue fighting.
But it’s telling how the Church is reacting.
This is a Diocese that paid out about $4 million to more than a dozen victims of abuse to settle cases that were decades old. I repeat, it took decades for them to resolve cases of actual abuse. Yet when a guy wants to label those priests in an accurate, permanent way in honor of his mother? Now the Church wants to take the moral high ground.
Ruhl just wants to be open and honest. The Church should give that a shot for once.
On a side note, in 2015, Ruhl and his wife Diane famously estimated the cost of the sex abuse scandal for the Catholic Church since 1950. In an article for the National Catholic Reporter, they came to the conclusion that the Church has spent $3,994,797,060.10 — nearly $4 billion — on the abuse payouts and cover-up. And that number was likely an underestimate because there was no way to calculate how much money was spent on “therapy for victims, support of offenders, and operation of safe environment programs.”