Weeks after an initial request, Marguerite Ridgeway’s grave finally hosts a marker stating, “She supported priest sexual abuse victims,” after her years of advocacy and death in 2015.
Ridgeway’s son, Jack Ruhl, a professor of accountancy at Western Michigan University, sent a letter to the Diocese of Joliet in October requesting a marker be added to his mother’s grave which would read, “She supported priest rapist victims.”
The diocese took issue with the use of the word “rapist,” stating in a letter from diocese attorney Maureen Harton that their “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.”
Harton suggested alternatives like, “She supported clergy sexual abuse victims,” or, “She supported victims of clergy sexual abuse,” but Ruhl thought removing the word “priest” didn’t make sense, according to the diocese’s rationale for changing his suggested text.
Finally the two sides came to a compromise in early December on an inscription slightly different from what Ruhl initially asked for. The official marker would say, “She supported priest sexual abuse victims.”
“I feel with the compromise, I did the best that I could,” Ruhl said.
Ruhl said he realized that the diocese would never go along with allowing the word “rapist” on the marker so he figured he could live with the alternative. Although, he thought the phrase “sexual abuse” could mean different things to different people.
“My wife and I saw the words ‘priest’ and ‘rapist’ as really pointing out a very serious crossing of the line and a very serious dehumanization of the victim,” Ruhl said. “We wanted to make that point.”
Ruhl and his wife, Diane, were there Dec. 22 when the marker was installed at Ridgeway’s grave. He said the grounds crew there was very helpful and even leveled a marker on his sister’s grave, which is right next to his mother’s.
That day was the culmination of weeks of work to preserve and recognize his mother’s legacy of helping survivors.
“It felt good to finally have my mother’s grave marked and see those words ‘She supported priest sexual abuse victims,’ ” Ruhl said. “It was a good day. Diane and I finally felt like we achieved some closure.”