Behind the Walls of St. John’s

Arlene Krieger

Hundreds of victims suffered abuse at St. John’s School for the Deaf, a Catholic institution in St. Francis, Wisconsin, outside Milwaukee. In 1974, a priest was accused of having molested as many as 200 deaf boys at the school since 1950. The scandal proved hugely embarrassing and costly for the Milwaukee Archdiocese; the school was closed in 1983. Subsequent investigation by, among others, crusading attorney Jeff Anderson revealed that the lone priest had not been the only abuser active at St. John’s.

One of the additional victims was Carolyn, who had become deaf in childhood and placed in St. John’s School. Author Arlene Krieger interviewed Carolyn extensively using sign language and through email. This excerpt describes how Carolyn’s story began. —Eds.

A loud cry from the nursery startled Margaret out of deep sleep. It was Carolyn, and it was a cry more intense than she had ever heard. Touching the baby’s soft face, it was damp and her forehead was burning with a fever. Bundling the baby into a blanket she woke Tony, ordering him to watch the other two children as she fled to the hospital. The on-call staff did what they could to save the infant’s life but after several days the meningitis had left its mark—Carolyn became deaf.

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