The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Thursday, November 27, 2008
SNAP blasts bishop
Sex abuse victims blast Belleville bishop
He appeals recent $5 million jury verdict
Group calls him perhaps Americas most litigious
He fights every case he can & appeals every case he loses, SNAP says
Two more victims of his come forward of notorious serial predator priest
Two organizations urge Braxton: Put pedophiles in treatment centers so kids will be safer
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is blasting Bellevilles Catholic bishop for appealing a $5 million jury verdict against a pedophile priest. . In August, a St. Clair County jury awarded the sum to Jim Wisniewski of Champaign who was also repeatedly abused in childhood by Fr. Raymond Kownacki.
Yesterday lawyers for Bishop Edward Braxton announced he will appeal the case to the Fifth Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon.
Leaders of a self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org) call the move selfish, short sighted and ultimately more expensive for the diocese, in both dollars and public support.
Yesterday, SNAP announced yesterday that two more victims of a notorious serial predator priest have come forward. For the first time ever, the group is urging Braxton to put accused child molesting clergy like Kownacki in secure treatment facilities, so kids will be safe. Only a few dioceses do this. SNAP hand delivered a letter to this effect to the bishops office yesterday.
Weeks ago, in a letter to Catholics across southern Illinois, Braxton referred to Wisniewski as an alleged victim. SNAP considers his pathetic, hurtful and mean-spirited given that a jury found the abuse happened and church officials have never even claimed it didnt. They want Braxton to publicly apologize to Wisniewski and his family.
The victims attorneys are Mike Weilmuenster and Steve Wigginton of Belleville (618 257 2222). Its not clear whether either or both of the new victims plan to file lawsuits.
A copy of SNAPs letter to Braxton, is below.
Dear Bishop Braxton:
We are writing for four reasons.
First, we repeat our earlier plea: dont appeal the Kownacki verdict. The truth has been exposed. The victim and his family have suffered enough The wounds are deep and gaping and painful. You can either rub salt into them. Or you can help heal them. Please take the pastoral path, not the legalistic one. Please chart a new course, not follow a failed one. Please help those who feel betrayed by you, by your predecessors, by your colleagues and by predator priests begin to recover. Please resist the temptation to spend more money and cause more delays. Please do not appeal this verdict.
Second, we ask that you put Kownacki and other proven, admitted and credibly accused Belleville clerics in a treatment center right away. Short of jailing them, this is the best way to prevent future devastating child sex crimes. You cant change archaic, predator-friendly state laws that make prosecution difficult. You can, however, insist that predators on your payroll live in a remote, controlled setting where they get therapy and supervision and where neighbors are warned of their presence.
We know that housing and caring for pedophile priests isnt cheap. But we also know that its estimated that you will pay at least $1 million in interest alone over the next few years because you will likely appeal the jury verdict in the recent Kownacki trial. If you are willing to spend that much on protecting yourself your colleagues, and your secrets, surely you will want to spend as much or more on protecting kids from known predators.
Third, we again ask that you apologize for calling one of Kownackis victims an alleged victim in writing to the entire diocese. To you, the distinction may be insignificant. To us, and more important, to him, this is one more hurtful comment heaped on a string of hurtful comments and actions. It enhances us, not diminishes us, when we apologize for wrong doing, whether intentional or not. We urge you to do the right thing and apologize to Jim and his family.
Finally, we again ask that you post on your diocesan website the names and whereabouts of every proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priest in and from your diocese. You know the reasons: because it helps protects kids, because it helps heal victims, and because Catholics and citizens deserve to know the truth. You also know that roughly 15 of your colleagues have taken this inexpensive but effective step to safeguard the vulnerable and heal the wounded. You know those bishops have experienced little, if any, negative effects from this action. You may not know, however, that Baltimore archdiocese admitted in 2002 that they heard from dozens
So we know this approach works. Please take responsibility for the dangerous and potentially dangerous men your diocese recruited, educated, ordained, hired, trained, transferred and shielded from public exposure, criminal prosecution and civil litigation.
If the Kownacki trial proved anything, it proved that time and time again, your colleagues and predecessors were given a choice: to do little or nothing, and hope (naively) that Kownacki would not abuse again, or to do the right thing, and warn and safeguard others from Kownacki. Your colleagues and predecessors consistently opted for the path of least resistance, and kids were deeply, repeatedly hurt. Please dont make the same poor, selfish, short-term choice now.
You can keep ignoring our letters and appeals, Bishop Braxton. (Its hard, of course, to see how this honors Jesus words and deeds, or the Popes admonition this spring to do everything possible to heal the wounds caused by the clergy sex abuse crisis) Our organizations have been around 20 years. We arent going away. Well continue to expose wrongdoing. Well continue to beg victims to come forward. Well continue to help them when they do.
It might hurt your pride to acknowledge our existence or address our concerns. It might be especially awkward for you to sit down with us and hear our pain face-to-face (instead of hiding behind your title, desk, defense lawyers and public relations staff). But Jesus never called any of us to a life of comfort.
We believe such a meeting will happen someday. And we believe southern Illinois parishioners and pubic will benefit. We hope it will be soon.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests