The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, October 23, 2009
Belleville Diocese settles sex abuse case for $1.2 million; Sex abuse victims respond
Statement by Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director, 314 503 0003
We hope this settlement will prod and inspire others who have been hurt by Kownacki and other clergy to call police, protect others and start healing.
When victims, whistleblowers and witnesses speak up, predators are exposed and children are protected. But when victims, whistleblowers and witnesses stay silent, predators walk free and kids are assaulted.
It's inexcusable for Catholic officials to keep paying Kownacki and letting him live unsupervised on his own. He belongs in jail but if that can't happen, he belongs in a remote, secure treatment facilities, instead of living among unsuspecting neighbors in Dupo. It's reckless for Braxton to take the cheap way out and allow this dangerous serial predator to roam freely throughout the Belleville area where he could easily molest again.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314 503 0003).
Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009
Belleville Diocese settles sex abuse case for $1.2 million
BY GEORGE PAWLACZYK - News-Democrat
BELLEVILLE -- The Diocese of Belleville has paid $1.2 million to settle a 6-year-old "John Doe" lawsuit filed by a former altar boy who said he was molested by his parish priest.
The settlement, announced Thursday by the diocese, was confirmed by Belleville attorney Mike Weilmuenster, who said the money has been paid to his client. Negotiations were worked out last week.
It is the first time since the early 1990s when sexual abuse of minors by priests became a widespread public scandal in the Belleville Diocese that the diocese has paid money to a victim as part of a settlement.
The diocese' statement said, "On the occasion of this settlement, The Diocese of Belleville continues to express regret for any instance of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of its clergy. We remain steadfastly committed to our Child Protection Policy and will continue to assist victims and their families in furtherance of that policy."
The settlement dates from 2003 and was filed in connection and about the same time as a similar lawsuit filed by James Wisniewski of Champaign, against the Rev. Raymond Kownacki of Dupo, as having sexually molested him for years. The $1.2 million settlement also stems from a lawsuit naming Kownacki as the abuser.
Kownacki was banned upon recommendation of a diocesan review board more than a decade ago from performing priestly duties because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Wisniewski was awarded $5 million by a St. Clair County jury in August of last year. The diocese has appealed that award to the 5th Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.
Kownacki has stated he will not comment.
"This victim was simply the next in line of the Kownacki victims," said Weilmuenster, "He's not a Johnny-come-lately. He's been there every step of the way for six years."
The attorney said he believes that "widespread outrage" following publicity from the Wisniewski trial may have spurred the diocese to settle this case. During that trial, unrefuted trial testimony and official church documents placed in evidence showed that church officials in the 1970s and 1980s knew that Kownacki had abused underage boys and girls but did nothing to protect the public.
Weilmuenster said his firm represents three other men including two known only as "John Doe" who have filed suit against the diocese alleging sexual abuse by a priest.
The John Doe awarded $1.2 million was an altar boy at St. Theresa's Parish in Salem at about the same time as Wisniewski served as an altar boy, court records show. Like Wisniewski, he claimed in legal arguments that he was entitled to bring the court action despite the fact the normal statute of limitations had long passed. In the case of John Doe and Wisniewski, arguments were successful that the statute of limitations did not start tolling until the victims realized that they had been psychologically damaged by the abuse.
Attorneys for insurance companies representing the diocese, "Supplied us with copies of policies a foot high," said Weilmuenster, but the attorney added that he could not learn how much of the settlement actually came from insurance.
Diocese spokesman David Spotanski could not be reached.
Weilmuenster said that while a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision concerning the statute of limitations virtually prohibits victims of sex abuse from filing lawsuits who were born before Jan. 1, 1964, he said all victims should still come forward.
The diocese also has urged victims to come forward.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com and 239-2625.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests