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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
IL Supreme Court rules against Belleville bishop; SNAP responds
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
This ruling is a testimony to the strength, courage and compassion of Jim Wisniewski; his caring, supportive family; and the skill and determination of his dedicated attorneys.
Jim was brave and smart enough to speak up, seek justice, and patiently hang in there through callous and self-serving delays by Catholic officials and their high-priced defense lawyers. Because Jim wants to protect kids and expose wrong-doing, he was persistent year after year until the corruption of the church hierarchy was finally exposed in a courtroom. We admire him for insisting that top Belleville diocesan staffers face tough questions under oath so that the public and parishioners would know who ignored and concealed Kownacki’s crimes.
There are dozens of people around the Belleville area who have knowledge or suspicions about child sex crimes – by teachers, coaches, relatives and priests. We hope they will be motivated by this ruling to find the courage Jim found to take action.
There are also hundreds of men, women and teens who have been sexually violated but have yet to speak up. We hope they will be motivated to break their silence, expose their perpetrators, help protect others, and finally start healing. It all begins when one finds one’s voice, overcomes one’s shame, and reaches out for help.
---------------------- NOTE – Barbara Dorris is available for interviews, by phone or in person, today/tonight.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. 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, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, firstname.lastname@example.org), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Wednesday, May. 25, 2011
Supreme Court rejects Belleville Diocese's appeal of $5 million award in priest sex abuse case
BY GEORGE PAWLACZYK - News-Democrat
BELLEVILLE -- The Illinois Supreme Court, in a decision made public Wednesday, turned down a request by the Diocese of Belleville to hear an appeal of a $5 million civil jury award in a case of sexual abuse by a priest.
Unless the diocese is successful in asking the state's highest court to reconsider its own opinion, James Wisniewski of Champaign must be paid the $5 million plus $1.35 million in interest. The payment is secured by a performance bond.
An appeal cannot be made to the U.S. Supreme Court unless it is first considered by a state's supreme court. The diocese has 21 days to ask the state high court to reconsider its decision, but cannot submit additional evidence or make further argument. http://media.bnd.com/static/images/mi/story_detail/cycle_gallery/previous.pnghttp://media.bnd.com/static/images/mi/story_detail/cycle_gallery/pause.pnghttp://media.bnd.com/static/images/mi/story_detail/cycle_gallery/play.pnghttp://media.bnd.com/static/images/mi/story_detail/cycle_gallery/next.png
Attorney Mike Weilmuenster of Belleville, who, with his former law partner and now U.S. attorney Steve Wigginton, pursued the case for nine years said, "This is a victory for all victims of sexual abuse by a priest."
In 2008, a St. Clair County Court civil jury awarded the $5 million to Wisniewski after a week of testimony that now suspended priest the Rev. Raymond Kownacki sexually abused the former altar boy at St. Theresa's Parish in Salem. Previously, the diocese settled another lawsuit naming Kownacki for $1.2 million and two others naming this priest have been filed in St. Clair County Court. Kownacki has stated he will not comment.
Bishop Edward Braxton, who was not bishop when Kownacki, according to testimony, sexually molested a young woman and several boys, issued a short statement regarding the high court's decision.
"The Diocese continues to express regret for any instances of childhood sexual abuse by a member of its clergy. The diocese is committed to adhering to its Child Protection Policy, and will continue to assist victims and their families in furtherance of that policy and its ministry."
Weilmuenster said that the award plus accumulated interest remains unpaid. The interest will continue to cost the diocese about $1,200 per day until Wisniewski is paid.
"The vast majority of priests in the diocese are very good men who have done good things with their lives," Weilmuenster said, "it is a shame if they are tarred with the same brush that results from the actions of a minority of child molesting priests and those that protected them."
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests