The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Saturday, June 11, 2011
SNAP blasts bishop for “last ditch” delay
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, [email protected])
This is a diocese seemingly addicted to its lawyers and to making this brave victim’s recovery as hard as possible by trying to exploit every legal ploy and technicality and delay tactic it can devise.
We urge every Catholic employee in the Belleville diocese to examine his or her conscience and muster some courage and speak out against Braxton’s latest legal maneuver.
The closer he gets to honoring a jury’s verdict and resolving a sex abuse case, the more Braxton postures about “tough diocesan finances.” But it’s hard to take him seriously when he continues spending boatloads of money on immoral and unlikely appeals by his high-priced defense lawyers.
(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, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Saturday, Jun. 11, 2011
Belleville Diocese wants high court to reconsider sex abuse case; attorney calls it 'sad and pathetic'
BY GEORGE PAWLACZYK - News-Democrat
BELLEVILLE -- The Catholic Diocese of Belleville will ask the Illinois Supreme Court to reconsider its refusal to hear an appeal of a case involving sexual abuse of a minor by a priest.
The appeal involves a $5 million St. Clair County civil jury award won in 2008 by James Wisniewski of Champaign for damages that a jury agreed were caused by the Rev. Raymond Kownacki. Testimony during the trial stated that Kownacki, who is suspended from ministry, sexually abused Wisniewski decades ago at St. Theresa's Parish in Salem. Wisniewski testified he was abused beginning at age 13 after he became an altar boy. Kownacki has stated he won't comment.
Other witnesses and church documents read into the record at trial stated that diocesan officials knew that Kownacki sexually abused children but continued to reassign him to parishes without warning parishioners.
"There are times when it is very difficult for me as your bishop to determine the best course of action. This is one of those times," Bishop Edward Braxton wrote in a two-page letter to priests. In the letter, Braxton announced he has decided to ask the court to re-evaluate its decision two weeks ago not to hear the case.
The actual total award that must be paid to Wisniewski, unless an appeal is ultimately successful, stands at about $6.3 million and includes accumulated interest of $1,240 per day.
Since the court voted two weeks ago not to hear the diocese's appeal from an appellate court decision, the interest has added about $19,000 to the amount owed to Wisniewski.
Belleville attorney Mike Weilmuenster, who represents Wisniewski, said Friday, "It is sad and pathetic that the diocese's abuse of Jim has not come to an end."
Weilmuenster said his client's award is guaranteed by a surety bond. However, the diocese would have to make a good faith effort to raise the money, possibly by selling off property, according to written guarantees to the bonding company.
Joe Tybor, spokesman for the Illinois Supreme Court, has said that a reversal by the high court of its own decision not to hear a case, "happens very infrequently."
In the letter to priests, Braxton wrote that justices of the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon, which initially denied the appeal by a vote of 2-1, disregarded prior state Supreme Court rulings about the statute of limitations, a key factor in the lawsuit that was filed in 2002.
"There may well be individuals who do not sit in the chair in which I sit, who have not studied the issues involved extensively, and who will be quick to question my decision," Braxton wrote. "They may suggest all the diocese is doing is delaying the inevitable and they may be correct.
"However, if these efforts fail, I will have the consolation of knowing that I have done all I could, to do what is best, in my judgment, for all involved in this sad and deeply regrettable situation."
The letter outlined that Braxton believes paying the settlement could strain, "resources for responding to other abuse victims and for sustaining pastoral services in the Diocese of Belleville."
Braxton said in the letter the diocese will file its request by Wednesday, which is the deadline to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the case.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at [email protected] or 239-2625.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests