Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Sunday, July 31, 2011

Belleville’s bishop loses again, owes victim almost $6.5 mill

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])

Soon, Belleville’s Catholic officials will have to pay almost $6.5 million because dozens of them, over decades, ignored and concealed horrific child sex crimes by Fr. Raymond Kownacki.

For the second time, the Illinois Supreme Court has rejected Bishop Edward Braxton’s far-fetched legal claims. Now, the Belleville Catholic hierarchy has only one more stalling tactic: an extraordinarily long shot plea to the US Supreme Court.

The day of reckoning for Belleville Catholic officials is almost here. They should, at long last, realize that they live under the same laws as the rest of us and accept responsibility for their stunningly deceit and callousness that let a clearly dangerous serial child predator run free among hundreds of unsuspecting families devastating dozens of young lives over decades.

Then, Braxton should severely denounce or discipline every single church employee – from bishop to bookkeeper – who suspected or knew of Kownacki’s crimes and kept silent.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has 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

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, Jul. 30, 2011

Belleville Diocese's appeal rejected by state Supreme Court for the second time


BELLEVILLE -- The Illinois Supreme Court for the second time has denied a request by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville to hear an appeal of a St. Clair County Court jury verdict awarding $5 million to a former altar boy jurors found was sexually abused by a priest.

The only remaining avenue for appeal is to the U.S. Supreme Court, but only if a constitutional question can be raised.

St. Louis attorney David Wells filed the motion on behalf of the diocese asking the state appeals court to reconsider its original denial on May 25 on grounds that the award threatened the religious freedom of Illinois residents.

The court again rejected the motion without comment. Wells could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton, who has approved both appeals to the state Supreme Court, could not be reached for comment.

James Wisniewski, of Champaign, was awarded the $5 million after a civil trial in 2008 where he testified that he was sexually abused starting about age 13 more than 35 years ago by the Rev. Raymond Kownacki at St. Theresa Parish in Salem. Kownacki, of Dupo, has stated he will not comment.

During the trial, Belleville attorneys Mike Weilmuenster and Steve Wigginton produced documents showing that diocesan officials knew that Kownacki was accused of sexually assaulting boys and girls but continued to reassign him to parishes without warning parishioners. The priest was removed from ministry more than 15 years ago because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Wigginton is currently the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

Wisniewski filed suit in 2002 and his attorneys successfully warded off efforts by the diocese to have the case dismissed in the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.

As for the chances that the U.S. Supreme Court would hear a motion by the diocese in the Wisniewski case, Weilmuenster put them at "zero."

"This whole argument about this infringement upon religious freedom is ludicrous," he said Saturday. "I've been a Catholic my whole life, and no one's ever told me that it's part of my Catholic faith that it's OK to abuse children and cover it up."

Since the state Supreme Court's denial in May, Weilmuenster estimated that the overall amount that must be paid to Wisniewski has increased by about $80,000 because of interest estimated at $1,250 per day. This would put the total amount of the award at just under $6.4 million. Wisniewski's money is guaranteed by a surety bond posted by the diocese and by other money in an escrow account under control of the court.

In June, after the latest appeal motion was filed with the state supreme court, Braxton sent a letter to his priests to be read to the public in which he contended that the statute of limitations had been extended in the Wisniewski case in such a way that it violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

However the 5th District Appellate Court's earlier decision, which addressed the time limit argument, stated that no issue of religious freedom was involved. The appellate court ruled that because the diocese "fraudulently concealed" Kownacki's danger to children, the time limit that would otherwise be barred was extended.

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at [email protected] or 239-2625

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