Category Archives: Priest Sexual Abuse

Priest Sex Abuse Victim’s Support Network Fights Subpoena

SNAP is a support organization which counsels victims of priest sexual abuse.  The organization, however, now finds itself in an unusual fight.  In a case pending in Kansas City, Missouri, the lawyers for a priest who is being sued for sexual abuse, has served a subpoena on the SNAP seeking information concerning correspondence between the organization, lawyers and victims.  SNAP has held to the position that these records are confidential.  The priest's lawyers are seeking these documents trying to buttress a theory that SNAP has coached victims to claim that they repressed memories of sexual abuse.  Under Illinois law, as in many other states, decades old claims against priests and churches may very well be time barred unless the victim can claim that the church engaged in fraud or that the victim suppressed or repressed the memories.  Lawyers for the St. Louis Archdiocese are trying the same tactic in a pending case.  In the Kansas City case, the judge so far has backed the priest in his position to get the records.  The defendant in the case is Reverend Michael Tierney, who is facing five separate civil lawsuits.  The plaintiff in the case, now age 53, claims that he repressed the memory, but that it was unlocked when another plaintiff filed suit.  Under Missouri law, a victim who recovers such repressed memories, can bring a lawsuit within five years.  Illinois law has not been clarified on this issue.  Whether SNAP has to ultimately comply remains to be seen, however, we see this as a disturbing trend in the victims' rights arena.

Archdiocese of Greenbay Hit With $700,000 Verdict

A jury in Outagamie County returned a verdict against the Archdiocese of Greenbay, Wisconsin in the sum of $700,000 involving a fraud claim brought by two brothers.  The brothers alleged, and the jury agreed, that the Archdiocese concealed a former priest's history of child molestation.  The brothers sued the church in 2008, and contended that the Archdiocese was aware that former priest John Feeney sexually assaulted other children before 1978, the time when the priest was assigned to Freedom St. Nicholas Church, where the boys attended.  Feeney was convicted in 2004 of sexual assault.  Under Illinois law, in order to be successful in a case involving priest sexual abuse which may have occurred several decades ago, a plaintiff would have to allege either a fraud claim, or that the abuse was suppressed or repressed in order to circumvent the statute of limitations.

Accused Joliet Priest Attempts to Take His Life

A Joliet mother called the Diocese of Joliet to complain about the relationship between newly ordained priest Alejandro Flores and her younger son.  A few days later, the priest was found amidst toppled pews at St. Mary's Carmelite Church in Joliet.  In an apparant suicide attempt, Flores allegedly leaped 20 feet from the choir loft to the ground.  Flores was supposed to meet with authorities that morning to discuss the allegations.  Following the mother's complaint of sexual abuse, church authorities removed Flores from having any contact with children.  A Chicago Tribune examination revealed that at least three supervisors found Flores alone with the mother's children before he was ordained.  The newspaper also discovered that Flores was sent for psychological treatment and evaluation at least twice after he admitted viewing pornography on a church computer.  Flores is currently serving a four year prison term for criminal sexual assault.  When Flores pled guilty, he acknowledged abusing the youngest boy from 2005 to 2010.  Flores' conduct was apparently so disturing, that several parishioners complained to church authorities.  Flores was assigned to St. Mary Parish of West Chicago.  Critics claim that the Joliet Diocese did not investigate Flores promptly enough, and that the abuse could have been avoided or limited.

Archdiocese of Chicago Settles Priest Sexual Abuse Lawsuit for $3.2 Million

The Archdicose of Chicago agreed to settle a priest sexual abuse claim with another victim of convicted sex offender Daniel McCormack for $3.2 million, resolving the last case which put the defrocked priest behind bars.  in 2007, the former priest pled guilty to sexual abuse, and was sentenced to five years in prison.  He was removed from ministry that year.  The settlement was just made public, though the case resolved last August.  Some victims of McCormack's abuse played on the basketball team, while others were friends of the boys who attended the school where McCormack coached.  Since the criminal proceedings were initiated, other alleged victims of McCormack's abuse have come forward.  The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander has been involved with claims of sexual abuse involving Father Joseph Fitzharris, Father Peter Bowman, Father Thomas Job, Father George Clements, and Father Paul Smith.

New Lawsuit Filed Against Former Priest Kownacki

A downstate Illinois man filed suit alleging that former Roman Catholic  priest Raymond Kownacki sexually abused him as a boy and that the Belleville  Diocese was partly to blame for hiding the priest's history.  This is yet another lawsuit rocking various diocese for priest sexual abuse. The Plaintiff, identified as John Doe S.W., says Kownacki, 76, who lives in a south  St. Louis retirement home, is still a threat. Doe was described in the suit as Kownacki's longtime caretaker. His and  Kownacki's families "became very close," the lawsuit says. But that relationship  soured in 2009, when Kownacki gave Doe a list of names of people to contact on  his behalf, including people who had sex abuse claims against Kownacki, the suit  says. Doe refused, and he had "flashbacks" of his own sexual abuse, it says. The Plaintiff claims that Kownacki sexually abused him from 1985 to 1987 at places that  included St. Mary's Catholic Church in Valmeyer, where he served as an altar  boy. Doe was about 16 then. Kownacki "coerced and threatened" him to keep him  from telling anyone, the suit says. Doe argues in the lawsuit that the statute of limitations on sex abuse claims  doesn't apply to his case because he "recovered the memories" of Kownacki  abusing him in 2009. Kownacki, who was ordained in 1960, has a number of abuse claims against him,  including a jury verdict that rose to a $6.3 million payout in August to James  Wisniewski for sexual misconduct dating to the 1970s. Kownacki was removed from the ministry in 1995 after abuse allegations began  to surface. A former housekeeper accused him of raping, beating and performing  an abortion on her in the 1970s. That case, which alleged that Kownacki was  quietly shuffled among parishes, was dismissed after the state Supreme Court  ruled that it exceeded the statute of limitations. Even though Wisniewski filed his case about three decades after he was  abused, the jury agreed that the diocese concealed and misrepresented facts  about Kownacki, so the statute of limitations did not bar his claim. We anticipate that this argument will likely be argued in other clergy sex abuse cases, particularly  those involving Kownacki. Another case was filed against Kownacki in 2003 by a man identified as John  Doe, who as a boy mowed the parish lawn at St. Theresa's Catholic Church and  School in Salem, Ill., where Kownacki was pastor from 1979 to 1986. That case  was settled in 2009 for $1.2 million. At least two more cases are pending against the diocese accusing Kownacki of  sexually abusing young boys who are now grown men. According to the Belleville Diocese website, Kownacki's status is  "administrative leave/retired."

Missouri Parents File Suit Against Priest and Diocese Over Son’s Suicide

A Missouri couple has filed a lawsuit against a Catholic diocese and a retired priest, alleging that their son's 1983 suicide was the result of repeated sexual abuse by the priest.  The lawsuit names the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and seeks damages as a result of the death of Brian Teeman who shot himself at the age of 14.  According to the allegations of the lawsuit, Teeman suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of the priest since age 11.  The diocese has faced many lawsuits in recent years for sexual abuse claims.  The diocese acknowledged that in 1983, it received a complaint about the priest committing sexual misconduct with a teenage boy.  The priest has been named as a defendant in multiple lawsuits.  It is unclear how the Plaintiffs may survive a motion to dismiss the claim based upon statute of limitations, since the suicide occurred nearly 30 years ago.  The parents may be relying upon a fraud theory to toll the statute of limitations and argue that the archdiocese suppressed information and did not share it with parishioners.

Chicago Archdiocese Settles Another Sexual Abuse Claim Involving Father Fitzharris

On Monday, August 29, 2011, the attorneys of another sexual abuse victim of Father Joseph Fitzharris announced that they had reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of Chicago regarding the claim. The victim, who attended St. Francis Xavier Church in Avondale, claimed that he had been sexually abused by the priest In the 1980s. As part of the settlement with this victim and others, the Archdiocese has agreed to release information concerning 35 priests who have been accused of clergy misconduct. This office has handled numerous cases against Father Fitzharris and other priests involving claims of clergy misconduct.

Five Former Altar Boys Settle Sexual Abuse Claims With Trenton Archdiocese

Five former altar boys who claim that a priest sexually abused them in the 1970s and 1980s have reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of Trenton, New Jersey for $1 million.  The Archdiocese of Trenton announced that the Plaintiffs' allegations of sexual abuse were credible.  The victims claimed that they were sexually assaulted between the ages of 11 to 16 by the priest.  One of the victims claimed that he was sexually assaulted 150 times.  Another one of the victims says he does not consider himself Catholic anymore.  When the first complaint came forward about the sexual abuse, the church removed the priest from ministry, according to the Archdiocese.  In 2002, the priest was defrocked.  The Archdiocese declined to issue an apology for what the priest allegedly did.  The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander has handled a number of sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Chicago, including Father Joseph Fitzharris.

Wisniewski Sexual Abuse Case to Settle

The attorney for sexual abuse victim James Wisniewski has announced that his client will receive $6.3 million from the Diocese of Belleville. in 2008, a jury awarded Wisniewski $5 million. The verdict has since earned $1.3 million in interest. Wisniewski claimed thar Raymond Kownacki, a priest, abuse him dozens of times in the 1970s.

Two New Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Filed Against Chicago Archdiocese

This past Tuesday, two women filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Chicago, alleging that they were sexually assaulted by a priest at St. Peter Damian Catholic Church in Bartlett, Illinois. Both women, who are in their 60s, claimed that they repressed memories of the sexual abuse. The women claim that they were sexually assaulted by Reverend Thomas Barry Horne starting when they were very young girls. According to the plaintiffs' attorney, the Archdiocese refused to offer any financial compensation.