Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. DIOCESE OF BELLEVILLE, Honorable Judge, presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Stewart
NOTICE Decision filed 01/13/11. The text of IN THE this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Peti tion for Rehearing or th e disposition of the same.
JUSTICE STEWART delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Welch concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Spomer dissented.
On October 24, 2002, the plaintiff, James Wisniewski, filed a complaint against the defendant, the Catholic Diocese of Belleville (the Diocese), alleging that a priest within the Diocese, Raymond F. Kownacki, sexually abused him numerous times between 1973 and 1978. Wisniewski asserted claims against the Diocese for negligence, wilful and wanton conduct, fraud and deceit, and civil conspiracy. Wisniewski alleged that the Diocese knew that Kownacki had molested other children at other parishes before transferring him to St. Theresa's school and church in Salem, Illinois. On August 27, 2008, a jury awarded Wisniewski $2.4 million in compensatory damages and $2.6 million in punitive damages, and the circuit court entered a judgment upon the jury's verdict. The Diocese timely filed a notice of appeal of the circuit court's judgment. On appeal, the Diocese argues the following:
(I) that Wisniewski's claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and statute of repose, (II) that Wisniewski's claims were insufficient as a matter of law, (III) that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying the Diocese's motion for a mental examination of Wisniewski under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 215 (eff. July 1, 2002), and (IV) that the circuit court abused its discretion in striking certain references from the records and testimony of one of Wisniewski's witnesses. The Diocese does not claim that the verdict is excessive. For the following reasons, we affirm.
The Diocese is a religious not-for-profit corporation that ministers to more than 100,000 Catholics in the southernmost 28 counties of the State of Illinois. The Diocese includes approximately 116 parishes, 26 or 27 Catholic grade schools, and 3 high schools, and it employs approximately 140 priests. The Diocese has four officers: the bishop serves as the president or CEO of the not-for-profit corporation, the vicar general serves as the vice president, the chancellor serves as the secretary, and the chief financial officer serves as the treasurer. The vicar general is second in the Diocese's chain of command and serves as the alter ego of the bishop in the administrative affairs of the Diocese. The chancellor of the Diocese is responsible for keeping the archives, records, and official Diocese files, including personnel files. The Diocese also employs a vice-chancellor, who works as an archivist and an ecclesiastical notary but is not an officer of the not-for-profit corporation. The Diocese employs a secretary for the bishop, whose duties include keeping track of the bishop's appointments, typing letters for the bishop, serving as the bishop's driver, and visiting the various parishes in the Diocese with the bishop. The bishop, the bishop's secretary, the vicar general, the chancellor, and the vice-chancellor all work together in a building called the chancery, which is located in Belleville, Illinois.
At the trial, Wisniewski presented evidence that, when he was a young boy growing up in Salem, Illinois, he and his family were parishioners of St. Theresa's parish located in Salem. Beginning in 1973, when he was 12 years old, Wisniewski endured repeated incidents of sexual molestation by a priest employed by the Diocese. The molestation occurred over a number of years. The priest was Raymond F. Kownacki, and at the trial, the Diocese did not deny that Kownacki committed the acts of sexual abuse described by Wisniewski. Wisniewski's claim against the Diocese is based on the assertion that the Diocese was responsible for the molestation he endured because the Diocese knew that Kownacki had molested other children at other parishes before it transferred Kownacki to St. Theresa's parish in Salem. An analysis of Wisniewski's claim against the Diocese requires a consideration of events that occurred while Kownacki was in Salem and a consideration of events that occurred during the years before and after Kownacki came to Salem. We review the facts presented at the trial in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. Quality Granite Construction Co. v. Hurst-Rosche Engineers, Inc., 261 Ill. App. 3d 21, 24, 632 N.E.2d 1139, 1141 (1994).
The Diocese's Knowledge of Kownacki's History of Child Sexual Abuse Kownacki was born December 8, 1934, and he was first ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church on June 4, 1960. Kownacki served the Catholic Church at various locations after he was ordained, including O'Fallon and East St. Louis, Illinois, and Guatemala. The record contains little information concerning the earliest years of Kownacki's ministry. On December 9, 1970, the Diocese appointed Kownacki as the priest of a parish in the small town of St. Francisville, Illinois. At St. Francisville, Kownacki met a young girl at the parish named Gina Parks. On June 8, 1971, the Diocese transferred Kownacki to St. Martin of Tours parish in Washington Park, Illinois.
Sometime in 1973, the Diocese became aware of allegations that Kownacki had sexually abused Gina. At that time, the bishop of the Diocese was Albert R. Zuroweste and the Diocese's chancellor was Monsignor Bernard Sullivan. Sullivan, the Diocese's records keeper, had the habit of taking extensive notes of each of his telephone conversations and meetings. On April 24, 1973, Bishop Zuroweste, Chancellor Sullivan, and another priest, Dean Braun, met with Gina Parks and her family at the chancery to discuss abuse Kownacki perpetrated against Gina. As was his custom, Sullivan took extensive handwritten notes during that meeting, and he transcribed his handwritten notes three days later.
The first two paragraphs of Sullivan's April 27, 1973, typed notes detailed allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct involving Kownacki that the Diocese had previously received notice of and that were in addition to the abuse reported by Gina and her parents on April 24, 1973. Sullivan's notes began as follows:
"Last year complaint from man in Guatemala that you [Kownacki] were sleeping with his daughter and she was pregnant by you. We accepted explanation that this man was jealous and was trying to make you the scape goat.
Last month a priest came to us and said the parents of a 14 year old girl complained to him that you were molesting their daughter. We instructed the priest to have the parents go to you and complain, and if they could not obtain satisfaction then they should come to the Chancery."
Sullivan's typed notes then continued with a detailed description of Gina and her parents' complaint of sexual abuse committed by Kownacki. The notes stated that Gina and her family came to the chancery on April 24, 1973, to inform the officers of the Diocese about Kownacki's repeated molestation of and violence toward Gina, a minor.
According to Sullivan's notes, Gina, a 16-year-old girl, attended religious instruction classes taught by Kownacki in St. Francisville. In addition, Gina cleaned the rectory for Kownacki in St. Francisville. At the April 24, 1973, meeting, Gina described an occasion when Kownacki took her to his mother's house in Tamaroa, Illinois, to clean. Sullivan's notes of the meeting quoted Gina as follows: " 'Then that night we stayed in his Mother's home, and I went to bed and the next thing I knew Father was in bed with me and we had intercourse.' " At the meeting, Gina also described another incident when Kownacki came into the bathroom as she cleaned, closed the door, and started kissing her.
Gina told the officers of the Diocese that Kownacki told her that he had money and could send her to school to study art. When Kownacki was assigned to the parish in Washington Park, Illinois, he convinced Gina's parents to allow her to go to Washington Park with him. Kownacki told her parents that he would send Gina to school and would pay her $200 per month to be his housekeeper. Gina told the Diocese's bishop and chancellor about incidents of physical and sexual abuse she endured at the hands of Kownacki after they moved to Washington Park. The abuse continued regularly for nearly two years. Kownacki gave her alcohol and assured her that the sexual abuse was a good thing because God wanted people to love each other. The last incident occurred in March of 1973. At Washington Park, Gina eventually started dating a classmate, Carlos, and Kownacki became jealous of that relationship. At one point, Kownacki slapped Gina, called her a whore and a slut, and told her she was wrong in sharing her body with Carlos.
Kownacki told Gina about his housekeeper in Guatemala with whom he had sexual relations, and he boasted about many other girls who came to him in Guatemala "just for the pleasure of sex." Kownacki told Gina that his housekeeper in Guatemala became pregnant. He told Gina that he was not the father of the housekeeper's child because he was sterile but that he came back to the United States to get away from her. At some point, Sullivan's notes continue, Gina also became pregnant. Kownacki reported to Gina that his doctor had now told him that he was not sterile. Gina did not know if her child's father was Kownacki or her boyfriend. Kownacki told Gina that if she did not want the baby, she could have an abortion. He gave Gina a drink on two different days for the purpose of aborting the baby. Kownacki also told Gina that if the drinks did not work, he could "squeeze it out." Gina told the Diocese's bishop and chancellor that Kownacki put his fingers inside her, against her will, and tried to abort the baby, which caused her pain and a cervical infection.
At the meeting, Gina also reported to the Diocese that a pair of twin boys from Guatemala lived with Kownacki while he was assigned to the parish in Washington Park. According to Sullivan's notes, Gina reported that one of the twins engaged in "homosexuality" with Kownacki. Gina also reported the name of another 14-year-old girl at the St. Martin of Tours parish in Washington Park whom she believed Kownacki was also involved with. Sullivan's notes identified the girl by name. His notes indicated that Kownacki told Gina that he went to confession every week or so and that the bishop knew what he was doing. At the conclusion of their meeting with Gina and her family, the bishop and the chancellor determined that they needed to speak with Kownacki.
On April 26, 1973, Kownacki wrote Gina a letter, in which he said, among other things, "[D]espite scandal, reputation to me as a priest, *** I will always see that you are through this little crisis." He told her that he was really concerned and cared about her and always would. He hoped that she was feeling much better and that she was happy. He told her that she had been the best part of his life in Washington Park and in St. Francisville. The next day, April 27, 1973, the bishop and the chancellor met with Kownacki at the chancery to discuss Gina's allegations. At the end of his typewritten notes, Sullivan made a note of their meeting with Kownacki and further wrote as follows: "We told him the whole story without the details. We said he needs help."
After his meeting at the chancery, Kownacki wrote a second letter to Gina. In a letter dated May 2, 1973, he wrote to Gina as follows: "Guess it's time to say 'adios' to a great little girl who will always be remembered as the best girl I knew and hoping I'm cured of my problem[;] you'll always be in my mind." He wrote that it took "shock from all sides" to make him realize that he needed help. He wrote that he would suffer "like Cain" in the future when people point a finger at him and say that he is an alcoholic and "a real mental case." He told Gina, "[The] parishioners know only that I'm going away for a rest because of a possible nervous breakdown (which is literally true, too!)." He wrote, "Blot out from your memory the past two years and if you cannot, then all I ask is. . . . forgive me!" He told Gina that she could get his address but that he presumed she still thought of him as "that monster" who ruined her future.
At some point, the Diocese obtained copies of Kownacki's letters to Gina. The record does not indicate how or when the Diocese obtained copies of the letters, but the record discloses that it had copies of Kownacki's letters as early as 1984. The Diocese's copies of Kownacki's letters to Gina were placed in his personnel file, but Sullivan's handwritten and transcribed notes were not. Instead, the Diocese kept Sullivan's notes in a separate location that was undisclosed in the record.
Prior to the 1990s, the Diocese did not have any specific policies or rules with respect to handling allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. The Catholic Church's code of canon law, however, set out certain standards and rules that the Diocese was required to follow. The code of canon law required the bishop, or someone he delegated, to investigate allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct that were brought against any priest within the Diocese, and if the investigation showed the probability that something had happened, then a judicial trial was to be held. The Diocese, however, did not conduct any trial with respect to Gina's allegations of abuse.
Instead, approximately 11/2 months after Gina reported Kownacki to the Diocese, Bishop Zuroweste asked Kownacki to resign as the pastor of St. Martin of Tours. Kownacki subsequently resigned from the parish effective June 28, 1973. The Diocese did not investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct by Kownacki while he was in Guatemala or the allegations of sexual misconduct involving the twin boys from Guatemala or the 14-year- old girl at St. Martin of Tours whom Gina had identified by name. In addition, the Diocese never disclosed the allegations of sexual abuse to any authorities or to any of the parishioners of St. Martin of Tours in Washington Park or the parishioners in St. Francisville. No one from the Diocese reached out to Gina to offer her any assistance in dealing with Kownacki's abuse. Less than four months after removing Kownacki from the parish in Washington Park, the Diocese appointed Kownacki to St. Theresa's parish in Salem, Illinois.
Wisniewski's Childhood Before and After Meeting Kownacki Wisniewski was born in 1961 in Wisconsin, and he was the second youngest child in a family of five children. At the time of the trial, he was 47 years old. Both of Wisniewski's parents, Mel and Marcy, were raised in devout Catholic families in Wisconsin. Mel and Marcy attended Catholic grade schools and high schools in Wisconsin, went to church every week, and raised their children in the same Catholic traditions and environment. They took their children to church every Sunday, and they raised Wisniewski and his siblings to respect the priests of the church, to believe that they spoke God's word, and to be actively involved in church life. Mel testified that Catholic priests, monsignors, and bishops were put on a pedestal in his family. Mel raised his family to do whatever the agents of the church said and to never question them.
Mel and Marcy moved their family from Wisconsin to rural Salem, Illinois, in 1964, when Wisniewski was three years old. They moved to Salem so Mel could open a retail music store. The only Catholic church in Salem, Illinois, was St. Theresa's Catholic Church. Before moving their family to Salem, Mel and Marcy visited the church to meet the priest who was serving the church at that time. They joined St. Theresa's before moving their family to Salem, and they have been members of that church ever since.
After moving to Salem, W isniewski and his brother and sisters became active in Catholic church life at St. Theresa's parish. They attended the Catholic grade school in Salem before it closed, they received religious instructions and training at the church, and the bishop of the Diocese confirmed them into the faith. They attended mass every Sunday and sometimes during the week. Wisniewski's father served as a commentator during mass at times. Wisniewski testified that he grew up to love the church and its teachings and to believe in the church. From a very young age, he was taught to respect the priests, to believe what they said was true, and to obey them.
Wisniewski and his parents described Salem in the 1970s as a small, friendly community, where everyone knew one another. The parents in Salem looked out for one another's children, and the children rode their bicycles around the town without any concern from the parents. As a boy, Wisniewski was quiet and obedient. He did what he was told to do and never got into trouble. In 1973, he turned 12 years old and enjoyed a healthy and happy childhood. The course of Wisniewski's life, however, was forever altered on November 8, 1973, when the Diocese appointed Raymond F. Kownacki as the priest at St. Theresa's in Salem.
On October 26, 1973, the bishop sent a letter to Kownacki informing him of his appointment as the pastor of St. Theresa's parish in Salem, Illinois, effective November 8, 1973. Speaking on behalf of the Diocese, the bishop told Kownacki that they were confident that he would find the people of the parish "responsive to [Kownacki's] pastoral zeal." In addition, the bishop expressed appreciation to Kownacki for his "help in solving the problems in Guatemala."
The Diocese prepared an official appointment of Kownacki as the parish priest that was addressed to Kownacki. The official appointment sent to Kownacki, or a similar document addressed to the parish, would have been read to the parishioners of St. Theresa's parish. The bishop's official appointment stated that he had confidence in Kownacki's knowledge, piety, prudence, experience, and general character. The Diocese's official appointment "command[ed] all, whom it may concern, to recognize [Kownacki] as such Pastor and grant [him] all necessary assistance." No one from the Diocese informed the parishioners of St. Theresa's about Kownacki's past violence, sexual abuse, or sexual misconduct. At the trial, the Diocese's official corporate representative, Monsignor James Margason, testified that by appointing Kownacki as the parish priest, the Diocese held Kownacki out as being safe and suitable to minister to the parishioners and have unsupervised contact with the parishioners' children. No one from the Diocese restricted or supervised Kownacki's contact with the minor children of St. Theresa's. Since Mel and Marcy had no reason to distrust Kownacki, they put their full faith and trust in him to minister to their children.
Shortly after he came to St. Theresa's, Kownacki met Wisniewski and began giving him special attention. Wisniewski took over the duties of taking care of the grounds around the church and around the priest's residence, the rectory. With Marcy's encouragement, Wisniewski also became an altar boy shortly after Kownacki arrived. Wisniewski started spending more time around the church than with his friends, and Mel and Marcy thought that was good because Wisniewski was helping the church. Mel's retail music business required him to work long hours; so he and Marcy were pleased that their trusted priest had developed a special interest in their youngest son. Neither Mel nor Marcy had any reservations about Wisniewski working for Kownacki, because he was a priest.
At the trial, Wisniewski testified that he initially considered Kownacki a friend and someone to look up to. Kownacki related well to the children of the parish and was fun to be around. Wisniewski was interested in photography, and Kownacki purchased cameras and set up a darkroom in the church basement. Kownacki encouraged Wisniewski to take pictures around the parish community and at parish activities to be included in a parish newsletter and bulletin that Kownacki had planned. Wisniewski became interested in and talked to Kownacki about the priesthood and the functions of a priest. With the Diocese's endorsement, Kownacki had the complete trust and confidence of St. Theresa's parishioners, including Wisniewski and his parents.
A few months after getting to know Wisniewski, Kownacki asked him and another boy to spend the night with him at the rectory. That night, Wisniewski and the other boy watched movies with Kownacki. Kownacki plied them with alcohol. Wisniewski testified that it was hard alcohol of some type and that he had never had alcohol prior to that evening. As the evening progressed, the other boy became sleepy, and he retired to a spare bedroom in the rectory. Unfortunately, Wisniewski stayed awake watching television with Kownacki. Kownacki moved over to Wisniewski and started rubbing the 12-year-old's shoulders and kissing his neck. Kownacki's hand moved down and rubbed Wisniewski's genitalia. Wisniewski had not been previously exposed to any kind of sexual encounter or education, and he was taught to obey and trust priests. He was confused. Kownacki led Wisniewski into his bedroom, took off Wisniewski's clothes, and took off his own clothes. Kownacki performed oral sex on Wisniewski while he masturbated himself. After the molestation, Kownacki fell asleep. Wisniewski got up, washed himself, and went back into the other room. Wisniewski did not say anything to his parents or anyone else the next day because he was afraid he would get in trouble.
Wisniewski testified that additional incidents of sexual abuse continued after that evening on a continual basis for several years. The next incident of abuse occurred shortly after the first one, and the sexual abuse became "very routine." The abuse consisted of mainly oral sex that occurred in the rectory, in the school, in the church, and in the darkroom that Kownacki had built for Wisniewski. Kownacki eventually told the other boys who also worked around the church that they were no longer needed, so that he could be alone with Wisniewski. Kownacki took Wisniewski on trips to St. Louis, Chicago, W ashington, D.C., Guatemala, and Rome. Wisniewski testified that Kownacki sexually molested him on some overnight trips.
At the trial, Wisniewski did not remember the exact number of times he was molested by Kownacki, but he remembered it being more than 50 times. At first the abuse occurred on a weekly basis, but as the years went by and as Wisniewski became an older adolescent, the abuse tapered off and eventually ended by the time he was a sophomore or junior in high school.
A psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Peterson, testified that Kownacki utilized two coercive tactics to keep Wisniewski silent about and submissive to the abuse: positive coercion and negative coercion. At first, Kownacki used positive coercion by giving Wisniewski special attention in order to set him up for easy manipulation. In addition, Kownacki's positive coercive tactics included telling Wisniewski that the sexual molestation was okay, that the Church condoned that sort of thing, and that there were other priests in the Diocese who did the same thing. Kownacki also used positive coercion by telling Wisniewski that the abuse was his way of relieving his stress. He also told Wisniewski that it proved that he was growing up and that it was good for him. Wisniewski testified that since he was taught to obey and believe the priest, he trusted Kownacki. He believed that what he was doing was okay because of what Kownacki told him. Peterson testified that Kownacki overwhelmed Wisniewski and programmed him to accept the behavior as good.
However, there were times during the abuse that Wisniewski felt guilty about what was happening to him, and Kownacki could sense Wisniewski's reluctance at these times. Kownacki then utilized what Peterson described as negative coercive tactics. At times when Wisniewski resisted Kownacki's molestation, Kownacki threatened to tell everyone that Wisniewski was gay, to ruin Wisniewski's parents' business, and to force his family to move out of town. Kownacki kept a box next to his bed that contained a handgun, and there were times when Kownacki made threats to use the gun if Wisniewski ever told anyone about what was happening between them. One time Kownacki threatened to kill Wisniewski's parents, and another time he threatened to kill himself. Kownacki's threats scared Wisniewski, and he took them seriously. In addition, Wisniewski did not want his friends or anyone else to know what was happening, and he was afraid of people finding out if he said anything. Wisniewski testified that many times Kownacki was drunk when he made the threats and that Kownacki was mean when he was drunk.
Wisniewski testified that he continued to work around the parish grounds and agreed to go on trips with Kownacki because Kownacki had befriended him and, at the same time, he was afraid of Kownacki's threats. He did not know what Kownacki was capable of, and in addition, he was still trusting, believing, and putting his faith in the Catholic priest.
Mel and Marcy had completely trusted Kownacki with their son and had no reservations about Wisniewski being around him. They testified that, had the Diocese told them that Kownacki had sexually molested other children in the past, they would not have allowed Wisniewski or any of their other children to be around him. However, no one from the Diocese told them anything about Kownacki's past. Instead, the bishop publicly gave Kownacki his full confidence, vouched for his suitability to serve as the parish priest, and held him out as suitable to minister to and have unsupervised contact with the parish children.
Wisniewski graduated from high school in 1980, moved to Champaign, Illinois, and enrolled in Parkland College. At that point, Wisniewski wanted to move on with his life, and he successfully mastered the ability to put Kownacki's molestation out of his mind. Although he never totally forgot about the abuse, he became successful in blocking it out of his mind. He did not let the abuse impact his daily activities or his psychological health. Wisniewski felt comfort in believing that he was Kownacki's only victim. Kownacki had told him that he was the only one, and Wisniewski believed what Kownacki said. In addition, Wisniewski had no reason to believe that the Diocese had any knowledge relevant to Kownacki's dangerous propensities. For a few years after Wisniewski moved away from Salem, Kownacki continued to serve as the priest at St. Theresa's. Kownacki performed the marriages of Wisniewski's brother and two of his sisters. Kownacki visited Wisniewski on a few occasions in Champaign, and he agreed to visit with Kownacki because he was afraid of the ramifications of telling him no.
Additional Acts of Child Sexual Abuse and the Diocese's Silence and Concealment Meanwhile, Kownacki's sexual molestation and misconduct continued within the Diocese after Wisniewski left Salem, and the officers of the Diocese were aware of his continuing misconduct and abuse. In 1982, someone within the Diocese prepared a confidential report that detailed new allegations of sexual molestation by Kownacki. The report was not signed, and the evidence presented at the trial did not establish who authored the report. The evidence did establish, however, that the report was prepared by someone within the Diocese. The Diocese did not keep the report in Kownacki's personnel file but kept it in an undisclosed location in the chancery.
The 1982 report described information that the Diocese had received from the parents of a high school freshman boy at St. Theresa's parish in Salem. The parents reported an incident involving Kownacki and their son. The freshman boy had been mowing Kownacki's grass, and Kownacki called him on a Saturday and asked him to stay overnight. The freshman boy went jogging or had a track meet, and when he returned to the rectory, Kownacki told him to take a shower and that he would give him a massage. The report stated as follows: "This is when everything happened: fondling, kissing etc. [The boy] wanted to go home but [Kownacki] made him stay all night."
The Diocese's report also stated that Kownacki told the boy about two other parish boys whom he had also been involved with at one time. The report stated, "One is Jim Wisniewski (spelling?)." The boy did not remember the other victim's name. According to the report, Kownacki told the freshman about the other boys because the boy was upset by what Kownacki was trying to do to him. Kownacki told him, "This is okay; I've done it before." He told him that it was "a sign of friendship" and made him promise not to tell his parents.
The 1982 report stated that the mother of the freshman boy also reported to the Diocese that there was "an element of fear in her family" because she and her husband were concerned that Kownacki "might become vicious" after he found out she had reported him. They were keeping their doors locked and were careful where their children went. The unknown author of the 1982 confidential Diocese report concluded that Kownacki was "sick." The Diocese representative who prepared the report assured the parents that something would be done. The report indicates that the parents responded that if something was not done, they would file a lawsuit because they did not want the same thing to happen to any other parish boys.
In 1982, Joseph Schwaegel served as the secretary to the bishop as well as the vice-chancellor of the Diocese. Schwaegel testified that, after the parents of the freshman boy complained to the Diocese that Kownacki had sexually molested their son, he had at least one conversation with the parents and asked them to keep quiet about what had happened. Schwaegel testified that the Diocese did not want to "go hanging the dirty laundry all over the line." Therefore, he told the parents not to let "this get out all over the parish." He told them, "Let's just keep it quiet and try to get this resolved in whatever manner the Diocese will decide how to resolve this."
Schwaegel testified that, because of what the parents reported, he became aware that Wisniewski might have been a victim of sexual abuse committed by Kownacki. However, he did not make any attempt to contact Wisniewski or his parents. In addition, no one else from the Diocese contacted Wisniewski or his parents upon learning that Wisniewski had been molested by Kownacki. At the trial, Schwaegel was asked: "This boy [Wisniewski] was forgotten. He was written off as dirty laundry, wasn't he?" Schwaegel answered, "Yes."
Although he was aware of the 1982 confidential memo at the time it was prepared, at the trial, Schwaegel denied ever seeing Sullivan's 1973 notes that detailed Kownacki's child sexual abuse of Gina. He testified that he was not working at the chancery when Sullivan created those notes and that there had been no need for Sullivan to share that information with him after he arrived at the chancery in late June of 1973.
After the parents reported Kownacki's abuse of their freshman son, the Diocese removed Kownacki as the parish priest at St. Theresa's in Salem and immediately reassigned him as the pastor of St. Joseph's parish in Cobden, Illinois, effective July 6, 1982. At this time, the bishop of the Diocese was John N. Wurm. On June 8, 1982, Bishop Wurm sent Kownacki a letter informing him that his new appointment was in view of his "dedicated priestly services" to the local church of Belleville. The bishop stated in his letter, "I heartily commend you to all the people of your parish." When he was transferred to Cobden, Kownacki did not receive a pay cut, a demotion, a demerit, or any mark on his record.
When the Diocese removed Kownacki as the parish priest at St. Theresa's, it did not inform the parishioners that it had removed him because of allegations of sexual abuse. Although Bishop Wurm and other officers at the chancery were aware of the contents of the confidential 1982 report, the Diocese did not inform anyone at the parishes in Salem or in Cobden about the allegations brought by the mother of the freshman boy or about the allegation that Kownacki had molested Wisniewski and another boy at the parish. In addition, the Diocese did not tell any parishioners about prior allegations that Kownacki had committed sexual abuse and misconduct in Guatemala, with the twin boys he brought back from Guatemala, with Gina Parks, or with the 14-year-old girl at St. Martin of Tours. Instead, the Diocese held Kownacki out as an appropriate priest to minister to the parishioners in Cobden and to have unsupervised contact with the parishioners' minor children. Schwaegel testified that when Kownacki was transferred to Cobden, everyone at the chancery knew that Kownacki was sick and liked to molest children. However, the Diocese did not provide any special supervision over Kownacki after he was transferred to Cobden.
On June 21, 1982, the local newspaper in Salem printed an article about Kownacki's transfer to Cobden. The article reported that Kownacki was leaving St. Theresa's parish because he had asked the bishop for an assignment in Cobden to "work with the Hispanic community in the Cobden area." Kownacki was quoted in the article as follows: " 'I find this assignment just another deep challenge of ministry ***. *** I have always loved the Spanish culture and even though I consider myself a "liberal-conservative," I think I can be of help to the People of God of the Cobden area. Otherwise I would not have asked for a change in ministry.' "
The parents of the freshman boy at St. Theresa's who had reported Kownacki to the Diocese were not happy with the contents of the newspaper article, and they wrote a letter addressed to Vice-Chancellor Schwaegel to express their displeasure. The parents stated in their letter that it had been a difficult time for their family and that they knew that the way that the bishop handled "the situation" was best for the parish and the "Catholic church as a whole." However, the parents included a copy of the article with their letter and stated, "Here is a man, a priest who committed a very serious sin and instead of being sorry and leaving quietly, he pads it by lying." The letter stated that the family had done as they were asked and had not "said anything to anybody."
Schwaegel responded to the parents in a letter dated June 25, 1982. Schwaegel told the family in his letter that he could understand their "difficulty in accepting the manner in which [Kownacki] describe[d] his termination at Salem and new assignment in Cobden." Schwaegel continued, "Since you have been so kind in the manner in which you handled this situation, I am giving [Kownacki] the benefit of the doubt and praying that he truly desires to make a fresh start." After telling the family that it was difficult to let "bygones be bygones," he stated that he was sorry that Kownacki had to learn his lesson at the expense of their family.
At the trial, Schwaegel admitted that he gave Kownacki the benefit of the doubt without ever interviewing him. He testified that he relied on others inside the chancery for advice and that it was not his decision alone. In addition, he admitted that Kownacki had not learned any lesson as his letter falsely stated. Instead, the Diocese simply reassigned him to another parish, did not discipline him, and did not even give him a written warning.
For reasons undisclosed in the record, Kownacki was a priest in Cobden for less than a year before the Diocese transferred him to St. Mary's parish in Harrisburg, Illinois. In a letter dated June 13, 1983, Bishop Wurm notified Kownacki that, in view of his "dedicated priestly service," he had been appointed the pastor of St. Mary's parish in Harrisburg and that he heartily commended him to all the people of that parish. Again, the Diocese did not inform the parishioners in Harrisburg about the previous allegations that Kownacki had sexually molested children and engaged in sexual misconduct.
On August 9, 1984, Schwaegel received a telephone call from another priest of the Diocese, Don Abell, who reported problems that the Harrisburg parish was having with Kownacki. Abell reported to Schwaegel that the trustees of the Harrisburg parish were irate over some recent incidents. Kownacki had two boys living in the rectory, and one of them had walked through a plate glass door. Abell told Schwaegel that a doctor had "fixed the kid up" and no one would "say how it happened." Abell reported that Kownacki was paying the two boys $150 per week but that they did "absolutely nothing." According to Abell, the janitor at the church also reported that many times when he arrived at the rectory in the morning, as many as five or six boys left the rectory, and the janitor presumed that they had been there all night. Abell told Schwaegel that Kownacki had "to be removed immediately or there [would] be nothing left of the Harrisburg parish."
Bishop Wurm passed away in April of 1984, and the Diocese was between bishops at the time Abell made the telephone call to Schwaegel. Therefore, Schwaegel drafted a memo to Monsignor James Margason, passing on Abell's information. Margason had been serving as the Diocese's vicar general since October of 1983, and when Bishop Wurm passed away, he was appointed as the administrator of the Diocese until the appointment of a new bishop. In addition, in the 1970s, Margason had obtained a law degree in Rome on the Catholic Church's code of canon law. Schwaegel's memo to Margason concluded with, "good luck, Joe." Schwaegel testified that in signing, "good luck," he meant, "here we go again with Kownacki, so good luck with this one."
Because Schwaegel's memo stated that young boys were living in the rectory, one of Margason's concerns was the possibility of improper sexual activity between Kownacki and the boys. Margason began his investigation by speaking with Chancellor Sullivan at the chancery and asking him if he had any information about allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct involving Kownacki that were not included in Kownacki's personnel file. Sullivan then gave Margason copies of his notes from the meeting with Gina and her family that had occurred back on April 24, 1973. Margason testified that he had not seen Sullivan's notes prior to investigating Kownacki in Harrisburg.
Margason went to Harrisburg and met with the trustees of the Harrisburg parish.
During the meeting, the trustees raised their concerns with Kownacki, including that young boys were living in the rectory, that the boys seemed to do nothing but were being paid, that Kownacki was drinking heavily, and that he had purchased a car in the parish's name. The trustees were concerned because the parish was located in an area that was primarily non-Catholic, and they were concerned that their reputations were being damaged by Kownacki's activities.
Margason also talked to the church's janitor, to Kownacki, and to the two boys who were living in the rectory with Kownacki. He testified that the boys could have been minors, but he was not sure. The two boys admitted that they had been staying at the rectory and had been drinking with Kownacki. They denied any sexual activity. One of the boys stated that he had an interest in becoming a priest. Kownacki and the boys denied that any other boys stayed at the rectory. At the trial, Margason testified that since Kownacki and the boys denied any sexual activity, he had to take their word. However, he did not try to contact the boys' parents.
Margason testified that having two boys living in the rectory was inappropriate and against the Diocesan statutes. Therefore, Margason told Kownacki and the boys that they all had to leave immediately. He offered Kownacki medical help; Kownacki accepted and returned to Belleville. Margason testified that Kownacki was removed from the Harrisburg parish because he was drinking, was misusing parish funds, and had people staying in the rectory who should not have been there.
Margason stayed at the parish in Harrisburg that weekend and performed the parish services, a funeral, and a wake service. When Margason spoke with the Harrisburg parishioners, he told them that Kownacki had some problems and that he hoped the Diocese could get him the help he needed. Margason did not specifically tell the parishioners what kinds of problem Kownacki had or what kind of help he needed. He told the parishioners that it was time for a new beginning and that what had happened in the past was the past. Margason knew that there were stories circulating about Kownacki in the community. He told the parishioners that there was no point in saying "this is what I heard happened" or in repeating stories. Margason emphasized to the parishioners that if there was the slightest doubt in their minds that something they heard was true, then in justice they should not repeat it.
On September 10, 1984, Sullivan sent Kownacki a form for him to sign as his resignation as the pastor of St. Mary's church in Harrisburg, effective August 17, 1984. The document stated that the resignation was due to an illness which prevented him from satisfactorily performing his pastoral duties. Kownacki was placed on sick leave and was assigned to the Hincke House*fn1 as his residence and for treatment. At that time, he was not assigned to another parish.
On December 11, 1984, James P. Keleher was ordained as the Diocese's bishop, and Margason continued to serve as the vicar general under Bishop Keleher. In the late 1970s, the Diocese had established a personnel board that advised the bishop concerning appointments of priests to various parishes and offices in the Diocese. The personnel board members included the bishop, the vicar general, the chancellor, the vice-chancellor, and the secretary to the bishop. After the Diocese removed Kownacki from the Harrisburg parish and admitted him into the Hincke House for treatment, he became the subject of conversation at subsequent meetings of the personnel board. At the time, the personnel board included Bishop Keleher, Margason, Schwaegel, and Sullivan, among others. Schwaegel also served as the secretary of the personnel board, taking notes and preparing minutes.
The personnel review board met on February 26, 1985, and the minutes of that meeting stated that Margason was to visit Kownacki the following day. Nothing in the record reflects the Diocese doing anything further with respect to Kownacki until the April 2, 1985, personnel meeting. The minutes of that meeting stated, "In making assignments, must not forget about Fr. Kownacki." The minutes of the May 9, 1985, meeting of the personnel board stated: "Fr. Kownacki is ready for a parish. Bishop informed him the Board is about ready to come up with a parish."
On May 15, 1985, Bishop Keleher sent Kownacki a letter informing him that he was appointed the pastor of St. Patrick's parish in Tipton, Illinois, and the Immaculate Conception parish in Madonnaville, Illinois. The bishop's letter stated that he was looking forward to Kownacki's graduation from St. Michael's on May 29, 1985, and that he was very pleased with the progress Kownacki made during his time at St. Michael's. Testimony at the trial established that St. Michael's is an alcohol treatment facility for priests.
The bishop told Kownacki in his letter: "[A]s you assume the pastoral responsibility of the parish communities at Tipton and Madonnaville, I am confident you will carry out your mission well in building up the Body of Christ at these two beautiful parishes. I will be also grateful for your strong support of Gibault High School." The bishop concluded his letter with a profession of support for Kownacki in his new position. The letter stated that the appointment was after consultation with and approval by the personnel board. In a letter dated June 25, 1985, the bishop informed Kownacki that he was also appointed the pastor of St. Mary's in Valmeyer, Illinois, after consultation with and approval of the personnel board. The bishop was confident that Kownacki would carry out his "mission well in building up the Body of Christ in these three beautiful parishes."
Again, the Diocese did not inform Kownacki's new parishioners of the past allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct. By appointing Kownacki to these parishes, the Diocese again held him out as a safe and suitable priest to minister to the parishioners and have unsupervised contact with their children. This appointment included attending mass and performing services at Gibault Catholic High School.
Shortly after his new assignment, new allegations of impropriety arose involving Kownacki and young boys. In 1986, the rectory housekeeper at the Valmeyer parish met with Margason to talk about Kownacki and also sent Margason two letters about Kownacki. The housekeeper reported to Margason that there were young boys living in the rectory and that she had found a note in the rectory that was addressed to one of the boys. The note stated as follows: "Dear [redacted name of boy], come up to my bedroom if I am sleeping or not and massage me. I need it. I love you [redacted name of boy]. Ray." The housekeeper also told Margason that she had also found a Playboy magazine in the rectory and found a "sexy picture out of a magazine under his bed." She asked Margason to figure out what was "going on over there with those boys" and stated that "more and more people are going to Waterloo to mass because of [Kownacki] and what they hear." The housekeeper stated that there was "something the matter" with Kownacki and that something had to be done before he wrecked the whole parish.
Margason testified that the note that the housekeeper described was inappropriate for a priest to write to a young boy. Very soon after receiving this information, Margason went to Valmeyer to talk with the housekeeper, Kownacki, and the two young boys. Kownacki told Margason that there had not been any inappropriate activity with the boys but that he did not deny that the two young boys were spending time with him at the rectory. Margason did not know whether the boys were minors, and no one from the Diocese contacted their parents.
In March of 1987, Kownacki was no longer the priest in Tipton, but he was still the priest at Valmeyer and Madonnaville. The personnel board met on March 18, 1987, and the meeting was attended by, among others, Bishop Keleher, Abell, Margason, Sullivan, and Schwaegel. The minutes of this meeting state as follows: "This led to much discussion on Fr. Kownacki. Bishop said while we must take care of a brother priest, the diocese must also be considered. Much discussion." On April 7, 1987, the personnel board met again, and the minutes stated that "nothing much ha[d] changed" with respect to Kownacki and that the board "agreed he should be moved from Valmeyer now." (Emphasis in original.) The board discussed placement options and concluded that placing Kownacki in a hospital chaplaincy ministry could be dangerous. They determined that he should be moved to the Hincke House again, but one member of the board, Father Eichenseer, was concerned that Kownacki would have a lot of free time to go wherever he wanted and questioned how he would be supervised and who would do the supervising. Sullivan stressed that Kownacki must be active and not just sit around.
The record indicates that the Diocese subsequently removed Kownacki from his parishes and assigned him to Poor Clares, which is a cloistered convent for nuns and where there were no children. Margason testified that the Diocese removed Kownacki from his parishes because he was drinking again and having people living in the rectory who did not belong there. The Diocese again did not provide Kownacki's parishioners with any information concerning the reasons for his reassignment.
In a letter dated June 22, 1988, Bishop Keleher informed Kownacki that he had been appointed to residence at St. Henry's parish in Belleville, "after consultation and approval of the Priest Personnel Board." Testimony at the trial established that St. Henry's parish is next door to St. Henry's Catholic Grade School and is near Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville. However, the Diocese did not provide the parishioners of St. Henry's with any information concerning the past allegations of child sexual abuse and held Kownacki out as being a safe and suitable priest to minister to the parishioners and have unsupervised contact with their children.
As noted above, prior to the 1990s, the Catholic Church's code of canon law required the bishop, or someone whom he delegated, to investigate allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, and if the investigation showed the probability that something had happened, then a judicial trial was to be held. The Diocese did not conduct any such trials during the '60s, '70s, or '80s. In addition, Margason testified that, to his knowledge, during this period of time, the Diocese did not disclose to ...