A 78-year-old nun who wasprincipal of a grade school at a south side Milwaukee parish in the1960s was charged Tuesday with having repeated sexual contact with twoboys who attended the school.
Norma Giannini can be prosecuted for the allegations 40 years laterbecause she didn't remain in Wisconsin long enough for the six-yearstatute of limitations then in place to elapse, according to a criminalcomplaint filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Giannini moved toIllinois in 1970, the complaint states.
"I thought I was in love with both of them," Giannini told a panelof the Milwaukee Archdiocese Response to Sexual Abuse in 1996 about sexacts with each of her two accusers while they were under 18 andenrolled in the school at St. Patrick's Congregation, 723 W. WashingtonSt., the complaint says.
"Once I left Milwaukee nothing ever happened. . . . I still don't understand it," Giannini told the panel.
The account of her interview with the panel surfaced, according tothe complaint, in a Sept. 26 John Doe hearing before Circuit JudgeJeffrey Conen. Records from the hearing remain sealed.
The two former students, now 54 and 53 years old, each describedtheir sexual contact with Giannini to police, according to thecomplaint, which states:
One of the victims recounted one of the early sexual encounters withthe nun in which she instructed him to unbutton her habit andindecently touch her breasts. The boy, who was about 13 at the time,was shaking so badly he couldn't undo the buttons.
As time went on, Giannini had more intense sexual contact with theboy, ultimately leading to sexual intercourse inside her south sidehome.
She initiated contact with the other boy, a seventh-grader, afterdiscussing his "Beatle-style hair." The boy said the incident causedhim confusion because he believed nuns were married to Jesus.
After that the boy recalled having more than 100 incidents of sexual contact with Giannini, including intercourse.
Giannini was charged with two felony counts of indecent behaviorwith a child, each of which could carry a maximum sentence of 10 yearsin prison. She was not in custody Tuesday, and a warrant has beenissued for her arrest. Neighbors of an Oak Lawn, Ill., house listed inthe complaint as her address said she has not lived there for twomonths.
In a letter to Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the SurvivorsNetwork of Those Abused by Priests, a national organization of clergyabuse survivors, questioned Tuesday why diocese officials present atthe 1996 panel didn't forward the confession to law enforcement.
"One of these victims went to the archdiocese 10 years ago and theydidn't do anything," said Mary Guentner, Wisconsin SNAP leader.
Milwaukee archdiocesan spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl declined to respondto the SNAP letter, and referred questions to the Sisters of Mercy,Giannini's religious order.
"We want to make sure we put together a thorough chronology before we would be able to make a response," Hohl said.
Guentner said she hoped the charges filed against Giannini would prompt any other possible victims to come forward.
"Our hope is that this encourages other victims of this woman and other victims of nuns to come forward," Guentner said.
Guentner said more than 10 people in Milwaukee claiming they havebeen abused by nuns have spoken with her group, although not all ofthem want their allegations made public. Nationally, SNAP has heardfrom roughly 300 victims of sexual abuse by a nun, Guentner said.
Because of societal bias and other factors, victims of nun abuse maybe less likely to come forward with their allegations than thosemolested by male clergy, Guentner said.
"It's always difficult with a boy reporting abuse from a womanbecause people tend to minimize it," Guentner said. "It's reallyhorrifying what she did to these boys. . . . This woman destroyed theseboys' lives."