Nun charged with indecent behavior
December 6, 2006
CatholicChurch leaders were warned more than a decade ago about a formerChicago nun who was charged Monday with repeatedly sexually abusing twoMilwaukee schoolboys, the president of Chicago's Sisters of Mercy saidTuesday.
But Sister Betty Smith said a confidentialityagreement with the man who made the allegations against Sister NormaGiannini in 1992 meant that the order of nuns could not contact policeat the time.
Giannini -- who taught at four Sisters of Mercyschools in the Southland and was principal of two -- faces two countsof indecent behavior with a child dating to her time as principal of aMilwaukee Catholic school in the late 1960s.
She abused theboys, both 13 when the abuse began, more than 160 times over fouryears, according to the charges. They allege that Giannini urged one ofthe boys to remove her habit and feel her breasts, with the abuseeventually progressing to having sexual intercourse with both boys.
Giannini,now 78 and residing in Oak Lawn, was removed from contact withchildren, placed under "close supervision" and given counseling afterthe allegations were first made in 1992, Smith said, adding that noallegations had been made against her in her 23 years of teaching inIllinois.
Giannini taught at Christ the King grade school inChicago's Beverly community from 1969 to 1972 and from 1972 to 1976 atMother McCauley High School in Beverly, serving as dean in her finalyear.
She returned to McCauley in a clerical role from 1982to 1983, before becoming principal at St. Clare de Montefalco gradeschool in the Garfield Ridge community and in 1989 at Most HolyRedeemer grade school in Evergreen Park.
Under questioningfrom an Archdiocese of Milwaukee investigator, Giannini confessed in1996 to having sex with the two Milwaukee boys, according to thecharges filed by the Milwaukee County district attorney's office.
"Shetold (investigators) that she took vows at 16, and she had lived asheltered life and did not know anything about sex," the complaintstates. "She said that it was infatuation, and she was lonely."
Giannini said she believed the sex was consensual because she "thought I was in love with them," according to the complaint.
Herconfession, also made under the confidentiality agreement, was nevershared with the Sisters of Mercy, Smith said, disputing whether itamounted to a legal confession and adding that it was the victim'schoice not to contact police.
"I can say with assurance that we acted responsibly and with due diligence, given what we knew in 1992," Smith said.
Describingthe case as "extremely sad for everyone involved," she said there's"enough sadness too fill way too much space when something like thisoccurs."
Neither the victim's complaint nor Giannini'sconfession was forwarded to authorities, Milwaukee County AssistantDistrict Attorney Paul Tiffin said.
Indecent assault cases inWisconsin normally are not able to be prosecuted after six years, butbecause Giannini has lived in Illinois since the alleged incidents, thestatute of limitations does not apply, prosecutors said.
Archdiocese of Milwaukee spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl referred all questions regarding Giannini to the Sisters of Mercy.
Thecase is a good example of why victims of clergy abuse should contactpolice directly, according to the Survivors Network for those Abused byPriests.
Paul Isely of SNAP said confidentiality agreementswere "almost always" offered by church leaders, rather than requestedby victims, and were designed to legally bind victims to church secrecy.
"Victimsof child abuse very rarely come forward, period," he said. "And whenthey do, they often blame themselves. It's ridiculous to put thereporting requirement on the abused child -- that's why confidentialityagreements aren't allowed nowadays.
"The question is, howmany other confessed abusers are being protected by confidentialityagreements made by this and other orders?" Isely said.
Arrangements were being made Tuesday to arrest Giannini. No court date has yet been set.
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