Nun gets one year in jail for abusing teens

February 2, 2008
By Duaa Eldeib, Staff writer

A 79-year-old Oak Lawn nun was sentenced to one year in jail and 10 years probation Friday for sexual encounters with two boys at a Milwaukee grade school where she taught and served as principal during the 1960s.

Norma Giannini, the Roman Catholic nun who taught in four Sisters of Mercy schools in the Southland - including Christ the King grade school in Chicago's Beverly community from 1969-72 and at Mother McAuley High School in the Mount Greenwood community from 1972-76- was facing up to 20 years in prison after a no contest plea in November.

The victims were 12 and 13 at the time and allegedly were abused more than 160 times in four years.

Giannini confessed in 1996 to having sex with the boys and has been closely monitored and separated from minors since then, an official of the Sisters of Mercy had said.

A one-year sentence at the Milwaukee County House of Correction came as a "bittersweet" conclusion in the more than yearlong case for Mary Guentner, Wisconsin director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"I don't think that Sister Giannini showed any remorse in her statement. She didn't say 'I'm sorry,' " Guentner said.

Although pleased Giannini received jail time, Guentner said it wasn't enough.

"While we're glad that she will be incarcerated, a year is nothing compared to what her victims suffered and continue to suffer," she said. "There's a clear disparity between the treatment of a female perpetrator and a male perpetrator."

Paul Tiffin, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted Giannini, said he didn't believe gender played a role in the judge's decision.

"I thought it was a fair sentence," said Tiffin, who added the sentencing had more to do with Giannini's age, health and "who she is at this point in time."

"This case was just so unusual in terms of the time between the offense and that we don't see any other offenses since then," Tiffin said.

Giannini's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.

Guentner, who said the judge "struggled" with the case, said the men who were abused remained courageous throughout the process.

"Her good works don't cancel out the damage she caused," she said.

Duaa Eldeib can be reached at or (70 633-5960