Man accused in abuse cases removed from priesthood


Share
Originally Posted Online: Feb. 08, 2013, 1:01 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 08, 2013, 1:02 pm
Print this story | Email this story

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Vatican's defrocking of a Roman Catholic priest whose alleged molestations of an altar boy decades ago cost a southern Illinois diocese and its insurer $6.3 million was welcomed Friday by the victim's attorney as long overdue.

In a statement published in the Diocese of Belleville's newspaper, Bishop Edward Braxton said 78-year-old Raymond Kownacki's defrocking took effect Jan. 11 as part of a papal decree that called the move 'for the good of the church.'

'It was a complete surprise. I had no idea it was in the works,' said Mike Weilmuenster, the attorney who successfully sued the diocese on behalf of James Wisniewski, who said he was repeatedly molested by Kownacki for years during the 1970s.

'But I'm pleased it's finally been done — better late than never. But it makes you wonder what took so long, and why now,' Weilmuenster said, then pointing to Kownacki's advanced age. 'He's 78, and his true judgment is coming right soon.'

Kownacki, who lives in a suburban St. Louis nursing home, has declined media requests for interviews. He has not faced criminal charges linked to sexual misconduct.

Kownacki was not part of the Wisniewski lawsuit that targeted the diocese. He was removed from priestly duties in 1995 by a diocesan review board.

Wisniewski sued in 2002, alleging that Kownacki sexually abused him dozens of times over five years at St. Theresa's Parish in Salem, Ill., beginning when he was 13. The priest, Wisniewski testified, at times showed him a handgun, threatening to kill the child's parents if he ever told.

The lawsuit also claimed the diocese hid Kownacki's suspected behavior and quietly shuffled him among parishes without notification.

Wisniewski won a $5 million jury award in 2008 in Illinois' St. Clair County, just east of St. Louis. Three years later, Wisniewski received more than $6.3 million in checks from the diocese and its insurer, reflecting the jury award and the interest that accrued as the diocese appealed the verdict.

A separate lawsuit against Kownacki, filed in 2003 by a man identified as John Doe, alleged that victim mowed the lawn at the Salem parish, where Kownacki was pastor from 1979 to 1986. That case was settled in 2009 for $1.2 million.

Monsignor Rev. John Myler, a spokesman for the Belleville diocese that serves 100,000 Catholics in Illinois' 28 southernmost counties, called Kownacki's defrocking 'part of a long, terrible ordeal.' But he declined additional comment beyond Braxton's statement.







Commenting is closed for this story









 



Local events heading








  Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Port Byron passengers and mails will be transported by the Sterling and Rock Island railroad.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The congregation of the First Methodist church worshiped in Harper's theater, where construction work is being done at the church site.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Three-eye baseball for Moline was assured the Danville Franchise will be transferred to the Plow city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Roseville Methodist Church is observing its 100th anniversary.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The last remaining unfinished portion of Interstate 80 between the Quad-Cities and Joliet will be opened to traffic by Aug 12.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Of all the highlights of the last 12 years, this is the greatest of all, said Dennis Hitchcock, producer director of Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, as he torched the mortgage, clearing a $220,000 loan financing the downtown Rock Island theater's beginnings in 1977.




(More History)