Belleville Diocese faces another suit over alleged priest abuse

Kelly Holleran Aug. 7, 2012, 12:17pm


An Illinois man has filed suit against the diocese that he says hired a former Catholic priest who has already settled numerous lawsuits for millions of dollars. In the lawsuit, the man alleges he was abused by the priest for six months.

The man, identified only as John Doe S., claims former priest Raymond Kownacki sexually abused him in 1985 while Doe was a parishoner at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Valmeyer.

Before Kownacki was appointed to St. Mary's, he had served at numerous churches throughout the region, according to the complaint filed July 26 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. The diocese had received reports of various instances of child abuse involving Kownacki, but continued to allow him to work around children, the complaint says. In addition, it failed to warn parishioners of the reports, Doe claims.

Because of the diocese's failure to advise people of the alleged abuse, Doe claims he and his family trusted Kownacki. Doe began staying with Kownacki at the rectory, according to the complaint.

However, it was at the rectory where Doe began to be sexually abused by Kownacki, the suit states.

"Kownacki repeatedly sexually abused John Doe S. by touching or fondling John Doe S.'s genitalia and engaging in oral sex with John Doe S.," the complaint says.

Eventually, the diocese transferred Kownacki away from the children he was abusing. Still, it continued to conceal the abuse, misleading Doe and others to believe that Kownacki had retired, Doe claims.

With time, Doe claims his memories of the abuse faded, then disappeared altogether. However, in 2011, they returned to his consciouness, according to the complaint.

Because he did not remember the abuse until last year, Doe claims the statute of limitations has not expired.

Doe is not the only person to allege abuse against Kownacki. James Wisniewski received $6.3 million when a jury found in his favor for alleged abuse the priest committed in the 1970s. Kownacki also settled a suit in 2009 for $1.2 million, according to news reports. In addition, there are at least three more suits pending against the priest.

Due to his alleged abuse, Doe claims he suffered great pain of his mind and body, including injuries such as post traumatic stress disorder and major depression, and lost his normal life, according to the complaint. He also experienced a diminished earning capacity and incurred medical costs because of the abuse, the suit states.

In his four-count complaint, Doe is seeking a judgment of more than $200,000, plus exemplary damages, costs, attorneys' fees, interest and other relief the court deems just.

He will be represented by J. Michael Weilmuenster, Frederick W. Keck and J. Brian Manion of Weilmuenster Law Group in Belleville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-385.

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