Lawsuit involving allegations of priest abuse moving forward against Belleville Diocese

St. Clair County Associate Judge Vincent Lopinot was assigned Nov. 5 to an Illinois man’s lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Belleville involving allegations of sexual abuse. Plaintiff John Doe S. claims former priest Raymond Kownacki sexually abused him in 1985 while Doe was a parishioner at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Valmeyer. A status conference is set Nov. 19 to determine if the case would go before a jury and if there are amendments or challenges to the pleadings. According to the complaint filed July 26, Kownacki served at area churches before being appointed to the diocesan board. Doe claims the Diocese received reports of child abuse involving Kownacki, but allowed him to work around children without warning parishioners. A stipulated protective order was filed Oct. 12, to keep the plaintiff’s identity confidential. All documents, including deposition transcripts, exhibits, answers to interrogatories and briefs, containing the identity of the plaintiff will be filed in sealed envelopes or other appropriately sealed containers, the court order states. It also states that improper disclosure of the identity of the plaintiff may be punishable by contempt. According to the Diocese, all alleged acts complained of by the plaintiff were a deviation from Kownacki’s scope of employment or agency having no relation to the business of the Diocese or the furtherance thereof. The Diocese also contends in its affirmative defenses filed Aug. 27 that the plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. According to the complaint, because of the Diocese’s failure to advise people of the alleged abuse, Doe claims he and his family trusted Kownacki. Doe claims he suffered pain of his mind and body, including injuries such as post traumatic stress disorder and depression, and lost his normal life. He also claims he experienced a diminished earning capacity and incurred medical costs because of the abuse, the suit states. Doe is seeking a judgment of more than $50,000. He is represented by J. Michael Weilmuenster, Frederick W. Keck and J. Brian Manion of Weilmuenster Law Group in Belleville. David Wells and Catherine Schroeder of Thompson Coburn in St. Louis represent the Diocese. St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-385.

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