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  Former Altar Boy Sues Priest Removed in 1995
Man, Now 36, Alleges Kownacki Abused Him

By Patrick J. Powers
News-Democrat [Belleville IL]
September 26, 2003

BELLEVILLE - A second former altar boy from St. Theresa's Church in Salem filed suit on Thursday against the retired Rev. Raymond Kownacki and the Diocese of Belleville.

The 36-year-old man, who filed the case anonymously as "John Doe," claims the diocese knew of previous allegations against Kownacki and covered them up, moving Kownacki from parish to parish without regard for parishioners there.

Through a prepared statement provided by his attorney, John Doe stated that after learning about the church's involvement, "I felt that not doing anything was the same as condoning their actions."

Kownacki, 69, declined to comment when reporters visited his one-bedroom apartment in Dupo. The apartment is located one block from Dupo Community High School.

Monsignor James Margason, vicar general for the diocese, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The man first met Kownacki when he became an active parishioner at the rural St. Theresa's. He was an altar boy, mowed the church's lawn and even contemplated becoming a priest. He was 12 when Kownacki first molested him in 1979, according to court documents.

The lawsuit asks for more than $50,000 in monetary and punitive damages

However, the man says he didn't fully realize the extent of the psychological damage caused by the abuse until last year. He is now married with two children.

Despite time limitations on lawsuits, the suit says the man should be able to sue Kownacki now because he only realized last year the psychological damage he sustained; and because the case involves alleged fraud on the part of the diocese by sending Kownacki from parish to parish without disclosing his past.

The case -- filed Thursday by attorney Patrick Noaker of St. Paul, Minn. -- is the third civil case filed against Kownacki in St. Clair County.

"These lawsuits force us to recognize ... that there are a lot of people who are hurt ... by these child-molesting priests and those who protect them," said Noaker, whose law firm has filed more than 1,000 sexual abuse lawsuits against clergy.

Kownacki was previously accused of sexual abuse in a 1995 lawsuit filed by Gina Trimble Parks. Parks was hired in 1970 by Kownacki to clean the rectory at St. Francis Xavier Church in St. Francisville. She was 15 at that time.

She later went with Kownacki to St. Martin of Tours Church in Washington Park, where she worked until 1973. During her time at the two parishes, Parks alleged that Kownacki repeatedly raped her, performed voodoo rituals on her and forced her to have an abortion.

The Illinois Supreme Court dismissed Parks' case in August 2000 because it was past the two-year statute of limitations in which to file charges.

In October, James Wisniewski of Champaign filed a suit against Kownacki alleging the retired priest sexually abused him while he was a parishioner and altar boy at St. Theresa's from 1973 to 1978. This case is only other abuse case pending against the diocese in St. Clair County.

Kownacki was removed from active ministry in January 1995, three months before Parks' case was filed, and banned from celebrating Mass or wearing a priest's collar. He has since retired from the priesthood.

 
 

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