Diocese Urged to Release Records
Bishop Says Church Will Continue to Fight Court Order

By Nicklaus Lovelady
News-Democrat [Belleville IL]
July 4, 2005

BELLEVILLE - The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests are encouraging Belleville Diocese parishioners to make their leaders surrender medical records of a priest accused of sexually abusing children.

Members of the group stood outside St. Peter Cathedral Sunday, passing leaflets to parishioners leaving Mass. The fliers asked them to persuade church leaders to obey Friday's court order to release the medical records of Rev. Raymond Kownacki, 70, who is accused of abusing two boys in the 1970s.

After Sunday's Mass, Bishop Edward K. Braxton said the diocese will continue to fight the Fifth Appellate Court's decision.

"I am in the early stages of studying this case and these documents, but the present advice we have is to appeal the court's decision," Braxton said. "We are not trying to avoid the healing of those who may have been harmed by priest in the past, but we want to protect the privacy of these individuals."

One of the persons passing fliers on Sunday was James Wisniewski, 44, of Champaign.

Wisniewski is one the two people who accused Kownacki of sex abuse. In 2002, he filed a lawsuit claiming the abuses occurred when he was 12.

He said the medical records would show if the diocese knew if Kownacki posed a threat while the priest was still assigned to work in the diocese.

"The whole story has never been told," Wisniewski said, regarding the sex abuse allegations. "I haven't heard their side of the story, and I don't know what that story is. That's what we're trying to figure out."

The appellate court rejected the diocese's legal argument that Kownacki's records should be protected because the state's medical and alcohol counseling protection laws should apply retroactively.

Among the medical information, the court order requests:

Psychiatric or psychological treatments.

Documents that existed before the medical records protection act of 1979.

Alcohol counseling evaluations prior to 1988.

On Jan. 13, 1995, Kownacki was removed from the ministry.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Kownacki was involved with at least three other sex abuse cases. He said one is pending, one was settled and the other was dismissed.

Clohessy said the diocese's efforts to appeal the court's decision prolongs the healing process for victims like Wisniewski.

"The diocese is using hardball legal tactics to delay and delay the release of the documents, instead of reaching out to the victims," Clohessy said.