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  Belleville Bishop Bans 4 from Ministry

By Robert Kelly
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 14, 1995

Three priests and a deacon in the Belleville Catholic Diocese have been permanently removed from active ministries over allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville announced Friday.

Gregory also announced that one priest would be returned to active ministry after an investigation and another priest had been placed on administrative leave over allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Rev. Daniel Friedman will return to an active ministry. Friedman was removed in September as pastor of St. Paul's Catholic Church in Vienna, Ill., and as chaplain of Camp Ondessonk in Southern Illinois while an allegation of sexual abuse against him was investigated.

A diocesan review board concluded that Friedman was fit to be returned to an active ministry, Gregory said. He and Friedman declined to elaborate on the board's findings.

Friedman's new ministry "has not been defined as yet, and when it is, we will announce it," Gregory said. He said Friedman wouldn't be returned as camp chaplain.

The priest who is newly placed on administrative leave is the Rev. Raymond Kownacki of Belleville - over allegations of sexual misconduct with minors that date back more than 10 years.

The bishop declined to elaborate on the allegations against Kownacki, who most recently has been chaplain of the Poor Clare Monastery in Belleville and a minister to nursing homes in the diocese.

Gregory said Kownacki already had been "removed from any ministry involving any children prior to my arrival in the diocese." Gregory was appointed bishop a year ago.

Kownacki was unavailable for comment, and officials at the monastery declined to comment.

Friday's announcements mean that 11 priests and a deacon in the Belleville Diocese have been removed from active ministries over sexual misconduct allegations since March 1993. Friedman is the first of those to be returned to a ministry.

The allegations - most of which involve incidents said to have happened more than a decade ago - have rocked the diocese, which covers most of Southern Illinois.

Even so, Gregory said he had "the sense that this very painful moment is passing and that we are doing all we can to protect the children in our care . . . . I am a very happy man, and I believe that this church is well on the way to healing."

The three priests and deacon permanently removed from active ministries on Friday are:

The Rev. Walter MacPherson of Washington Park.

The Rev. David Crook of New Baden.

The Rev. Eugene Linnemann of Ruma, in Randolph County.

Deacon Francis Theis of Belleville.

Those four men were removed from active ministries more than a year ago while the diocesan review board studied their cases. The board has recommended that none of them are fit to be returned.

Gregory said MacPherson had retired, Crook had left the diocese, Linnemann was "continuing to review options for his future" and Theis was "no longer employed by the church."

Friedman, who will be returned to active ministry, read a brief statement at a news conference in Belleville Friday and declined to take reporters' questions afterwards.

"This has been a very painful and traumatic experience for all concerned," Friedman said. "Let us continue to pray together for each other. I look forward to reclaiming my life."

David Clohessy of St. Louis, a national officer of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a telephone interview that he was upset that specific information wasn't given about why Friedman was being returned to a ministry.

"I think they owe it to people to say if he is innocent or has been cured" of any sexual dysfunction, Clohessy said. "Even Friedman did not assert his own innocence. I am so frustrated by the fact that (diocesan officials) won't give simple, straightforward answers."

Two priests in the diocese remain on administrative leave pending investigation: the Rev. Edwin Kastner of St. Rose and the Rev. Louis Peterson of Belleville.

In 1993, four other removed priests were permanently barred from the ministry by the diocese. They are the Rev. Jerome Ratermann of Belleville, the Rev. James Calhoun of Germantown, the Rev. Robert Vonnahmen of Elizabethtown, Ill., and the Rev. Robert Chlopecki of Nashville, Ill.

 
 

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