Board Investigating Abuse by Priests Didn't Get Key Info

By Nicholas J.C. Pistor
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

August 9, 2008

BELLEVILLE Former Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory and diocesan officials didn't turn over key information to a civilian review board investigating allegations of sexual abuse by priests, a former administrator for the board said in a court deposition made public on Friday.

Margaret Mensen, the former administrator for a civilian review board investigating priestly misconduct, said neither Gregory nor diocesan officials handed over information alleging that the Rev. Raymond Kownacki abused a 14 year-old girl something she said she would have investigated.

Bishop Wilton Gregory
Photo by Ron Edmonds

"I'm getting new information here," Mensen said in a July court deposition while being questioned about what information was turned over to her by Gregory.

Mensen also said the review board did not have access to documents kept on allegations of sex abuse that predated its formation in 1993.

"This shows that oftentimes church officials give the review boards inaccurate and inadequate information," said David Clohessy, the national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The revelation came in a lawsuit filed by a former altar boy who's suing Kownacki and the Belleville Diocese for alleged sexual abuse during the 1970s.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto has set the trial for Aug. 18, but the diocese has appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court to stop the start of trial. Diocesan lawyers had sought to have the suit thrown out saying the statute of limitations had lapsed.

Gregory, now the archbishop of Atlanta, frequently is mentioned in media reports as a candidate under consideration to replace the archbishop of New York. He was widely praised for his openness involving church abuse allegations.

Pat Shivers, speaking on behalf of the Atlanta Archdiocese, said the archbishop doesn't comment on pending legal matters.

Kownacki, 73, was a former pastor at St. Martin of Tours Church in Washington Park, among other places in the Belleville Diocese. He was removed from active ministry in 1995 but not defrocked. He lives in Dupo.

The diocese shuffled Kownacki around to various parishes despite persistent allegations of sexual misconduct, according to the court depositions. In one case in the 1970s, Kownacki was accused of raping a girl who later became pregnant and then trying to squeeze her uterus to force the baby out.

After complaints stemming from the incident, Kownacki was sent for alcohol treatment, according to testimony from the Rev. James Margason, former vicar general of the Belleville Diocese.

Kownacki later was moved to a parish in Salem, Ill., and then to parishes in Tipton, Madonnaville and Valmeyer in the 1980s, but the parishes were not informed of the past allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct of Kownacki.

The civil trial involving Kownacki is still set for later this month.

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