Trial Set for Monday Raises Questions about Atlanta Archbishop


August 16, 2008

A former Gregory aide testifies that abuse reports were kept secret

For second time in two years, archbishop’s actions in Illinois are questioned

Predator’s been accused of impregnating girl and performing abortion himself

Support group urges Gregory to be ‘open & transparent’ as he has repeatedly promised

A civil child sex abuse trial set to begin on Monday raises troubling questions about how Atlanta’s Catholic archbishop handled child molestation reports in his former diocese.

In a recently released sworn deposition, a former Belleville Diocese official says that then-Bishop Wilton Gregory failed to turn over several cases of alleged clergy sex crimes to a church panel as required by diocesan policy.

Margaret Mensen, the long time head of the diocesan sex abuse review board, repeatedly said under oath recently that neither Gregory nor his second-in-command, Fr. James Margason shared information about reported sex abuse charges. Her deposition was reported publicly on Saturday in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Belleville News Democrat.

The board also got no documents about abuse claims prior to 1993, Mensen said.

Neither Gregory nor his former top aide, Fr. James Margason, has commented on the deposition.

Some of the accusations Gregory kept hidden were made by Jim Wisniewski of Champaign IL against Fr. Raymond Kownacki. Those allegations the subject of a rare civil trial set to begin on Monday in Belleville.

Wisniewski says that between 1973 and1978, Kownacki repeatedly abused him when he was a boy at St. Theresa’s parish in Salem. An earlier lawsuit charged Kownacki will sexually assaulting and impregnating a teenager and performing an abortion on her himself.

“It’s disturbing that a bishop who postured so vigorously as a reformer would ignore his own hand-picked panel and much-touted policy,” said David Clohessy, national director of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “.

Gregory has also come under fire in the case of Fr. Real Bourque, an admitted pedophile priest from Massachusetts. In 2002, Bourque quietly moved into the Belleville diocese, and neither Gregory nor his staff informed anyone. In 2006, Bourque’s presence was disclosed by the media.

And in 2004, an Illinois court found Gregory in contempt for refusing to turn over records as required in a civil child molestation case against a Belleville priest.

“Gregory has always worked hard to cultivate a public image of being responsive and caring with clergy sex cases,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director. “But increasingly, that image seems to be only an image.”

At a news conference this afternoon in Belleville, SNAP leaders will ask current Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton to discipline Margason, for his role in the secrecy.

Margason is now pastor of Corpus Christi church in Shiloh IL. Wisniewski lives in Champaign IL. Kownacki still lives in Dupo, Illinois. He has been suspended but not defrocked, so he’s still on the church payroll.

The victim’s attorneys are Mike Weilmuenster (618 567 3601 cell) and Steve Wigginton (618 960 8161 cell), both of Belleville. Their office is 618 257 2222.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.