Jury Gives $5-million to Clergy Abuse Victim

By Chris Regnier
My Fox St. Louis

August 28, 2008

(KTVI - myFOXstl) - A multi-million dollar verdict Wednesday against the Belleville Diocese in the case of a child abused by a predator priest in the 1970's.

That victim Jim Wisniewski is now 47 years old and living in Champaign, Illinois.

He's married with two adult kids.

But Wisniewski says the emotional scars of what happened in his childhood are still with him.

The alleged sexual abuse took place when Jim was an altar boy at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Salem, Illinois.

Jim says it started when he was just 12 years old in 1973 and went on for three to four years.

Wisniewski says the priest responsible is Raymond Kownacki.

Wisniewski's attorney, Mike Weilmuenster, tells us the Belleville Diocese knew about the abuse since 1982, but covered it up- moving Kownacki to different parishes.

The jury agreed- the verdict saying the Belleville Diocese fraudulently concealed information that would have indicated that they were responsible for Jim's abuse.

The jury awarded Wisniewski five million dollars.

Jim says the verdict is helping him heal.

"I think it's going to start the beginning of a long recovery for me and give me a future and hopefully bring some closure to the abuse and bring me and my family closer together and be able to move on," explained Wisniewski.

Weilmuenster added, "He's a monster, pure and simple. I can only imagine what Jim went through as a child. I can't walk in his shoes but what happened to him should never happen to any child."

Among those who testified- former Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory.

He was called by the attorney for the Belleville Diocese.

Gregory removed Kownacki in 1995.

Weilmuenster says Gregory proved their case because he testified that he was never given documents about Kownacki's abuse of Wisniewski or his alleged sexual abuse of other children.

We tried to get a comment from the attorney for the diocese, but did not receive a call back.

Officials tell us Kownacki has never been tried in a criminal court.


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