Two Lawsuits Filed against Diocese Alleging Sexual Misconduct

April 16, 2009

Two new lawsuits have been filed against the Belleville Diocese of the Catholic Church allegedly two young teenagers were abused by a priest at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Salem in the 1970's. The Belleville News-Democrat says the lawsuits are being brought by 42-year-old Steven Kern and a 48-year-old man identified only by initials as 'K.C.' The two claim they were touched or fondled by former Pastor Raymond Kownacki. They are represented by the same attorneys who won a five million dollar verdict against the Diocese for sexual abuse Kownacki allegedly committed against an alter boy at the church in the '70's.

Mike Weilmuenster and Steve Wigginton have also filed a third lawsuit on behalf of a young teen who claims to have been sexually abused by Reverend Jerome Ratermann at St. Peter and Paul Church in Waterloo. That lawsuit alleges Ratermann had engaged in the same acts of sexual molestation of a minor while principal at Breese Mater Dei High School. Both priests were removed in the 1990's and have never been charged criminally.

The Belleville Diocese is currently appealing the five-million dollar jury award to James Wisniewski who now lives in Champaign. The jury ruled in Wisniewski's favor after determining the Diocese had covered up sex abuse by Kownacki.

The two attorneys have also filed a motion claiming the Belleville Diocese failed to disclose all information requested in the Wisniewski case. The information includes a Vatican document that directed evidence of sex abuse of minors by priests must be kept secret within the church. Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton and former Bishop Wilton Gregory are among those named for withholding information.


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