He Who Cannot Be Trusted in Big Things ...

By Kevin O'Brien
The Waiting for Godot to Leave
October 26, 2013

Rev. Raymond Kownacki

Across the river from where I live, the neighboring diocese of Belleville, Illinois is a trend-setter.  They led the way with the sex abuse scandal in the Church long before the story broke nationally.

NCR reports about Fr. Kownacki, a diocesan priest from the Belleville diocese ...

  • In 1973, a 16-year-old girl, Gina Parks, contacted diocesan officials and claimed Kownacki, during a two-year period while he was pastor of a small parish in St. Francisville and later in a parish to which he was transferred in Washington Park, abused her sexually, had intercourse with her, even attempted to cause an abortion when she became pregnant. ... Parks said Kownacki gave her alcohol, promised to help her get into art school and assured her sex was OK because God "wanted people to love each other."
The bishop, knowing this, and knowing that Fr. Kownacki had molested a girl from Guatemala and that "twin boys from Guatemala were living in the Washington Park rectory and also involved sexually with Kownacki" transfers him to St. Theresa parish in Salem, and writes to the parishioners at St. Theresa's of Kownacki's "knowledge, piety, prudence, experience and general character".
  • The diocese gathers evidence that while Kownacki is at St. Theresa's, he molests several boys, including an altar server who would later be awarded $5 million in compensation and punitive damages.
Knowing that Kownacki is molesting boys, the new bishop of Belleville nevertheless transfers Kownacki to Cobden, telling him, "I heartily commend you to all the people of the parish."  Even the chancellor of the diocese at the time, Msgr. Schwaegel, later admits, "everyone at the chancery knew Kownacki was sick and liked to molest children."
  • Kowancki is then transferred to Harrisburg, where "... parishioners complained that Kownacki was paying two boys $150 per week for doing 'absolutely nothing' and as many as five boys were having all-nighters at the rectory."
Six months later another new bishop (the third to have authority over this predatory priest) appoints him pastor of three small parishes.  "I am confident," he told Kownacki, "you will carry out your mission well in building up the Body of Christ."
  • In 1986, parishioners complain that Kownacki has teen-aged boys living with him in the rectory. This time, Kownacki is removed and sent for treatment - thirteen years and dozens of victims after the first accusations surface (that we know of; there were almost certainly accusations before the first known one came to light).
Then in 1988, Bishop Keleher appoints Kownacki to take up residence at St. Henry parish in Belleville; the church has a grade school next door and nearby there is a Catholic high school. No restrictions are placed on his ministry or other activities.

The NCR article makes no mention of Bishop Keleher lauding Kownacki to St. Henry parishioners as a man of great piety.  This is probably because he was not being appointed pastor.  Apparently, "knowledge, piety, prudence, experience and general character" from the point of view of a bishop, a public representative of Christ, consist of actions that the rest of us would simply regard as despicably evil.

The NCR article links to the court documents from which they gather their facts.  I personally don't have the heart to read them.


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