Man Alleging Sex Abuse Sues Retired Priest, Belleville Diocese

By Robert Goodrich
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
October 26, 2002

* James Wisniewski, 41, says the Rev. Raymond Kownacki abused him from 1973 to 1978, starting at age 12.

A man filed suit Friday in circuit court in Belleville against a retired priest seeking damages based on allegations that the priest sexually abused the man from 1973 to 1978, starting when he was 12.

The priest, the Rev. Raymond Kownacki, was sued in 1995 by a woman from Michigan who said Kownacki repeatedly raped and beat her and that she even suffered an abortion at his hands when she was in her teens.

Her suit was dismissed after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that she could not proceed because of the statute of limitations. The time limit for filing such a suit is usually two years from when the victim turns 18.

The male plaintiff, identified in the suit as James Wisniewski, now 41, says that he did not sue earlier because he discovered only this year how seriously he had been harmed. His suit alleges serious psychological harm and seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Wisniewski's suit also says that repressed memory, shame, fear and guilt over what happened to him prevented him from filing sooner.

His suit repeats many of the allegations by the woman, who said she was abused by Kownacki from 1970 to 1973 while she was employed as his housekeeper.

She said the abuse began when he was pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in St. Francisville, Ill., and continued when he took her with him to St. Martin of Tours Parish in Washington Park.

Wisniewski's suit says that Kownacki was transferred from Washington Park to St. Theresa's School and parish in Salem and that Kownacki repeatedly fondled and performed sex acts on him for four years.

Wisniewski's suit says the housekeeper's family had reported Kownacki to church officials, but they covered it up and transferred him rather than removing him. The suit includes the Belleville Diocese as a defendant. Diocesan officials have refused to comment on any pending litigation.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory barred Kownacki from active ministry in January 1995, three months before the woman filed suit. Kownacki has since retired.


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