By Ryan Kruger -
A regional group of priests is telling the Belleville Catholic Diocese, which serves southern Illinois, to pay up. The Diocese appealed a $5,000,000 sex abuse ruling last week to the Illinois Supreme Court. In court records the diocese claims it doesn't have the responsibility to warn parishioners of a priest accused of sexually abusing children.
Thursday the Southern Illinois Association of Priests called that a "disastrous policy," one that doesn't make common moral sense. At issue is a 2008 ruling involving a former southern Illinois man. James Wisniewski of Champaign was awarded five million dollars in 2008. An appellate court upheld that ruling last month. He claims Father Raymond Kownacki abused him for five years at a church in Salem when Wisniewski was only 13.
"It's very rare for Catholic priests to have the courage to publicly disagree with the Bishops," said David Clohessy, National Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Clohessy has spent the last several years trying to put Father Raymond Kownacki behind bars. In August of 2008, he came to St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Cobden, where Kownacki served in the 80's, looking for potential victims.
"We've heard from at least two other victims, possibly three other victims of Father Kownacki. And we suspect that there are many more out there who are still trapped in violence and shame and suffering," said Clohessy.
Despite multiple lawsuits, Kownacki has never been charged with a crime. That's because the statute of limitations ran out before anyone came forward. Clohessy says the Belleville Diocese moved Kownacki around the region, when it knew of complaints against him.
Kownacki was removed from the priesthood in 1995. He now lives in the Metro East and has never commented about the allegations. The Belleville Diocese also did not comment on this story.