Another suit filed against former Belleville priest accused in earlier case

BELLEVILLE — A man who became the caretaker for the Rev. Raymond Kownacki — whose sexual abuse of a minor cost the Catholic Diocese of Belleville more than $6 million — has filed suit against the 76-year-old priest.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in St. Clair County Court, the plaintiff is identified only as “John Doe, S.W.” The complaint states that the plaintiff was a 16-year-old boy at St. Mary’s Parish in Valmeyer when he was sexually abused by Kownacki from 1985-87. Kownacki was the parish priest.

According to a complaint, “Defendant Kownacki engaged in unwanted and harmful sexual conduct upon the person of the plaintiff. Defendant Kownacki coerced and threatened the plaintiff from revealing the sexual abuse. This sexual contact occurred, among other places, in and around St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Valmeyer, Illinois.”

Bishop Edward Braxton, who was not bishop when Kownacki’s sexual abuse is alleged to have occurred, could not be reached. A spokesman for the diocese was not immediately available.

The complaint states that the plaintiff’s family knew Kownacki, and that, “Over the years, plaintiff and his family became very close to defendant Kownacki.”

According to the lawsuit, in 2009, Kowancki handed the plaintiff a list of people involved in lawsuits against Kownacki for sexual abuse and wanted him to contact them on the priest’s behalf. This caused the plaintiff to experience “flashbacks of abuse,” and led to the lawsuit, the complaint states.

Shortly after receiving the list, the plaintiff informed Kownacki that he could no longer care for the elderly priest who, was living in Dupo but has since been transferred to a nursing home in St. Louis County.

According to a press release from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Kownacki wrote letters, “…and sends money to (the) children of one of his victims.”

The group held a demonstration outside the chancery in St. Louis, urging the Vatican to remove Kownacki from the priesthood. He was removed from active ministry in 1995 by former Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory but still receives retirement pay.

“It’s obviously troubling that Kownacki is still trying to curry favor with kids. Too often, we somehow believe that an elderly child predator is somehow magically less dangerous as he ages. But that’s a reckless assumption,” said David Clohessy, director of S.N.A.P.

Kownacki, who has said he will not comment, was the abuser named in the 2002 lawsuit filed on behalf of James Wisniewski of Champaign. In August, the diocese paid $6.33 million to Wisniewski and his attorney, Mike Weilmuenster of Belleville, to satisfy a 2008 civil trial jury verdict that found that Kownacki had sexually abused the former altar boy in the 1970s.

That lawsuit alleged that the diocese was aware of complaints that Kownacki had sexually abused a girl and several boys. The latest lawsuit alleges that the diocese knew that Kownacki was a sexually dangerous person but failed to inform parishioners when he was assigned as the priest in Valmeyer in 1985.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for Jeff Anderson & Associates, of St. Paul, Minn., who filed the lawsuit, said, “The circumstances surrounding Father Kownacki are both sad and scary. Incredibly, the fact that Father Kownacki’s was a known serial predator for decades was concealed by the Diocese of Belleville.”