Ill. diocese pays $6.3M to abuse victim

Aug. 11, 2011 at 5:41 PM   |   Comments

BELLEVILLE, Ill., Aug. 11 (UPI) -- The Roman Catholic diocese of Belleville, Ill., has paid $6.3 million for sexual abuse a former altar boy suffered almost 40 years ago, a lawyer says.

James Wisniewski of Champaign, Ill., was awarded $5 million by a jury in 2008, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The additional money paid to his lawyer Wednesday represents interest.

"I hope this will help the Catholic community," the lawyer, Mike Weilmuenster, said. "It has been quite splintered."

Weilmuenster, speaking after a short hearing in St. Clair County, said the jury, by including $2.6 million in punitive damages, tried to send "a message to the Belleville diocese that enabling childhood sexual abuse and covering it up will not be tolerated by this community."

Wisniewski said he was molested by the Rev. Raymond Kownacki. Evidence during the trial showed church officials transferred the priest from parish to parish.

Priests in the Belleville diocese have called for the resignation of Bishop Edward Braxton because of his fight against the lawsuit, including appeals that delayed the payment of damages for three years. Braxton last month asked the state Supreme Court to take another look at the case.

Kownacki was removed from the active priesthood in 1995.

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