Diocese Must Pay $5.5 Million|For Concealing Priestly Abuse

     BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CN) – A St. Clair County jury awarded a man who said he had been sexually abused by a priest $5.5 million and found the Belleville Diocese guilty of fraudulent concealment.

     The victim, 47, was an altar boy when, he says, the Rev. Raymond Kownacki sexually abused him in the 1970s. The abuse allegedly happened a few months after diocese documents show that another family complained that Kownacki had raped their 16-year-old daughter and then attempted to perform her abortion.
     Kownacki, 73, was removed from active ministry in 1995, but is still a priest and still receives retirement benefits.
     Diocese lawyers argued that the statute of limitations had expired. But the man’s attorney, Steve Wigginton, claimed that the diocese’s fraudulent concealment -conspiring to hide details of Kowancki’s abuse – voided the statute of limitations. Wigginton asked the jury to award $2 million for actual damages and $3.5 for punitive damages.

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