BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CN) - A priest who was the center of several sex abuse lawsuits has been defrocked, the Diocese of Belleville said.
Raymond Kownacki was laicized - or defrocked - effective Jan. 11, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
That means Kownacki, 78, is no longer a priest. Only the Vatican can laicize a priest.
Kownacki, who was ordained in 1960, was removed from public ministry in 1995 amid allegations of sexual abuse from former altar boys and a woman who claimed Kownacki raped her when she was a teen-ager.
In 2011, the diocese paid $6.3 million from a 2008 civil trial verdict stemming from his abuse of an altar boy in the 1970s.
The diocese settled two other cases against Kownacki in 2012.
David Clohessy, Louis, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said defrocking a priest is rare in abuse cases.
"It brings some measure of validation and closure and healing to at least some of his victims," Clohessy told the Post-Dispatch. "It makes it crystal clear to everyone that the Vatican thinks this man is dangerous."
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