21 Aug 2008

Atlanta Archbishop Possible Witness In Sex Abuse Trial

NBC 11Alive.com - Atlanta

by Jaye Watson

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory could be called to testify in a sex abuse trial in his former diocese. Gregory served as the Archbishop of Belleville, Ill., for ten years before coming to Atlanta in 2004.

The trial concerns Father Raymond Kownacki, a Belleville priest who is alleged to have repeatedly molested children during the 1970's. One of those children, a former altar boy is suing Kownacki for alleged sex abuse that went on for five years.

Belleville Diocese officials are asking that the case be dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitations has lapsed. The court could allow the case to proceed if attorneys at this week's trial prove the diocese withheld information about Kownacki.

Catholic World News is reporting that at a deposition last month, a member of the civilian review board investigating clergy abuse, testified that Gregory withheld information about Kownacki from the board during his tenure as Archbishop there.

A spokesman for the Atlanta Archdiocese says Gregory cannot comment on the case because it is pending litigation but confirms he is among a list of witnesses.

Gregory headed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the peak years of the sex abuse scandal. He has been an outspoken critic of clergy abuse. During his time in Belleville, he removed 15 priests from the ministry -- Kownacki was one of them.

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