Accused Priest Fires Back with Lawsuit

Associated Press, carried in Belleville News-Democrat
November 29, 2006

Chicago - A suburban priest who stepped down from parish ministry after allegations surfaced that he may have abused two youths in the 1980s has filed a defamation lawsuit against his accusers.

The Rev. Robert Stepek, pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish in Burbank, voluntarily stepped down in May as the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He argues in the complaint filed Tuesday that the accusations are false.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago is investigating the allegations.

"There's nothing more damaging to a priest's reputation than an allegation that he engaged in the type of misconduct with minors that Father Stepek is accused of having done," said Phillip Zisook, Stepek's lawyer.

Stepek's suit seeks more than $1 million in punitive damages from the accusers and states that they inflicted emotional stress upon him.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, identifies the defendants as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2.

John Doe 1 had been hired to install machinery at the parish but didn't finish the work and threatened to retaliate when Stepek refused to pay, the lawsuit said.

John Doe 2 was an undergraduate seminarian in 1987 who asked Stepek for a letter of recommendation, the lawsuit states. Stepek did not provide the letter and the youth said that he would retaliate, according to the lawsuit.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the accusers, said he is confident Stepek's suit will be dismissed.

"This is a guy who is not only deep in denial he is defiant. When it comes to him, nothing comes as a surprise," Anderson said. "Frankly, he is out of control on many levels. This is a guilty man doing very serious things to revictimize those he has already harmed once."

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called the lawsuit "a desperate attempt" and said the church has conducted a complete investigation.

"I don't believe (the suit) will be successful. They never are," said SNAP President Barbara Blaine.


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