Burbank Priest Sues 2 Accusers
Action Says Charges of Abuse Are False
By Gerry Doyle
Chicago Tribune [Chicago IL]
November 29, 2006
A Burbank priest removed from ministry this month after allegations that he abused two youths were found to be credible by church authorities is suing his accusers.
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, claims that the two defendants, identified as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, defamed Rev. Robert Stepek, pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish. The suit alleges that the accusations of abuse in the 1980s, leveled in May, were false and came as retaliation for slights against the two men committed about 20 years ago.
"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 Stepek's lawyer, Phillip Zisook.
John Doe 2, an undergraduate seminarian in 1987, asked Stepek for a letter of recommendation, which he did not provide, the lawsuit states. The youth said that he would retaliate, the lawsuit states.
John Doe 1 had been hired to install machinery at the parish but didn't complete the work, the lawsuit states. When Stepek refused to pay, Doe 1 also threatened to retaliate, the suit states.
"In May 2006, Rev. Stepek had his 25th anniversary as a priest," the suit states. "A celebration for Rev. Stepek's anniversary was to be held. .. John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 decided to retaliate .. by concocting a false and defamatory statement that Rev. Stepek had sexually abused both John Doe 1 and John Doe 2."
The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $1 million, Zisook said.
Stepek's case is being prepared for review by a Vatican panel while he lives outside the parish, Chicago Catholic Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Burritt said.
"Right now, there is a temporary administrator [at St. Albert the Great]," Burritt said.
Stepek may present evidence in his defense when he goes before the panel, including the outcome of the lawsuit, Burritt said.
Barbara Blaine of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called the lawsuit "a desperate attempt" and said the church conducted a thorough investigation already.
"I don't believe [the suit] will be successful. They never are," she said.
Zisook said that the defendants had not yet been served with the lawsuit and that no court date had been set.
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