Brothers Sue Cardinal George
Say Identities Exposed in Sex Abuse Probe
By Cathleen Falsani
December 14, 2006
Two brothers who were sued for defamation last month by a Roman Catholic priest who they say sexually abused them more than 20 years ago responded Wednesday by suing Cardinal Francis George.
The brothers -- known in court records as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 -- claim the Rev. Robert Stepek abused them in the 1980s at St. Symphorosa parish on Chicago's South Side when they were about 9 and 16 years old.
In November -- acting on the recommendation of a review board that concluded there was reasonable cause to suspect the abuse occurred -- George removed Stepek as pastor of St. Albert the Great parish in Burbank.
Following church protocol, George then referred Stepek's case to the Vatican for guidance about further action the archdiocese should take.
But Stepek denied having abused anyone, claiming the brothers had a "vendetta" against him, and he filed a defamation lawsuit against the two last month seeking more than $1 million in damages.
On Wednesday, the brothers filed a lawsuit against George, saying their identities were not kept confidential during the archdiocese's investigation of their allegations against Stepek.
"John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 both chose to report the abuse to the Archdiocese of Chicago and not pursue any claims against Stepek and the archdiocese in court to avoid publicity and the emotional strain inherent in child abuse litigation," their lawsuit against George said.
"[The Doe brothers] had the expectation that their reports of Stepek's sexual abuse would remain in the strictest confidence," the lawsuit said. Instead, not only was Stepek able to file a lawsuit against the brothers, a priest of the Chicago archdiocese called the brothers' parents, who knew nothing about the abuse, revealing their sons' allegations against Stepek, the lawsuit said.
In their lawsuit, the brothers restated their allegations of sexual abuse by Stepek, adding that if the priest suffered any defamation because of the accusations against him, it was caused by the archdiocese solely.
"We have not had an opportunity to review this new lawsuit and cannot comment on its details," Jimmy Lago, chancellor of the Chicago archdiocese, said in a statement Wednesday.
"We do not believe that these lawsuits help move this matter to a prompt and just resolution that is sensitive to the important concerns of the people involved," Lago said, referring to both the lawsuit filed by the John Doe brothers and the lawsuit Stepek filed.
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