Man Claims Priest Beat Him Badly

By Kim Janssen
Daily Southtown [Chicago IL]
December 22, 2006,221NWS3.article

A Burbank priest accused of sexually abusing two boys at a South Side church in the 1980s admitted punching an altar boy in the face just two years earlier, it was claimed Thursday.

Ken Meyer, now 43, says he was badly beaten in 1980 in a North Side classroom by the Rev. Robert Stepek.

Stepek -- then a deacon -- confessed to the attack, according to Meyer's mother, Marion, but he was ordained as a priest a year later.

The Meyers' account of the violent incident stands in stark contrast with Stepek's claim last month that he "was of no danger to any child" and had "never abused any child."

Stepek has been on leave from St. Albert the Great Church in Burbank, where he is pastor, while allegations of sex abuse are reviewed. The Archdiocese of Chicago has found the allegations credible that he sexually abused two young brothers at St. Symphorosa Church in Chicago's Clearing neighborhood between 1982 and 1984.

He launched a $1 million defamation lawsuit against his two accusers soon after, claiming they were making up their story in the hope of a large cash payout.

His accusers, in turn, launched a countersuit against the archdiocese, aiming to force Cardinal Francis George to intercede.

Meyer, who lived briefly in Tinley Park but now lives in Arizona, said he decided to come forward Thursday after hearing about Stepek's lawsuit.

"He needs to stop attacking his victims," Meyer said.

"When I read that he had said, 'I abused no one,' I had to do something."

Meyer, then 16, was with two friends at a fall fair at Immaculate Heart of Mary School on Nov. 8, 1980, when he was attacked by Stepek, he said.

Stepek became angry at Meyer and his friends when they teased three girls who were putting on a skit in a classroom, Meyer said.

Stepek chastised and then dismissed the other two, larger boys, but flew into a rage as soon as he summoned Meyer into a side room, Meyer said.

"He literally threw me across the room onto the floor and into the wall several times, then, when he was standing over me, punched me in the face," Meyer said.

"I was in pain, shocked, embarrassed and confused.

"My respect for religious authority was destroyed, and the pain is still with me."

Meyer required hospital treatment and had a black eye that lasted for more than four months after the attack, his mother said.

Stepek initially denied the assault but confessed after Meyer's mother noticed his swollen knuckles, she said.

In a "final irony" Stepek replaced Meyer's expensive gold chain that Stepek broke in the attack with a cheap knockoff, Meyer said.

Church officials urged the family not to go to the police, his mother said.

They organized a prayer session with Stepek at Meyer's house and provided counseling, but declined to punish Stepek further.

Her repeated letters to then Cardinal John Cody urging action were ignored, she said.

Speaking Thursday, Archdiocese of Chicago spokesman James Accurso said Stepek had been ordained despite the attack because "the remedial actions that were taken at the time were sufficient for this isolated incident."

Meyer and his family backed calls by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests -- which organized a Thursday news conference for Meyer -- that Cardinal George order Stepek to drop his lawsuit against his accusers.

But Accurso said such an order was not in the cardinal's power, referring to a previous archdiocesen statement that said the cardinal had "invited" both Stepek and his accusers to drop their suits.

Neither Stepek, who retains strong support among many of his parishioners, nor his attorney, returned calls Thursday.

Kim Janssen may be reached at
or (708) 633-5998.


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