Illinois Supreme Court won't let Catholic priest sue accusers

The Rev. Robert Stepek, who was removed over sexual abuse allegations, loses appeal but could go to high court

The Chicago Tribune/October 14, 2009

The Illinois Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of a Roman Catholic priest trying to sue two brothers who say he molested them. His only remaining recourse is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June, a three-judge panel at the Illinois Court of Appeals ordered a trial court to throw out a lawsuit filed by the Rev. Robert Stepek. In its ruling, the panel concluded that allowing Stepek to sue men who cooperated with a church investigation would require a court to examine how the church disciplines clergy, infringing on religious liberties granted by the U.S. Constitution.

In 2006, Stepek was removed from the pulpit at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Burbank after a review by the Chicago Archdiocese determined there was reasonable cause to suspect that sexual abuse of minors occurred when he was at St. Symphorosa Parish in Chicago in the early 1980s.

Shortly after his removal, Stepek sued his accusers, contending the brothers made false and defamatory allegations as retaliation for prior disagreements. The brothers filed a counterclaim.

After several requests to dismiss the case or refer it to the appellate court were denied, attorneys for the archdiocese and one of the brothers petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court, which, in a rare move, ordered the appellate review. The priest then appealed to the state's Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case on Sept. 24.

Stepek's attorney could not be reached for comment.

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