Couple's suit against Peoria Roman Catholic priest to be heard Oct. 22

Amelia Flood Oct. 11, 2010, 2:51pm


A Roman Catholic priest who allegedly used his position to further a sexual relationship with a woman that ended in an alleged coerced abortion, is asking a Madison County judge to throw out a personal injury lawsuit.

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria as the head of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria is also asking to be dismissed from the case filed by Holly and Christopher Force of Edwardsville.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis will hear all pending motions in the suit at 9 a.m. on Oct. 22.

The Forces are suing the Rev. Thomas Szydlik, Jenky, three other priests and another defendant for 22 counts of battery, vicarious liability, infliction of emotional distress and other claims.

Each count seeks at least $50,000 in damages and other relief.

The couple claims that while they lived in Peoria from 2000 to 2006, Szydlik, a Catholic priest, counseled Holly Force about martial issues, eventually using that relationship to instigate a romantic relationship.

The couple claims that Szydlik used his position as a priest to develop an inappropriate relationship with Holly Force by using her faith as a weapon.

The couple's suit alleges that Szydlik eventually engaged in nonconsensual sex with Holly Force that resulted in pregnancy.

The couple's suit contends Szydlik then coerced Holly Force to abort the pregnancy in May 2006.

The couple alleges that Jenky and the Peoria diocese failed to intervene, investigate or remove Szydlik from the priesthood after his inappropriate conduct was reported and that it allowed him to live in Edwardsville where he pursued the relationship.

The defendants have filed several moves fighting the suit including motions to dismiss in 2008 and recently.

Jenky and the Peoria Diocese moved to strike the couple's first amended complaint in January 2009.

In that motion, the defendants claim the statute of limitations had passed by the filing of the suit and that the plaintiffs are trying to sue the bishop and diocese for events that happened earlier than those permitted by the statute.

The motion also argues the plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged the ongoing nature of the tortuous conduct they claim Jenky and the diocese committed.

The diocese claims that the only act the plaintiffs allege it committed was to transfer Szydlik after he informed Jenky of an inappropriate relationship with a parishioner in March 2005.

The Peoria defendants stress the statute of limitations and its application to the couple's pre-2006 claims.

"Plaintiffs had two years from the date of each inappropriate hug, kiss, or other wrongful physical contact to file an action out of that conduct," the motion reads.

The motion goes on to argue that Jenky and the dioceses cannot be held liable for "clergy malpractice."

Szydlik also has a motion to dismiss pending in the case which largely mirrors the Peoria diocese's dismissal move.

Szydlik's motion filed last year adds arguments that the plaintiff is asking the court to investigate and step into matters of Catholic
doctrine in violation of the First Amendment.

Hearings on the motions this year have been pushed off due to attorney illness and by agreement.

David Leefers represents the Forces.

Joseph Feehan represents the Peoria defendants. In addition to Jenky, the Forces are suing Monsignor Paul Showalter, Rev. Larry Zurek, Monsignor William Watson and Patricia Gibson as well.

Timothy Cassidy of Peoria represents Szydlik.

The case is Madison case number 08-L-260.

More News