Couple settles suit against Dioceses of Peoria and priest; Affair resulted in pregnancy and coerced abortion, suit claimed

Amelia Flood Mar. 10, 2011, 7:22am


A Madison County lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Peoria over a woman's alleged affair with a priest is settled.

Plaintiffs Holly and Christopher Force and defendants Thomas Szydlik, Bishop Daniel Jenky and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria stipulated to the 2008 suit's dismissal with prejudice on March 4.

No other details, other than all litigation costs have been paid, are available in the case file.

The Forces were seeking damages in excess of $50,000 for each of the 22 counts of their complaint.

Szydlik and the Peoria defendants had sought the suit's dismissal.

According to complaint, the Forces, who now live in Edwardsville, had been members of the Peoria parish where Szydlik, a priest, was serving.

The Forces lived in Peoria from 2000 to 2006.

According to the suit, Szydlik allegedly parleyed counseling he provided to Holly Force about marital issues into a romantic relationship.

The suit claims that Szydlik used Holly Force's religious faith as a means to further the relationship and that he eventually had nonconsensual sex with her.

The sex act resulted in a pregnancy and the couple claimed Syzdlik coerced Holly Force into ending it via abortion in May 2006.

The couple then claims that Jenky, Szydlik's superior, did not stop Szydlik's inappropriate acts after his conduct came to Jenky's attention.

Hearings in the suit were pushed off at points in the suit due to attorney illnesses and by agreement.

All of the Forces' claims and any counterclaims in the litigation are also dismissed with prejudice by the March 4 stipulations.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis presides.

David Leefers represents the Forces.

Joseph Feehan represents the Peoria defendants. In addition to Jenky, the Forces sued 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.

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