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Christianity Today: Do What Jesus Would Do? Rape Women and Children!

Whited Sepulchers

Steve Horrell

An Edwardsville woman and her husband have filed a lawsuit against their former priest, claiming that he initiated an inappropriate sexual relationship with the woman and then followed her to Edwardsville when the couple moved here to try to get away.
The suit was filed in Madison County.

It alleges that Father Thomas R. Szydlik assaulted her when he was an assistant priest at Saint Vincent de Paul Church in Peoria. The couple attended the church from September, 2000, until June, 2006. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between November, 2004, and September ,2006, while Szydlik was employed by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

The suit claims the abuse began after the woman confessed to Szydlik, in a confessional, that she and her husband were having marital problems. Szydlik, the suit claims, suggested later that he "would help her fill her desire, as confessed to him, of having more children."

At that point, Szydlik began scheming to develop an inappropriate relationship with the woman, the suit alleges. The priest was her "spiritual guide at a time when she considered . . . that her faith was the only solid thing upon which she could rely. Szydlik continuously encouraged the woman to confide in him and trust in him."

Szydlik not only used and subverted Catholic doctrines of infallibility and deference to priests and the priesthood, "but the 'intent' of God to overcome and suppress (the woman's) independent judgment." The priest used e-mail, telephone, and face-to-face confrontations to groom and intimidate the woman "into submission to his desires, never missing an opportunity to lead her into believing whatever she and Szydlik did or said was 'excused' because Szydlik was saving her very soul."

In January of 2005, the woman told her husband about the relationship, and the husband confronted Szydlik, who apologized, according to the suit. Soon after, Szydlik was reassigned to another church within the diocese.

According to the Catholic Diocese of Peoria's Web site, Szydlik was placed on leave in 2006. Calls to the diocese were not returned.

At various times during the relationship, Szydlik allegedly told the woman that he would leave the priesthood and marry her after she and her husband divorced.

In 2006, the couple moved to Edwardsville to distance themselves from his advances.

The suit alleges that Szydlik followed them to Edwardsville and stayed here for three or four months to try to keep the relationship going. During that time, Szydlik continued to pursue the woman, according to the suit.

In May of 2006, the woman became pregnant but later had an abortion, at Szydlik's insistence, according to the suit.

The suit also names as defendants Daniel R. Jenky, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, and Monsignor Paul E. Showalter, Father Larry Surek, Monsignor William Watson and Patricia Gibson.

The couple is seeking in excess of $50,000 for each of 23 counts. They are being represented by Jacksonville attorney David E. Leefers.
©Edwardsville Intelligencer 2008

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