EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria says one of its priests is denying allegations in a lawsuit that he forced a woman to have an abortion after she became pregnant.
Holly Force, and her husband, Christopher, are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed this week in Madison County. The lawsuit names the Rev. Thomas Szydlik, who church officials say has stepped down from the ministry until the lawsuit is resolved.
Holly Force claims Szydlik began pursuing a relationship with her in 2004 while she attended a church in Peoria. The complaint states the Forces left Peoria and moved to Edwardsville to distance themselves from Szydlik.
Force alleges she had an abortion in July 2006 due to coercion by Szydlik.
Diocese Chancellor Patricia Gibson said Szydlik told Bishop Daniel Jenky in March 2005 that he had feelings for a woman, but that no vows had been broken. Szydlik asked then to be transferred to a different parish.
The diocese lists Szydlik as a priest at Immaculate Conception parish in Nauvoo. He was ordained in 2003.
In February 2006, Szydlik obtained a leave of absence and cut off contact with the diocese, Gibson said. In September 2006, Szydlik told the bishop his relationship with the woman had ended, and asked to return to active ministry.
The bishop sent him to a therapy program, and after five months, Szydlik was allowed to return to ministry under supervision.
In its statement, the diocese said it acted decisively on every occasion as information was brought forward.