Newly released files from the Diocese of Joliet detail the seminary records, sexual abuse allegations and correspondence of a former Hinsdale priest convicted of abusing three boys at St. Isaac Jogues Church.
The Hinsdale boys were just three of the 31 children Rev. Fred Lenczycki admitted to molesting in six parishes in California, Missouri and Illinois for 25 years until 1999. Many of his victims were altar servers, reports said.
He was removed from ministry in 2002 and convicted two years later in DuPage County of aggravated criminal sexual assault against a child. The priest was sentenced to five years.
Today, Lenczycki lives in Berkeley, IL, as a registered sex offender labeled “sexually violent.” He claims he no longer feels the urges that caused him to abuse children in the past.
From his days as a seminarian in 1963, records indicate that Lenczycki was troubled. Although praised for being “manly” and his “friendly, cooperative spirit,” he was rejected by St. Mary on the Lake in Chicago.
A letter in his file suggests that St. Mary’s may have been too difficult for him, and thought Lenczycki would benefit from studying for the priesthood in a smaller, quieter seminary “where he would have a better chance for survival.”
Lenczycki was eventually ordained in 1972, and a few years later, began living a double life as an affable, public minister to his flock, and a secret predator of altar boys.
Lenczycki was an associate pastor at St. Isaac Jogues Church from 1980 to 1984, until his removal when a 12-year-old boy reported that Lenczycki sexually abused him.
According to another Hinsdale victim, “Father Fred” would trick boys into taking off their clothes for costume fittings for plays that never occurred. Often, the abuse took place in the rectory and sacristy of the Hinsdale parish, “even when other people were nearby,” the victim told the Daily Herald in 2008. He said that Father Fred molested him 20-30 times.
After Lenczycki left St. Isaac Jogues, he was sent to the House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, Mass., a treatment center for priests with psychological and psychosexual problems owned by the Catholic Church.
There, during the 12-month treatment program, Lenczycki began a correspondence with Diocese of Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch. Lenczycki expressed remorse for causing so much trouble, and for ruining Imesch’s sixth anniversary as leader of the diocese.
On Aug. 24, 1985, after a long silence, Lenczycki writes a self-pitying, mea culpa to Imesch, also in deep denial, of seeing his life lying in pieces on the floor during therapy sessions.
Imesch writes back, telling Lenczycki he has no intention of dropping him, but rather, of the priest going somewhere else and liking it so much he’d want to stay there.
“I guess I’m afraid you’d drop me,” Imesch wrote.
Astoundingly, in January 1986, Imesch writes to the Archbishop of San Francisco, securing Lenczycki a temporary position in Pacifica, Calif., where he would admit to molesting three more boys.
And in 1992, Imesch writes another letter to the Archbishop of St. Louis, recommending Lenczycki for a faculty position, stating, “I have no reason why he should not be permitted to perform priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”
Wedged in Lenczycki’s file between his correspondence to the Joliet bishop are letters from parents seeking reimbursement for psychiatric treatment of their sons abused by Lenczycki while at St. Isaac Jogues.
Victims also write letter to Imesch, including a seminarian from St. Louis accusing Lenczycki of abusing him while performing “psychological research.”
On Wednesday, Chicago-based attorney Jeff Anderson also announced that five new lawsuits have been filed against the Diocese of Joliet. The lawsuits alleged that the Diocese knowingly protected four priests, including Lenczycki, while leaving children at risk.
“Dealing with the tragic history of child abuse is part of the church’s ministry today,” .spokesman Edward Flavin said on the diocese’s behalf.