Sex offender ex-priest may be released soon

Sun-Times/July 17, 2009

A former priest at SS Peter and Paul in Naperville who served a prison term for fondling three young boys no longer belongs in a locked state center where he has been receiving therapy, a DuPage County judge ruled last week.

The decision means Fred Lenczycki - who was imprisoned in 2004 for sexually abusing the boys while he served at a Hinsdale church -- could be released by September from the state treatment center where he has been confined for more than three years.

Judge Bonnie Wheaton ruled the 65-year-old Lenczycki has made enough progress in his treatment that he can be freed from the center in downstate Rushville while he continues to undergo outpatient therapy.

Wheaton, though, said Lenczycki will be closely monitored once he is released from custody.

"I want to assure the community his movements, his actions, every aspect of his life and his behavior, will be regulated to the fullest extent," Wheaton said.

She ordered that Lenczycki remain in custody for at least 60 days until such a plan -- which she must approve -- can be drafted by prosecutors and Lenczycki's attorneys.

Immediately after her ruling, a spectator was escorted out of the courtroom by deputies when he yelled insults at Lenczycki.

"I hope you go straight to hell, you piece of (expletive)," yelled the 42-year-old west suburban man, who said he had been victimized by Lenczycki.

Lenczycki has admitted that while serving as a priest he fondled at least 30 boys in the Chicago area, Missouri and California. Three of those boys were from SS Peter and Paul Church in Naperville, where the Glen Ellyn native was ordained in 1972. Later that decade, Lenczycki moved to the St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center in Romeoville, where another two boys were molested, Assistant Attorney General Debra Blomgren said at a hearing in 2008.

He served at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church in Hinsdale from 1980 to 1984, until a student reported he had been sexually molested. Lenczycki was briefly transferred to a parish in Missouri and then to the House of Affirmation, a now-defunct treatment center in California for clergy members suffering from emotional problems.

In 1997, a man identified only as John Doe filed a civil lawsuit in Will County against Lenczycki alleging the abuse of nine altar boys at St. Isaac Jogues. The Joliet Diocese settled the lawsuit a year later for an undisclosed amount of money.

Lenczycki pleaded guilty in January 2004 to criminal sexual abuse of three boys younger than 13. The abuse occurred in late 1984 at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Hinsdale.

Last year, Lenczycki formally was declared a sexually violent person by a DuPage County jury. He's believed to be the first Catholic priest in the U.S. tagged which such a legal designation, which allows him to be forcibly committed for therapy.

Lenczycki showed no reaction as Wheaton made her ruling, but one of his attorneys said he was pleased by the decision.

"He's very relieved, of course," said Marion Cruz, one of Lenczycki's attorneys. "His family is relieved as well."

A handful of protesters who held a vigil Thursday outside the Wheaton courthouse calling for Lenczycki to remain in custody expressed disappointment with the judge's ruling.

"I think it's a really sad day for all the children in Illinois, especially those who will be living near Lenczycki," said Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

It's not clear yet where Lenczycki will live once he has been released from custody, though a sister in Wheaton has offered to let him live with her.

Lenczycki hasn't been formally defrocked, but has been ordered by church officials not to say mass or wear his vestments.

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