Is DuPage Co. pedophile priest too dangerous to be free?

  • Fred Lenczycki

    Fred Lenczycki

Published: 7/8/2009 1:53 PM | Updated: 7/8/2009 6:29 PM

More than three years ago, Fred Lenczycki finished paying his debt to society.

But, instead of being paroled, the convicted pedophile priest is believed to have become the first clergy member in the United States to be civilly committed as a sexually violent person.

A DuPage County hearing continues Thursday to determine if the 65-year-old man should remain in treatment at a secured state facility in Rushville, or be released into his community with weekly counseling and strict monitoring.

Lenczycki plans to live with a sister in Wheaton if set free.

State prosecutors are fighting the move. They said he is predisposed to re-offend because of a pedophilic mental disorder. His defense team, though, argues a highly motivated Lenczycki made great strides after three years of voluntary treatment and poses a low risk to re-offend with strict monitoring.

DuPage Circuit Judge Bonnie Wheaton is presiding over the civil hearing. It is her decision regarding Lenczycki's future.

Lenczycki was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Joliet in 1972. He has admitted inappropriately touching 31 boys, ages 9 to 17, while serving in six churches for 25 years until 1999, when he took a forced retirement.

The first few crimes involved three boys at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville until 1975. Two other accusers said they also were inappropriately touched at his next assignment in Romeoville. He later molested as many as 14 boys at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church in Hinsdale.

Lenczycki was sentenced to five years in prison in January 2004 after he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual abuse of three of those Hinsdale boys in 1984. Back then, after a parent complained, former Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch transferred Lenczycki out of state for treatment and persuaded the parent not to report the abuse.

More young boys later were molested in California and Missouri.

Years later, amid public outcry, the Joliet diocese turned over to prosecutors its internal records of alleged abuse by its priests. The statute of limitations expired on the crimes, but DuPage State's Attorney Joseph Birkett found a legal loophole when he argued the clock stopped ticking in the mid-1980s when Lenczycki was moved out of state.

Lenczycki was due to be paroled from prison in May 2006 after serving part of his prison term. But a month earlier, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Birkett sought to have him committed under the state's 1998 sexually violent person's law.

A DuPage County jury in March 2008 agreed it was too early in his treatment to be released.

His lead attorney, James D. Montgomery, initiated the most recent release request earlier this year. Though experts reached conflicting opinions, Montgomery argues Lenczycki has a diminished risk of re-offending given his age and the fact he is no longer a practicing priest with as much access to children.

He noted Lenczycki would have strict safeguards in the community, such as being a registered sex offender, and being required to undergo two polygraph tests annually, wear an electronic monitoring device, and continue with outpatient treatment.

His two sisters also testified about their love and continued support for their brother, whom they said has true remorse. Lenczycki, who appears solemn during the court proceedings, is not expected to testify.

He technically still is a priest and gets a pension, since the Vatican declined to defrock him, but he cannot preside over mass or perform any other official duties.