A DuPage County judge ruled Thursday convicted pedophile priest Fred Lenczycki can be released, as early as this fall, from a secured state sex offender treatment facility.
But Circuit Judge Bonnie Wheaton warned the 65-year-old man's every step will be monitored.
"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 while he's on conditional release," the judge said. "Mr. Lenczycki is not going to be released into the community to hang around a school or alleyway."
Lenczycki was due to be paroled nearly 3.5 years ago after serving part of a five-year prison term for inappropriately touching three boys at a Hinsdale church. But a month before his release date, prosecutors filed paperwork to have him civilly committed beyond his prison term as a sexually violent person.
In March 2008, a DuPage County jury agreed. Lenczycki became the first Roman Catholic priest in the nation to be civilly committed.
He's remained in a state treatment facility in Rushville.
"He's very relieved, of course," said Marion Cruz, one of his attorneys. "His family is relieved, as well."
Judge Wheaton presided over the lengthy civil disposition hearing to determine if Lenczycki should continue with his inpatient treatment, or be released into the community under a strict treatment plan that can include dozens of conditions, such as electronic monitoring, weekly counseling, polygraph testing and sex offender registration, to name a few.
"It would be very, very easy for this court or this judge to say these are terrible offenses and Mr. Lenczycki should never see the light of day," Wheaton said.
She continued, "In order to restrict someone's liberties for their protection and that of society, the law is very clear that the restriction has to be the least restrictive alternative."
State officials have 60 days to come up with a treatment plan. Lenczycki will remain at Rushville at least until then.
One of his sisters, Ruth Lenczycki, quietly cried while seated in the courtroom gallery. Lenczycki hopes to live with another sister in Wheaton when set free. Judge Wheaton still would have to approve that arrangement.
Peter Hillmer, who said he is one of the retired priest's victims, had to be escorted Thursday from the courtroom after shouting obscenities.
"He's going to re-offend," said the 42-year-old Glendale Heights man, who took part in a small courthouse protest for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). "He's a very sick individual."
Lenczycki was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the Joliet Diocese in 1972.
He has admitted inappropriately touching 31 boys, ages 9 to 17, while serving in six churches during a 25-year span 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. At his next assignment in Romeoville, two other accusers said they also were inappropriately touched. Lenczycki later molested as many as 14 boys at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church in Hinsdale. Other victims followed after he moved to California and Missouri.
State prosecutors fought his release. They said he is predisposed to re-offend because of a pedophilic mental disorder, and needs to advance further in his treatment plan. His defense team, though, argued a highly motivated Lenczycki made great strides after three years of voluntary treatment and poses a low risk to re-offend with strict monitoring. Two of three experts, including Lenczycki's treating state psychologist, agreed with the defense.
Lenczycki technically still is a priest and receives a pension, because the Vatican did not defrock him, but he cannot preside over Mass or perform any other official duties. Judge Wheaton said she'll insist that is one of the restrictions set out in his treatment plan.