Diocese of Joliet Chancery
Diocese of Joliet Chancery Established in 1948, encompasses seven counties in northern Illinois, roughly 30 miles southwest of Chicago, serves Roman Catholics in seven counties. It consists of 122 parishes and 11 missions, 64 elementary and secondary schools, and three colleges and serves a population of 620,363 registered Catholics with 171 deacons and 195 diocesan priests.
Diocese of Joliet Chancery abuse Diocese rocked by allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up, with 18 priests accused of sexual abuse up to January 2003 (NYT survey). Ten priests were removed from the diocese 2002-03. Another priest from the diocese who was serving in Kentucky also was placed on administrative leave. Priests who were accused in Joliet and transferred to other dioceses, Anthony Ross in Santa Rosa, Calif., and Fred Lenczycki in St. Louis, also were removed when old allegations surfaced. National Audit found more than 100 credible allegations of priests engaging in sexual misconduct with children have been made against 27 diocesan clerics. Seven more priests were accused of inappropriate sexual behavior during that period, but those accusations were not sustained 22 February 2004.
- Diocese of Joliet Chancery settlements Diocese paid more than $2.6 million 1983-2002, made up of $1.7 million paid to victims of sexual abuse by priests, with an additional $936,000 paid by insurance.
Bishop Imesch Bishop Joseph Imesc (1932-), 26 years a bishop, defended accused clerics, saying they were good priests who exercised poor judgment and were victims of smear campaigns and reckless media coverage. Bishop Joseph Imesch retired in May 2006
- Bishop Imesch cover-up Bishop Imesch had a long history of covering up pedophilia, transferring at least four accused priests inside his diocese without alerting parishioners. And he brought in a convicted child molester, the Rev. Gary Berthiaume, who had served as an associate pastor under him at a Detroit church years earlier. Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of St. Louis removed two priests it had accepted from Joliet, the Rev. Fred Lenczycki and the Rev. J. Anthony Meis, saying that Bishop Imesch had not disclosed past allegations against them when recommending them for transfers. The bishop has denied that assertion. Early in 2002, he said that some people are not traumatized by sexual abuse and that some priests who molest adolescents should be allowed back into ministry after therapy, but in late May 2002, he changed to support “zero tolerance” policy after the bishops approved it in Dallas: “I am sorry for any pain I have caused victims, their families, parishioners and others,” he wrote. “I feel that some of the criticisms directed at me were harsh, but I hope that I have learned from them.”
Three priest case Two brothers, John and Jeff Welch sued the Diocese of Joliet Chancery , claiming three priests, John C. Slown, Arno Dennerlein and Richard Ruffalo abused them 1962-68 while they attended St. John the Baptist Church in Winfield. DuPage Circuit Judge John T. Elsner ruled a new state law extending the time limit for lawsuits in cases of sexual abuse of children cannot be applied retroactively to revive the brothers’ allegations.
Two priest case Two brothers sue the Diocese of Joliet, claiming sexual abuse by two different priests. The lawsuits filed in Will County Circuit Court brought to 15 the number of suits pending against the diocese in Will and DuPage counties, May 2006.
Diocesian list Names of some diocesan priests accused of sexually abusing minors against whom a credible allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor has been made. It will not include the names of religious order priests who served in the diocese, or diocesan priests who were the subjects of claims that were deemed unfounded. Announced 2 April 2006.
Diocesan Cases of Joliet Chancery
[34 offenders identified, 42 listed]
Anon priest I Civil lawsuit accusing a former suburban priest of sexually abusing a teenage boy more than 30 years earlier would not be made public unless a judge agrees first to release them. It names the Diocese of Joliet Chancery and Bishop Joseph Imesch as defendants, contending there was abuse in that church officials were aware of, but they took no action to prevent it. The diocese filed a legal motion seeking to seal all court filings in the case, saying it fears releasing information could harm the privacy of other alleged victims. “Bishop Imesch is trying to keep a lid on and keep all the dirty secrets hidden, said Barbara Blaine, director of SNAP.
Anon priest II Sexual allegations made against two priests by a former student who attended both Providence Catholic School and Joliet Catholic High School. The incidents would have occurred more than 30 years earlier, when the alleged victim was a student. No lawsuit or criminal charges have been filed. Reported 8 June 2010.
Anon priest III See Anon priest II
Barrett affair Rev. John F. Barrett, ordained 1959, accused of abuse. Placed on leave May 2002, re old accusations that he molested an 8th grade boy in Catholic cchool in 1968. Original claim was made in 1991 but the man says that Diocese cancelled meeting with him at last minute when he wanted to bring either his wife or attorney with him. The victim let the matter drop until 2002 when investigator for Diocese contacted him. Cleared by Diocesan investigation 10 June 2002 and returned to duty. Diocese said claims could not be substantiated and victim was not cooperating.
Bennett affair Rev. Richard Bennett, pastor at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, denied the abuse allegations claiming he was one of two priests in the Diocese of Joliet sexually abused Tim Greco beginning when he was 11 years old in 1975. He was in a shower with the Rev. Philip Dedera in the rectory at St. Pius X Church in Lombard when Bennett walked in and discovered the priest and boy naked together (Dedera affair). Greco alleges that Dedera repeatedly abused him for more than a year and that Bennett molested him once. Filed April 2006. Case dismissed due to the state’s statute of limitations and parishioners celebrated, June 2007.
Berthiaume affair Rev. Gary D. Berthiaume was convicted and received 6 months in jail 1978 for abusing a 12 years-old boy who received $325,000 settlement in the 1980s. The victim went on to have his own pedophilia problems. Berthiaume was kept in a parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit for most of the 1980s without telling the congregation about his prior molestation conviction. A priest assigned to monitor him, the Rev. Allen Bruening, himself previously had been removed from a parish because of abuse allegations and was made director of a Catholic high school. Berthiaume was transferred again, to the Diocese of Joliet, IL, until he was removed from his post as chaplain in a suburban Chicago hospital when allegations of old abuse occurred, 2002.
Burnett affair Rev. James Burnett, ordained 1968, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mokena.
- Shanahan accusation Dan Shanahan accused Rev. James Burnett of molesting him from ages 8 to 12 until the mid-1980s at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mokena. .
Chang affair Rev. Joseph Chang accused of abuse of woman settled 1995.
Dedera affair Rev. Philip Dedera, ordained 1 November 1972, was accused by Tim Greco of sexual abuse. Greco was showering with the Dedera in the rectory at St. Pius X Church in Lombard when Rev. Richard Bennett walked in (Bennett affair) and discovered the priest and boy naked together. Greco alleges that Dedera repeatedly abused him for more than a year and that Bennett molested him once. Dedera became a suburban Chicago hospital chaplain, was removed from his post, 2002. Case filed April 2006. Claim was settled.
Dennerlein affair Rev. Arno Dennerlein, Jesuit, ordained 31 May 1969, priest at St. Patrick Catholic Church was accused by two brothers of abusing them in the mid-1970s, when Dennerlein took them to the rectory and convinced them to lie down on his couch. The younger brother, who was between 5 and 6 years old at the time, told police that Dennerlein tried to look down his pants. The older brother, who was about 12 at the time of his incident, said Dennerlein fondled him. The two did not learn about each other’s experiences until years later. Sued 2003. Placed on administrative leave 2003, canonical case pending.
Fischer affair Rev. Lowell Fischer (deceased) accused of abuse, removed from ministry 2002.
Flores affair Rev. Alejandro Flores (Alex) (1973-), who is a native of Bolivia, was ordained in June 2009 and was the parochial vicar of Holy Family Parish in Shorewood. Prior to that he served as a deacon at St. Elizabeth Seton in Naperville. He was placed on administrative leave after a St. Charles family alleged that he had sexually assaulted their 13-year-old son over a five-year period, starting in January 2005, when the boy was 8, 4 January 2010.
- Flores suicide attempt Flores attempted suicide, surviving the fall from a 20-foot choir balcony at St. Mary’s Carmelite Church in Joliet, 6 January 2010.
- Flores trial Alejandro Flores was charged with one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, two counts of sexual assault, and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, 21 January 2010.
Formusa affair Rev. Salvatore Formusa (deceased) ordained 27 April 1935, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, retired 1985.
Frederick affair Rev. James Frederick (d. 1988) ordained 30 May 1959, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him.
Furdek affair Rev. John M. Furdek (1953-), ordained 2 June 1984, pastor of St. Alexander Catholic Church in Villa Park, had been assigned to Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Naperville, St. Philip the Apostle in Addison, and St. Mary of Gostyn in Downers Grove. He had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry 2000, arrested, charged, 2000. In 2003, a Wisconsin court convicted Furdek of attempted second-degree sexual assault of a child and sentenced him to 15 years. He had been arrested at a Racine, Wis., restaurant where he went to meet a 14-year-old boy for sex. He served three years of his prison sentence and was paroled in May 2006. He is a registered child sex offender in Illinois and Wisconsin.
- MusclePosing773 screen name of “the boy” Furdek had been chatting with online for months who turned out to be an agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Gibbney affair Rev. Michael Gibbney began his ministry in 1959, served at St. Isidore Church in Bloomingdale, St. Charles Borromeo in Bensenville, St. Luke’s parish in Carol Stream 1972-81. He was accused of molesting an altar boy at Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Elmhurst from 1978-79. He served at Holy Ghost Church in Wood Dale 1981-90, finally St. Daniel the Prophet on West Loop Road in Wheaton since the parish formed in 1989. Removed from ministry 1992. Sued 2002.
- Gibbney lawsuits Two more men filed lawsuits against the Joliet Diocese claiming Bishop Joseph Imesch and other diocese officials are responsible for alleged sexual abuse by Michael Gibbney. Bobby Drish (1968-) and David Mortell (1969-) accused Gibbney of molesting them beginning when they were 11 and 13 years old in 1979 and 1981, respectively. The lawsuits claim that Imesch was aware of Gibbney’s inappropriate conduct with boys at Mary Queen of Heaven parish in Elmhurst when the bishop moved him to St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Bolingbrook. Filed 2 February 2006.
Gibbs affair Rev. Lawrence M. Gibbs (Larry), ordained 12 May 1973, sexually abused boys in Lombard parish 1977 and 1980. Then early in Bishop Joseph Imesch’s career in Joliet in 1980, the diocese moved Gibbs while he was under criminal investigation and refused to tell investigators where he was. The bishop told parents whose children had been interviewed in the case that authorities had found no evidence to charge. During a deposition in August 2005, Bishop Imesch said a priest skinny-dipping and playing poker in the nude with young boys was “inappropriate,” but because Imesch did not consider it to be sexual abuse. The bishop sent Gibbs to Lockport parish where he began molesting an 11-year-old boy. Removed from ministry 1992. Gibbs left the priesthood. Affair settled 1998.
Howlin affair Rev. Carroll Howlin, ordained 26 May 1961, pastor in Whitley City, KY, since 1980, was suspended by the Joliet diocese and the Lexington, KY diocese pending an investigation into sexual misconduct, April 2002, canonical case pending.
Jochem affair Rev. Harold Jochem (deceased), Franciscan ordained 1930, man filed civil suit June 2004 alleging that he was abused from 1974 to 1978 by Jochem and another franciscan friar, Jeffrey Salwach, at St. Jude Catholic Parish in New Lenox. Suit says that the two priests forced the youth to engage in group sex, smoke marijuana and drink alcohol over a 4 year period.
Kocher affair Rev. Donald C. Kocher sued for abuse of a woman 1995.
Lenczycki affair Rev. Frederick A. Lenczycki (Fred), ordained 21 October 1972, had a history of sexual abusing as many as 30 boys, many from Chicago’s suburbs, which began after his ordination and continued through his 2004 conviction for the crimes committed at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale. He was accused in Joliet, moved to St. Louis and was removed when old allegations surfaced. Because Lenczycki left the state in 1984, shortly after more than a dozen young boys at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale accused him of molesting them, the statute of limitations had not yet run out, ruled DuPage County Circuit Judge Ann B. Jorgensen, 18 June 2003. Removed from ministry 2002. Convicted 2004. It appears that he had more than two dozen from about six assignments in Illinois, California and Missouri over several years.
McBrien affair Rev. Kevin Michael McBrien, Carmelite ordained 1970, was removed from position at St. Matthew Church In Glendale Heights May 2010 after allegation that he abused one youth on a single occasion approx. 30-35 yrs previously while at Joliet Catholic High School. Same person also alleged abuse on multiple occasions by Fr. Lee Ryan at Providence High School. Investigation by Diocese is ongoing, Lives in a supervised setting August 2010.
Mateo affair Rev. Leonardo Mateo, ordained 17 March 1956, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, left diocese 1984, later returned to Archdiocese of Cebu
Meis affair Rev. J. Anthony Meis, ordained 15 August 1972, hospital chaplain, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, settled. Removed from ministry 2002.
Mullins affair Rev. Lawrence Mullins (Larry), ordained 15 October 1977, sexually abused three boys while they were elementary school students and altar boys at St. Raymond Cathedral in Joliet from 1978 to 1980. Mullins told them the molestation was a normal part of coming of age. Removed from ministry 1993. Removed from Joliet Catholic Academy 2002.
- Fehrenbacher accusation Christopher Fehrenbacher said Mullins abused him several times between 1978 and 1980 in the school, in the church sacristy and in Mullins’ apartment in the rectory. Fehrenbacher was 10 years old when the reported abuses began. Mullins, who supervised altar boys, preyed on an elite group of youths who were granted privileges by serving at church functions.
Murphy affair Br. Robert Murphy, Carmelite, accused of abuse.
Nowak affair Rev. James A. Nowak, ordained 1967, retired in 2007 from Saints Peter and Paul in Naperville. Member of Montini Catholic H.S. board of directors. Removed without privileges August 2012 after allegation of sexual abuse of a minor approx. 25 years previously (possibly mid to late 1980s.) No parish information given but 1989 Official Catholic Directory shows him assigned to St. Anthony in Joliet. Review Board found allegation to be credible. Matter will be forwarded to Rome for further action.
O’Connor affair Rev. Donald O’Connor, ordained 23 May 1964, police chaplain, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry 2002.
Pock affair Rev. Donald Pock (d. 2004), ordained 7 June 1958, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry, 2002.
Poff affair Rev. Edward Poff, ordained 7 June 1958, hospital chaplain, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry, 2002.
Ross affair Rev. Anthony Ross, ordained 11 November 1972, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry 2002
Ruffalo affair Rev. Richard Ruffalo (1935-1997), ordained 30 May 1959, In 2002 Ruffalo was accused by at least 2 men of abusing them when they were boys. Allegedly gave them beer and wine, took them on trips to Las Vegas and molested them. Ruffalo was also accused of stealing from collections. He was over $95,000 in debt when he died in 1997. One man filed civil suit 1998 which later settled. 2 more plaintiffs filed suit 2003. 4th man came forward 2006.
Ryan affair Rev. F. Lee Ryan allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy in the 1970s. The now-52-year-old accuser said he and Ryan had a relationship for more than a year. The man confided in Ryan that he was gay, and things turned sexual as the two became closer. He believed they were dating. The accuser said he did not tell anyone at the time, and it was only in 2010 that he told his mother about his relationship with the family’s priest. His mother spoke to a victims advocate who arranged for him to submit a complaint to the church.
- Vatican view Vatican cited Canon No. 2359 in the 1917 Code of Canon Law to explain why the priest was not found guilty of violating church law. The code states that a cleric who violates the commandment forbidding adultery, by indecently touching a person under the age of 16, has committed a canonical crime. The priest removed from ministry over a sexual abuse allegation has been reinstated, September 2012.
Salwach affair Rev. Jeffrey Salwach, ordained 1984, man filed civil suit alleging that he was abused as youth from 1974 to 1978 by Salwach and another friar. Salwach later transferred to Texas before being placed on leave May 2003. Lawsuit settled and no criminal charges were filed. Still shown as active priest per Catholic Times 10 May 2009. In November 2011, word was received that Salwach had recently been assigned to work at LaVerna Friary in a residential neighborhood in St. Louis, MO.
Simonelli affair Rev. Jerry Simonelli was removed from his pastorate by Bishop J. Peter Sartain because he engaged in homosexual activity. “It was consenting behavior, but a priest takes a vow of celibacy,… He was unfaithful to his vows on more than one occasion,” 20 May 2010.
- Additional affair Separate diocesan investigation found that Father Simonelli had engaged in an additional homosexual relationship.
Slade affair Rev. Henry Slade, ordained 1984, accused of abuse, arrested and placed on leave January 1990. Pled guilty February 1990 to sexual misconduct with 18 year-old disabled man, removed from ministry 1990. Sentenced to 12 month. probation. Victim filed suit December 1991. Suit later settled.
Slown case Rev. John C. Slown, ordained 30 May 1959, was convicted in 1983 of sexually abusing an altar boy at St. Irene Catholic Church in Warrenville, was defrocked and then moved to Colorado. Slown says he left priesthood because he was alcoholic. In October 2003 two brothers filed suit alleging abuse by Slown, Ruffalo and Arno Dennerlein. Suit said abuse occurred in Illinois for several years and, for the younger boy, later in NJ. He was removed from ministry.
Stalzer affair Rev. David Stalzer (d. 2000), ordained 1974. 1993 civil suit claims that Stalzer and Lawrence M. Gibbs abused the plaintiff in 1981. Suit was dismissed in 1994 by the Court after Plaintiff claimed to have been treated by two psychologists and both denied having seen the man. Stalzer was returned to duty 4/93 (under supervision and with limited contact w/ youngsters) prior to resolution of suit. He was allowed to continue active duties until his death in 2000.
Stefanich case Rev. Edward Stefanich, ordained 25 May 1965, removed from ministry 1987, convicted for abuse of 14 year-old Woodridge girl, sentenced to 1 year probation 1987.
- Glen Ellyn allegation Stefanich was also accused of sexual abuse by a man Glen Ellyn man who recalled repressed memories of alleged abuse by Stefanich while at Christ the King parish in Lombard c. 1971.
- Anon girl I allegation Stefanich abused a 15 yr old girl for 16 mos in 1985-86. Church warned by Counselor about the relationship in 1986; they promised to handle but did nothing until 1987 after Stefanich proposed marriage and girl’s parents complained. Stefanich was indicted and pled guilty. In 1987 sentenced to 6 mo. jail; 1 yr of counseling and had to be laicized.
- Anon girl II allegation Police admitted that they knew he had abused another girl as well. Settled with family 4/88 for $450K.
- Anon accusation Man filed suit re abuse from 1969-1970, September 2003.
Van Duren affair Rev. Charles Van Duren (d. 1997), ordained 1952, name appeared on Diocese’s June 2008 list of accused priests with a credible/substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. Worked in MA, PA, St. Joseph Indian School in SD, and MS before coming to Joliet Diocese in 1970. Worked in several parishes,retired in 1995.
Virtue affair Rev. William D. Virtue, ordained 1975, accused of abuse in Joliet Diocese in 1980-1981. Placed on leave February 2006. Not included on Joliet Diocese list of confirmed abusers released 4.09.06. Civil suit filed May 2006. Virtue worked in Joliet, Rockford and Peoria dioceses. Diocese settled suit as to Virtue as of September 2007.
Welch accusations Brothers Jeff and John Welch accused a priest and two of his colleagues of repeated sexual abuse, beginning during the nightly prayers and continuing even after the family moved out of state in a lawsuit against the Diocese of Joliet and three former priests they allege molested them, 14 October 2003. They said the abuse continued for six years until 1968 while they attended St. John the Baptist Church and its religious school in Winfield. The priests named in the suit were John C. Slown, Arno Dennerlein and Richard Ruffalo. The brothers struggled through years of depression and counseling before coming to grips with the allegations, “As a kid, you’re taught to respect and admire priests, almost to the point that you believe these guys can’t sin,” said John Welch.
White case I Rev. Myles Patrick White, ordained 28 May 1968, removed from ministry 1992, convicted for abuse of teenager 1992.
White case II Rev. Thomas White, pastor of St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Wheaton, Ill., was the target of the lawsuit, which asked for damages exceeding $50,000, alleging repeated molesting of a 10-11 years old boy, in the rectory of the Carol Stream parish, 1979-80, October 2003. White was exonerated of abuse charges and reinstated as pastor after James Tibor of Naperville recanted charges of sexual abuse.
Joliet diocese releases report on priest abuse
Paper details handling of allegations and lawsuits, along with work to prevent further problems
“He’s trying to be as completely open as he can,” Delaney said. “This is a risk on our part, to be honest with you. … This will be available in the Catholic newspaper, in the back of churches, on the Web site.”
The report lists the numbers of allegations against priests in two recent fiscal years.
The report states there were nine in 2005-06 and seven in fiscal year 2006-07. However, none of the cases was current, dating from 1967 to 1991, and the names of priests in all credible cases of abuse are listed on the diocesan Web site, Delaney said.
The report also provides figures such as settlements, totaling $1.8 million for the two-year period, and attorney’s fees of $582,964. A total of 15 lawsuits against six priests were settled in 2006-07.
The report says the diocese has done criminal background checks on 22,550 employees or people of responsibility in the parish, and 63,000 children have been trained to recognize the signs of abuse.
Sartain was installed as bishop in 2006, after Joseph Imesch served as bishop for more than 25 years. Imesch’s tenure was rocked in its last years by criticism of his handling of sex-abuse claims against priests.
The diocese was formed in 1948 and is home to about 650,000 Catholics, most of whom live in DuPage and Will Counties.
The diocese’s report comes the day before a DuPage County jury will listen to opening statements in a civil case to decide whether a priest in the Joliet diocese convicted of sexually abusing students at a Hinsdale Catholic school in the 1980s should be committed to a state institution.
Rev. Fred Lenczycki, 62, is the first member of the clergy in the state to face incarceration under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.
Lenczycki was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to 5 years after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of three boys. In April 2006, a month before Lenczycki was to be released on good behavior, the commitment act was invoked.
The attorney general’s office claims that Lenczycki remains a threat to children and continues to suffer from a series of mental disorders because of his sexual desires. Defense attorneys claim that he has completed his prison sentence and that with treatment and counseling, there is no threat.
Lenczycki was removed from the ministry in 2002, according to the diocese Web site.
Jury selection started Monday and lasted until Thursday. The hearing is expected to continue into next week.
Shorewood priest charged
Man accused of molesting St. Charles boy
The Rev. Alejandro Flores, 37, also was charged with four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and two counts of criminal sexual assault for allegedly molesting the boy, now 13, at a West Chicago church where Flores was assigned as a seminarian, according to the Kane County state’s attorney’s office.
State’s Attorney John Barsanti said Flores abused the St. Charles boy between Jan. 1, 2005, and Jan. 1, 2010.
Flores was released from the hospital Wednesday and was in the custody of Kane County authorities. He was expected to be booked into the county jail later Wednesday and was to appear before a judge Thursday afternoon.
Flores was formally charged Friday, though the charge remained sealed until he was well enough to be taken in custody. The Bolivian-born priest had been hospitalized after reportedly trying to kill himself by leaping from the balcony. His bail was set at $1 million, Barsanti said. Flores must surrender his passport should he post bail.
On Jan. 6, two days after the Joliet Diocese placed Flores on leave from a Shorewood church when the abuse allegations surfaced, Flores fell 20 feet to the floor at St. Mary’s Carmelite Church in Joliet.
He was found unconscious between a row of pews. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Both police and church officials characterized it as a suicide attempt.
Flores was ordained in June. The abuse allegations stemmed from Flores’ time as a seminarian at St. Mary Catholic Church in West Chicago, authorities said.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. John Balluff, addressed the issue in the parish’s weekly bulletin, urging any parishioner with additional abuse allegations to immediately contact law enforcement.
“We will always be committed to doing everything possible to protect children, to help this child and his family and to help bring about healing for our families and the people of the diocese,” Balluff wrote.
Balluff did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
At a news conference earlier this month, Joliet Bishop J. Peter Sartain apologized to the boy and his family. There were no previous abuse allegations against Flores, the bishop said.
Barsanti said his office became aware of the allegations against Flores through the West Chicago police, who had received information from the church. Under state law, clergy are mandated reporters, meaning they must forward any allegations of sexual abuse. Police turned their investigation over to the Kane County Child Advocacy Center.
Ex-DuPage priest faces trial over release from custody
Parolee served time for sexually abusing 3 boys at Hinsdale church
Rev. Fred Lenczycki, 62, is the first member of the clergy in the state to face incarceration under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act. The law, which took effect in 1998, allows prosecutors to seek continued civil commitment of sex offenders they believe will re-offend because of a mental disorder.
However, a high legal bar is set for prosecutors to meet, and relatively few sexual offenders have been fully committed under the act.
Lenczycki, a priest in the Joliet diocese, was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to 5 years after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of three boys. In April 2006, a month before Lenczycki was to be released on good behavior, Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan and DuPage County State’s Atty. Joseph Birkett invoked the commitment act.
Since then, the priest, who was paroled after serving about 2 1/2 years in Dixon, has been housed in a joint Department of Corrections and Department of Human Services facility there.
On Monday, Judge Bonnie Wheaton will preside over the start of the selection of 12 jurors who will hear evidence and decide if Lenczycki should remain incarcerated. The main evidence and testimony in the trial, expected to last a week, will come from health experts who have interviewed Lenczycki and studied his mental state.
The state’s witnesses, when questioned by assistant attorneys general, are expected to say he remains a danger and threat to society, and that there is a substantial likelihood he will engage in future improper sexual acts. The burden of proof is with the state.
Lenczycki’s defense, led by James D. Montgomery, former Chicago corporate counsel under then-Mayor Harold Washington, is expected to argue that with regular counseling and continued treatment, he is not a threat to anyone. Opponents of the state law argue that the act is a form of double jeopardy, that the defendant has served the prison sentence and that the criminal judge who presided over the case has already issued a just punishment.
If Lenczycki is confined to a state facility, Judge Wheaton would get periodic updates on his condition and could possibly review the incarceration decision in the future.
Lenczycki was assigned to nine parishes before being sent to prison. The specific charges on which he was convicted stem from his abuse of three students, ages 10 to 12, at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Hinsdale from 1982 to 1984. He would call the young boys to his office, make them wear a provocative costume and abuse them.
Lenczycki spent time in treatment in the 1980s and was then assigned to parishes in California and Missouri through the 1990s.
Court records indicate that prosecutors believe he may have abused many more children, including one who eventually entered the priesthood. He reported allegations of sexual abuse after the criminal charges against Lenczycki were made public.
Bishop Joseph Imesch, then-head of the Joliet diocese, was criticized for failing to safeguard children while protecting Lenczycki. Members of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests said they are considering holding public demonstrations at the DuPage Courthouse in Wheaton. The group plans to have observers at the hearings.
Douglas Delaney, a spokesman for Bishop J. Peter Sartain, current head of the Joliet diocese, said Friday that the diocese “is confident that Fred Lenczycki will receive a fair hearing, and the judicial result will be in the best interest of everyone.”
Questions surface in Joliet Diocese’s handling of priest now imprisoned for child abuse
Early warnings failed to halt man’s ordination
In an apparent attempt to take his life, Flores had plunged 20 feet from the choir loft, where investigators found an empty bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label scotch. They also discovered in his bedroom a suicide note he had written to one of the two brothers he was accused of molesting, according to police records.
“Dear son … Forgive me. I love you more than you know,” Flores wrote in Spanish to the older boy.
A few days earlier, the mother of the boys had called the Diocese of Joliet to complain about the newly ordained priest’s relationship with her younger son. The next morning, diocese officials promptly removed Flores from any contact with children and notified authorities, who later charged him with molesting the boy. Bishop J. Peter Sartain also publicly apologized to the child’s family.
Although it appears the diocese may have responded swiftly in early 2010, the handling of the matter continues to draw criticism. And the scrutiny has followed Sartain to Seattle, where he was installed last winter as archbishop. Critics argue warning signs were ignored or missed while Flores was a seminary student — a five-year period that mostly occurred under Sartain’s watch.
The case, investigators say, raises concerns about whether the diocese — which long faced allegations of covering up child sexual abuse by priests — withheld crucial information that should have been forwarded to police.
A Tribune examination found that at least three supervisors said they saw Flores alone with either one or both of the woman’s sons several times before his June 2009 ordination, including once while the younger boy changed clothes in Flores’ presence and was overheard calling him “Daddy,” according to police reports, court records and interviews. Parishioners say they complained and that Flores ignored warnings that such contact wasn’t appropriate.
The newspaper also learned Flores was sent for psychological evaluation and treatment at least twice, including three months before his ordination when he admitted viewing pornography on a parish computer, records show. Authorities said diocese officials later told them the images appeared to show young males engaged in sex acts.
Police said the diocese didn’t report the questionable images, and that the computer’s hard drive had disappeared when they sought it months later.
One priest who had supervised Flores was so frustrated that the seminarian was ordained despite repeated warnings that he wrote to Sartain asking why his complaints fell on deaf ears.
“Why have I not heard anything from you as my bishop?” the Rev. William Conway asked in the confidential letter obtained by the Tribune.
“Why was my input ignored…?” he wrote.
Flores, 38, is serving a four-year prison term for criminal sexual assault. He declined interview requests. Supporters say he maintains his innocence despite a guilty plea.
Flores was assigned to St. Mary Parish of West Chicago, where some parishioners said they are still outraged. One of them, Jennifer Wiesner, is a former St. Mary school board member.
“I’m disgusted to know that (church leaders) … knew Flores had an attraction for young boys, had a taste for them, and yet they irresponsibly still chose to knowingly put him at our school,” she said.
Early warning signs
The Joliet diocese recruited Flores for the seminary in 2004 when he was living in Bolivia, where he was raised in an orphanage. He later studied theology and did missionary work, according to his profile in a diocese magazine.
By 2005, when Flores was assigned to St. Mary, he met an impoverished single mother from Mexico and her two young sons, then about 8 and 12. The first documented warning sign occurred that year when the Rev. Burke Masters, then an associate pastor, saw Flores alone in a car with the younger child and warned the seminary student it was not appropriate, records indicate.
Flores’ contact with the boys grew so close during the next two years that several parishioners said they voiced their concerns to Conway, who was St. Mary’s pastor, as well as to Masters and Flores himself. Parishioners Eduardo Fuentes and his wife, Luzma, of West Chicago, said Flores had the boys call him “Papa” and gave the oldest one expensive electronics, clothes and even a bike.
“They were together everywhere, all the time, to the extent that people were openly talking about it,” Luzma Fuentes said.
In spring 2007, while she worked as a teacher’s aide at a West Chicago welcome center for immigrant students, Fuentes and other workers there said they found suspicious emails between Flores and the oldest boy on a computer. They said he was a high school freshman at the time and often visited the center.
Masters, now the diocese’s vocation director, and Conway, now pastor at a Downers Grove church, declined comment. But in a Sept. 14, 2010, letter to Sartain, Conway complained that his repeated concerns were ignored and that his opinion on Flores was never sought before the seminarian was ordained.
“During that time, there were different incidents that I brought to Fr. Masters’ attention about Alex and the concerns that I had,” Conway wrote. “I also recall telling Fr. Masters that I was worried that someday his trust in Alex might be betrayed.”
Prosecutors said Flores’ ordination was twice delayed, beginning in 2008 when he alleged he was abused years earlier in the Bolivian orphanage. It again was postponed in spring 2009 after the Rev. William Dewan, who supervised Flores during two internships at Holy Family Parish in Shorewood, said Flores admitted viewing pornography on a parish computer, according to a police report. Another psychological evaluation was ordered, a court record said.
Prosecutors said in a court document that Dewan also had seen Flores alone with the two brothers and that the younger child once changed his clothing in front of Flores.
“Father Dewan told the defendant that this was not appropriate behavior and he was not to be alone with minor children,” Debra Bree, a Kane County prosecutor, said during Flores’ plea hearing in September 2010. “He reported this information to Father Masters, who was in charge of seminary candidates including the defendant.”
It’s unclear whether Masters told Sartain of these concerns. Sartain allowed Flores’ ordination three months after the pornography evaluation was ordered. Prosecutors said their efforts to learn the evaluation results were blocked.
On Jan. 3, 2010, seven months after ordination, the mother of the two boys called Masters to report that her boyfriend said he saw Flores engage in suspicious activities with her younger son in a car and inside their St. Charles apartment after she allowed the priest to sleep there one night, according to court records.
Masters phoned Sartain the next morning. After speaking to Flores, Sartain transferred him to a diocese residence away from children and permanently removed him from his priestly duties. The diocese also alerted authorities.
The response differed from what happened during the tenure of Sartain’s predecessor, retired Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch, whose 27-year tenure was tarnished by a clergy sex abuse scandal.
Imesch faced accusations of failing to report repeated allegations of priest abuse to authorities. Critics accused him of transferring accused priests to new parishes after treatment and blocking police investigations.
Two days after the Flores allegations arose, and hours before he was to meet with Kane County investigators, diocese officials reported him missing to police. Soon afterward, authorities found Flores lying on the floor of St. Mary’s Carmelite Church.
During their investigation, police uncovered another warning sign they said the diocese missed.
A former seminary student said he had a sexual affair with Flores that began in July 2007 inside the Shorewood church rectory while Dewan was out of town, according to police reports. The alleged affair lasted through 2009. The youth was 18 when it began. Flores was 34.
The two met at St. Mary’s in West Chicago where the younger man was a parishioner. He told police Flores once gave him $3,000 as a gift, the report said.
Shorewood police Cmdr. Eric Allen said the younger man admitted deleting incriminating photos and stealing the camera’s memory card from Flores’ room to protect him while he was in the hospital recovering from the fall. Flores sustained critical head injuries but recovered.
Police said the young man “had direct knowledge of the charges against Flores and intentionally deleted photographs of Flores with young children laying together in bed,” records show.
Allen said he was able to recover the memory card after the student cooperated and led him to a bush in Joliet where he had tossed it several weeks earlier.
Also disturbing, Allen said, was the diocese’s handling of the spring 2009 pornography incident. Diocese officials never reported the questionable images despite concerns that minors were depicted because they said the website had a disclaimer saying only adults were featured, according to Allen. The images couldn’t be retrieved months later when Allen became involved, he said.
“They said at some point someone got ahold of the hard drive and it disappeared,” Allen said. “I told them, ‘You had an obligation to contact the Police Department, and we’ll make the determination if this is appropriate material or not.’ It was disappointing how they handled it.”
New flock, old issue
At his Sept. 8, 2010, guilty plea, Flores admitted abusing the youngest boy from 2005 to 2010, beginning when the child was 8, usually in his car or the family’s St. Charles apartment. He faces deportation to Bolivia upon his release.
Days after Flores’ plea, Sartain was named Seattle’s new archbishop. A handful of protesters gathered outside the cathedral at his Dec. 1 installation.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called for Pope Benedict XVI to revoke the appointment based on the Flores case. Though it’s not clear how much Sartain knew, critics argue it was enough not to ordain Flores.
Under the direction of Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, the current head of the Joliet Diocese, the diocese is negotiating with the family of the two boys to try to reach a settlement, according to the family’s attorney.
In hindsight, Flores shouldn’t have been ordained, Doug Delaney, a spokesman for the diocese, said shortly after the guilty plea.
In a recent statement to the Tribune, Sartain again apologized for the abuse.
“Once again, I express my deepest apologies to these young boys and their family for the suffering they are experiencing as a result of this abuse,” Sartain said. “Their trust has been broken, and this is a terrible tragedy for them and for the church.”
Tribune reporter Manya A. Brachear contributed.