Blog Archives

Joliet diocese releases report on priest abuse

Joliet diocese releases report on priest abuse

Paper details handling of allegations and lawsuits, along with work to prevent further problems

March 14, 2008|By Russell Working and Art Barnum, Tribune reporters
The diocese of Joliet released a two-year progress report Thursday on protecting children, and Bishop J. Peter Sartain will distribute it in an unusually broad way, said diocese spokesman Doug Delaney.

“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.