|Hearing to Commit Priest Convicted of Sexual Assault Begins
Lawyers, Mental Health Experts Debate Risk of Repeat Abuse
By Art Barnum
March 14, 2008
As opening statements in his civil commitment hearing began Friday with explicit details of his sexual abuse of more than a dozen young boys, Rev. Fred Lenczycki silently bowed his head.
"A leopard doesn't change its spots," said Illinois Assistant Atty. Gen. Michael Kress, who addressed the DuPage County jury in his effort to make Lenczycki the first member of the clergy in Illinois to be incarcerated under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.
"A man who doesn't learn from his history is doomed to repeat it," Kress said.
He contends that Lenczycki remains a high risk to molest again despite having completed a prison term in 2006 for the criminal sexual abuse of three Hinsdale Catholic school boys in the 1980s.
Four members of Lenczycki's family were present during the first day of the hearing in Wheaton but declined to comment.
Defense attorney James Montgomery told the jury that Lenczycki's present attitudes differ from when he offended.
Lenczycki, 63, was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in the Joliet Diocese in the 1970s.
"No one can accurately predict that failure of human nature, but the risk of recidivism is small," Montgomery said.
Evidence includes the testimony of four mental health experts, two supporting the state's point of view and two supporting the defense.
All four agree he suffers from the mental disorder of pedophilia, but they disagree on his future criminal actions.
Amy Phenix, a California clinical psychologist testifying for the state, said Lenczycki "was a high risk for re-offending.
He has never been able to stop himself over 25 years."
She also noted that previous treatment for Lenczycki, who is in the DuPage County Jail, hasn't worked.
Montgomery countered that treatment was considered inadequate or poor until the 1990s and that Lenczycki had a spotless record in prison and no criminal history other than his sexual misbehavior.
He said that at Lenczycki's age, the priest has a 4 percent to 5 percent possibility of re-offending.
At age 70, that probability will be zero, Montgomery said.
"He has been in treatment for the past two years and remains in treatment today," the attorney said.
Kress detailed Lenczycki's history of sexual abuse, which allegedly began several years after his ordination in 1972 and continued through his 2004 conviction for the crimes committed at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale.
Although previous public statements have said Lenczycki may have molested as many as 13 different victims, testimony Friday put that number at more than two dozen from about six of Lenczycki's assignments in Illinois, California and Missouri over several years.
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