5th Diocesan Priest Taken from Ministry
St. Louis Hospital Chaplain Removed, Returned to Joliet
By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
April 24, 2002
JOLIET — For the fifth time in a month, a priest associated with the Joliet Diocese has been removed from his ministry because of past claims of sexual abuse.
Bishop Joseph Imesch, head of the Joliet Diocese since 1979, has had to recall known molesters from limited ministries and remote locations out of state. Joliet priests have been pulled from ministries in Kentucky, California and now Missouri.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis said Tuesday that the Rev. Fred Lenczycki was removed from his post as a hospital chaplain and returned to Joliet in late March. Lenczycki was a defendant in a 1997 civil lawsuit that accused him of molesting nine boys when he served at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale.
The St. Louis Archdiocese said it was unaware of the accusations against Lenczycki until late last month.
"Archdiocesan records contain nothing pertaining to the original allegation," St. Louis Bishop Timothy Dolan said in a statement.
In a statement Tuesday, the Joliet Diocese disputes that account.
"Bishop Joseph Imesch recalls speaking with the then-Archbishop of St. Louis, John May, prior to Father Lenczycki's appointment as chaplain of a Catholic hospital in St. Louis," the Joliet's Diocese said. May died in 1994.
The Joliet Diocese also said that Imesch directed Lenczycki to inform hospital administrators about his past and that Imesch confirmed the hospital had been informed.
But the hospital Tuesday disputed that account.
"We were not made aware until the (St. Louis) Diocese found out in late March," said Sabrina Kalleberg, public relations director for SSM DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton, Mo.
Lenczycki was known as "Father Lenz" at the hospital, where nearly all of the patients are adults.
"On any given day we might have one or two (pediatric patients) out of 300," Kalleberg said. Still, the hospital had no reason to restrict Lenczycki's access to children while he was there, she said.
There are no current complaints in the St. Louis Archdiocese about Lenczycki.
"The archdiocese acted promptly when it learned of the allegation," Dolan said in the statement. "Such action underscores our primary goal of protecting children and their families from harm by those in whom they put their trust."
Lenczycki also was a chaplain in 1991-92 at Deaconess Hospital, which is now Forest Park Hospital, a spokesperson said. The hospital has no pediatric ward.
While in St. Louis, Lenczycki resided at several parishes, including St. Blaise in Maryland Heights, where he would frequently say Mass on Sundays. The Rev. Richard Bockskopf, pastor of St. Blaise, was asked about reactions from parishioners to word of the allegations against Lenczycki.
"The basic one is shock," Bockskopf said.
St. Isaac Jogues is in DuPage County, the northernmost of the seven counties served by the Joliet Diocese. A call to the parish was not immediately returned.
In addition to Lenczycki, the Revs. Phillip Dedera, Carroll Howlin, Gary Berthiaume and Anthony J. Ross were suspended from ministries this month because of claims about past sexual abuse.
Dedera was removed as a chaplain from Edward Hospital and St. Patrick nursing home in Naperville. Howlin was removed from a ministry in impoverished, rural Kentucky. Berthiaume was removed as chaplain from Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Ross was removed as prison chaplain in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Ted Slowik can be reached at (815) 729-6053 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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