Updated 11/11: Resident Hopes Message Will Empower Catholics

By Amy Deis
Voice from the Desert

November 11, 2008

Hinsdale resident Linda Pieczynski believes the Roman Catholic Church has been covering up sexual abuse of children and financial mismanagement.

She has joined the advisory board of Send the Bishops a Message, a group urging Roman Catholics to withhold financial donations on certain Sundays.

“We want to make Catholics aware that they can change their church,” she said.

The Send the Bishops a Message initiative is the brainchild of Frank Douglas of Tucson, Ariz., whose blog, Voice From the Desert, comments on reports of abuse and coverups of crimes by bishops and priests.

The initiative launched Monday with the first withholding day this Sunday. Catholics can drop a message in the offering plate explaining to the parish that they are withholding their donation and instead giving it to another group they support, such as a nonprofit or charity.

“The lack of transparency is just terrible in terms of using our money against us,” Pieczynski said, referring to bishops covering up crimes.

Doug Delaney, executive assistant to Bishop Peter Sartain of the Diocese of Joliet, said although everyone has a right to an opinion about the church, the initiative not to give an offering could have an impact on church services, schools and charities.

“There are a lot of soup kitchens and poor people helped,” Delaney said. “The church serves a lot of good, and there wasn’t anything good on the Web site.”

Delaney said about 5 percent of offerings to a parish goes to the diocese, which serves about 750,000 people each year. The other 95 percent funds such parish services as schools and religious education.

However, Pieczynski said Catholics typically don’t have a voice in the hierarchy of the diocese, where a small portion of offerings go, so restricting funds is one way Catholics can regain some power in their parish.

The Web site offers an option for Catholics to report when they withheld money and how much. Pieczynski said this will allow the board to track how much impact the campaign has. The site also explains in the frequently asked questions section that not donating on Sunday will not hurt the Roman Catholic Church because Catholics are encouraged to donate to a charity or nonprofit.

Pieczynski hopes her background as a criminal lawyer can help. She worked for the state’s attorney as a deputy chief of the criminal division and supervised the juvenile division and is now a Hinsdale village prosecutor.

A close-to-home case at St. Isaac Jogues School, where her children attended, prompted Pieczynski to encourage the state to prosecute former St. Isaac priest Fred Lenczycki.

“It had always bothered me that nothing was happening in the case,” Pieczynski said.

Lenczycki was charged in 2004 for sexually abusing three St. Isaac boys in the early 1980s. He was sentenced to five years, and a group of people petitioned to keep him detained at a mental facility in Rushville in 2006. A judge declared him a sexually violent person in March.

Pieczynski also is involved with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and has represented sexual offenders.

“I have a lot of passion for the issue,” Pieczynski said. “I haven’t left the Roman Catholic church, but the Roman Catholic church has left me.”

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