Survivor rallies to expose alleged priest abusers, Jefferson City Diocese responds
By Kyreon Lee
July 24, 2019
A member of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and a member from Voices of the Faithful gathered outside of the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Columbia on Wednesday to rally.
Survivor and SNAP's former long time executive director, David Clohessy, said he was abused by a Moberly priest in the 1960s, when he was 12 to 16 years old. Clohessy said he came forward when he was in his 30s because he couldn't be silent anymore. He said they were rallying in response to a former Columbia priest that is set to be sentenced next month.
According to online court records, in May, ex-priest Fred Lenczycki pleaded guilty to two counts of sodomy. According to The Associated Press, Lenczycki pleaded guilty to crimes that occurred in the early 1990s when he was serving at a parish in north St. Louis County. Church and court files show that Lenczycki admitted abusing up to 30 boys in Illinois, Missouri and California over 25 years. Lenczycki was removed from the ministry in 2002, when he was charged with sexually abusing three boys in the 1980s at a church in Hinsdale, Illinois. The Illinois victims told authorities “Father Fred” repeatedly molested them, often using the pretense of swaddling them in “Baby Jesus” costumes for pageants that never took place. He pleaded guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2008, a year before his release, he became the first U.S. priest to be labeled sexually violent when he was committed under Illinois’ Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.
According to online court records, Lenczycki is expected to be sentenced Aug. 16 in St. Louis County.
Last fall, SNAP said they revealed that Lenczycki spent time at Our Lady of Lourdes. They said Bishop Shawn McKnight hasn't added him to the official diocesan 'credibly accused' list.
SNAP representatives also said at Wednesday's rally that they wanted to reveal that three more credibly accused predator priests spent time in Columbia, urge mid-Missouri Catholics to write a judge and seek the stiffest penalty for Lenczycki, and tell the Bishop to add another name of a priest – who worked in Rolla - to his ‘accused’ list.
SNAP said they've disclosed the following about priests in the area and have demanded the following from Bishop McKnight:
In March, SNAP said they disclosed that two alleged predator priests worked in Columbia:
Fr. Mel Lahr, who was at Sacred Heart in Columbia in 1973. (He also worked in Hannibal, Canton, Boonville, Bourbon, Salibury and St. Martins and was also chaplain at the Boonville Training School for Boys in 1974-1975.)
Fr. Geoffrey A. Brooke, who was at the Newman Center at University of Missouri. In March, he was put on leave this year because of reports of "boundary violations with minors." (He also worked in Sedalia, Jefferson City, Washington DC.)
Since then, SNAP said they discovered that three more priests deemed ‘credibly accused’ of child sex abuse have lived or worked in Columbia (according to the Official Catholic Directory). They are:
Fr. John Long, who was at Our Lady of Lourdes in Columbia, Mexico, Jefferson City, Moberly and Lake of the Ozarks. He took a leave of absence in 1982 and retired in 2000.
Fr. Donald L. Wallace who was pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Columbia (1974-1975), studied at University of Missouri-Columbia (1972-1973) and worked at a Columbia hospital in 1998, after reportedly stepping down from parish work the year before and undergoing treatment. (He also worked in Salisbury, Fayette, Marshall, Moberly, Rich Fountain, St. Thomas, Fulton, Jefferson City, Dixon and Rolla, where he was credibly accused of abusing four kids).
Fr. John H. Fisher, who was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Columbia, (1970-1971) and retired 1993. (He also worked in Jefferson City, Rolla, Hannibal and Macon.)
Last November, when Bishop McKnight released a list of ‘credibly accused’ clerics, SNAP said he did not reveal the towns where they worked. SNAP said they call this “continued and inexcusable secrecy” both “reckless and callous,” saying “it endangers kids, hampers law enforcement, and impedes healing.”
The group said they want McKnight to provide – and permanently and prominently post on church websites - a full list of abusive church staff (priests, deacons, bishops, monks, seminarians and lay employees) along with their photos, whereabouts and work histories.
SNAP said they also learned that a credibly accused St. Louis predator priest, Fr. James Gummersbach, worked in Rolla. So the group said they want Bishop McKnight to add him to the Jeff City diocesan ‘credibly accused’ list.
The Jefferson City Diocese sent KRCG 13 the following statement in response to SNAP's rally and demands:
The Diocese of Jefferson City remains committed to a safe, healthy and holy environment for our children. Furthermore, our preferential concern is for the survivors of sexual abuse. All of our efforts are based on these two core principles.
If anyone is aware of any inappropriate behavior toward our children or vulnerable adults, please contact the appropriate Missouri state hotline:
The Missouri Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline: 1-800-392-3738
The Missouri Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-392-0210
Attorney general form to report clergy abuse: https://ago.mo.gov/other-resources/clergy-abuse-resources
We also invite people to contact our Victims Assistance Coordinator, Nancy Hoey, so we may be aware of the alleged abuse and respond appropriately. Her contact information is 573.694.3199 or email@example.com.
We appreciate SNAP’s desire to bring justice to those abused by priests. If SNAP has any information regarding abuse by clergy or religious in the Diocese, Bishop McKnight welcomes that information. The Diocese will research SNAP’s allegation that Father James Gummersbach served as a priest in Rolla. At this time, we have no information to support that allegation.
The Diocese of Jefferson City has no documentation indicating Father Frederick Lenczycki requested permission to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Jefferson City. On Oct. 31, 2018 we were notified of handwritten letters by Father Lenczyki dated Jan. 14 and Jan. 16, 1985, in which he indicated he was living at the rectory of Our Lady of Lourdes in Columbia and had celebrated Mass at St. James “about 100 miles south” of Columbia. Another handwritten letter in the file indicates he was in the state of California by mid-March 1985. These documents were published by a lawyer and supposedly in the files of the Diocese of Joliet. We were alerted to their existence by a news reporter. Regardless, Bishop McKnight wrote a letter that was read on Nov. 3-4, 2018 at the parishes where he supposedly served asking anyone with information to come forward. No one has presented any allegations at this time to the Diocese. Therefore, Bishop McKnight has no information to offer to the judge.
SNAP has asked the diocese provide assignments of the clergy who are credibly accused. Because the majority of our parishes are in very small communities, in respect of the requests of some victims and their families, we are not listing assignments. We also acknowledge some of the clergy on the list may have had access to children and young people throughout the diocese through participation in some diocesan-wide programs. A full report of the men credibly accused and/or removed from ministry in the Diocese of Jefferson City may be found at https://diojeffcity.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Credibly_Accused_12.16.2018.Parish_packet_v3.pdf. This list was distributed in print form to every parish in the Diocese and is permanently posted on our website. The list includes priests of the diocese and priests or brothers who were credibly accused while serving in the diocese.
More than 18,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Jefferson City have participated in our safe environment training. This provides them with information on the warning signs of predatory behavior, the Code of Conduct expected of all who work or volunteer for the Catholic Church in Central and Northern Missouri, and how to report suspicious activity of anyone who might want to harm children. The Diocese of Jefferson City includes 38 counties in central and northeastern Missouri. Approximately 82,000 Catholics live in the Diocese, worshipping and serving in 95 parishes.