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Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet Settles Claims of 14 Individuals Who Were Abused By Priests

CHICAGO, April 14, 2015 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet has agreed to pay $4,137,500 to resolve the claims of fourteen (14) men who were the victims of abuse by priests of the Diocese from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.  The men are represented by the Chicago-based law firm of Hurley McKenna & Mertz, PC., and the Seattle-based firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC.

Four of the men had previously filed suit in the Will County Circuit Court.  The suits alleged that the Diocese of Joliet allowed known or suspected predators and pedophiles to meet with young boys at remote or private locations outside the presence of other adults.  The incidents took place in private living quarters, at off-site “retreats,” and in the back row of a school classroom.  Several of them involve priests plying minors with alcohol and then taking advantage of them.  One involved an elaborate ruse in which the plaintiff was persuaded to strip out of street clothes and don a loincloth so that the priest could “practice” administering funeral rites.

The complaints expressly allege that the plaintiffs were sworn to strict secrecy by their abusers.  States Mark McKenna, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, “The truth was buried for a long, long time because first, kids are vulnerable and don’t really understand what is happening to them, second, they were being victimized by priests who had their complete trust and allegiance as a representative of God on earth, and third, several of our plaintiffs were actually sworn to secrecy by these priests.  No wonder they didn’t talk.  If their parents had had any inkling what the diocese knew when it knew it, they would have demanded immediate reporting and reform.”

The complaints allege that the Diocese of Joliet knew or should have known about the risk of abuse, or actual incidents of abuse, and yet engaged in a pattern and practice of hiding what it knew, and covertly transferring pedophile priests around the diocese and out of state – ultimately to protect its interests instead of the interests of the children entrusted to it, that it had a duty to protect.

In March of 2013, the Diocese of Joliet released 16 personnel files of priests with substantiated allegations against them of abusing children.  As previously reported by the Chicago Tribune, the files “contain more than 7,000 records detailing how the diocese purposely shielded priests, misled parishioners and left children unprotected for more than a half-century.”

Each of the priests accused of abusing the fourteen victims is on the Diocese of Joliet’s recently updated List of Priests with Credible/Substantiated Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors Made Against Them.  Each has been removed from the ministry.  One priest, Fr. James Nowak, is accused of abusing eight (8) of the fourteen victims.  Fr. Nowak continued to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Joliet until 2007, and served on the Board of Directors of Montini Catholic H.S. until 2012.

Other accused priests include Fr. Michael Gibbney, Fr. Lawrence Gibbs, Fr. Myles White and Fr. Fred Lyncyczk.  The accused priests were actively involved in these diocese parishes:

  • Boniface Catholic Church (Monee)
  • Mary Nativity School (Joliet)
  • Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (Bolingbrook)
  • Charles Borremeo Seminary (Joliet)
  • Dominic Catholic Church (Bolingbrook)

While most of the victims wish to remain anonymous, two victims are willing to speak to the media to discuss their claims on April 16, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. at the office of Hurley McKenna & Mertz, 33 North Dearborn Street, Suite 1430, Chicago, Illinois 60602.

Documents from the case

Filed – Compliant
FILED – Complaint 2013 L 391
FILED – Complaint 2013 L 392
FILED – Complaint 2013 L 393
FILED – Complaint 2013 L 394

Read about it in the news

Chicago Tribune, 4/15/2015
Patch, 4/15/2015

Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Filed Against the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Chicago Presbyterian Church

Seven men have come forward and brought new suits against the Chicago Presbyterian Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago and related organizations due to the harm caused by the sexual abuse they endured at the hands of Presbyterian minister Douglas Mason of Chicago.  Mason was previously accused of sexually abusing boys in the 1990s.  Four of those plaintiffs settled for a confidential amount, believed to be $11 million.  Read more to see the documents.

Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Filed Against the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Chicago Presbyterian Church

Seven men have come forward and brought new suits against the Chicago Presbyterian Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago and related organizations due to the harm caused by the sexual abuse they endured at the hands of Presbyterian minister Douglas Mason of Chicago.  Mason was previously accused of sexually abusing boys in the 1990s.  Four of those plaintiffs settled for a confidential amount, believed to be $11 million.

In the new lawsuits, plaintiffs allege that Mason met, groomed and abused the boys at Austin United Presbyterian Church and San Marcos Youth Ministry, both run by the Chicago Presbyterian Church in the 1980s and 1990s.  Moreover, Mason routinely checked four of the boys out of St. Gregory the Great Catholic High School where they attended to sexually abuse them in the 1900s.  The school failed to alert the parents and allowed the abuse to happen.

The suit names the following organizations as defendants:

  • Chicago Presbyterian Church
  • Presbytery of Chicago and its Church Extension Board
  • Archdiocese of Chicago

Below are links to the legal complaints that have been filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune: “7 men file sex abuse suits against Chicago Presbytery”

Father Frederick Lenczycki

After being rejected by both the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Green Bay, not surprisingly Father Frederick Lenczycki was accepted as a seminarian in the Diocese of Joliet in 1963, with Bishop Blanchette reserving his vote until Lenczycki’s IQ could be determined.  Prior to his ordination in 1972, Lenczycki’s interest in working with boys was well-known and he expressed he wanted to be trained in “adolescent psychology.”  In 1980 Lenczycki experienced some unknown “difficulties” and requested a transfer from Bishop Kucera.  He was transferred to St. Isaac Jogues where he served until he was removed in 1984 after a 12-year-old boy reported that Lenczycki sexually abused him.  Lenczycki provided the State’s Attorney with a list of thirteen boys with whom he had inappropriate contact.  Bishop Imesch the urged Lenczycki to “spend some time away from the diocese” but that by “June of 1987” Lenczycki could return.  Bishop Imesch helped find Lenczycki an assignment within the Archdiocese of San Francisco and recommended him saing he was “an excellent priest” who “will do a fine job.”    During his tenure in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Lenczycki abused at least three children in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1992, Lenczycki applied for faculties within the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Bishop Imesch stated “I have no reason why he should not be permitted to perform priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”  During the 1990s and early 2000s numerous victims came forward, including a two former seminarians who were abused by Lenczycki at St. Charles Borromeo in 1979 one under the guise of “psychological research” and another during spiritual direction, as well as a victim who was taken to Lenczycki for “counseling” when he was approximately 10 years old.  In November 2002, the DuPage County State’s Attorney filed charges against Lenczycki for the 1984 sexual abuse.  Lenczycki pled guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to five years in prison.  Just before his release in 2006, it was decided that he was too sexually dangerous to release and he served another three years. He was released on parole in 2009 and is a registered sex offender.   Over his 25-year career as a priest, it is estimated that he sexually abused at least 24 boys in three separate states.

Read the secret priest file on Father Frederick Lenczycki

Father Francis Lee Ryan

Rev. Francis Lee Ryan was “given the chance” to study for the priesthood in 1959 and was ordained in 1968.  In the early 1970s, the Diocese of Joliet received multiple letters from parishioners “criticizing Father Ryan,” however the Diocese has yet to produce those letters.  In 1985, the Diocese appointed Ryan as Diocesan Director of Vocations, a position of power he used to groom and abuse young boys who desired to enter the priesthood.  In April 1991 the Diocese received numerous reports of “rumors” regarding Ryan.  One parishioner states the rumors are “so violent in nature that if [true] should be investigated and Fr. [Ryan] should be defrocked.”  The parishioner then challenged Bishop Imesch by asking “if he is not suitable to remain at St. Francis, how can you in good conscience appoint him to another parish?” The Diocese did nothing in response except transfer Ryan to another parish.  In February 1993, a parishioner reported to Bishop Kaffer that Ryan “told him that he himself was a homosexual and had solicited” him.  However, Bishop Kaffer dismisses the complaint by saying the parishioner is “slightly retarded.”  In early 2002, the Diocese received reports of Ryan trying to groom a married man by repeatedly kissing him.  In response, Bishop Kaffer admitted Ryan engaged in “outrageous” conduct and “loved to shock people” when they worked together, but denies any abusive behavior.  The Diocese then sent Ryan for psychological treatment but then allowed him to resume an active ministry.  In 2010, a man came forward and reported Ryan sexually abused him while he was a student at Providence High School in the 1970s.  The Diocese placed Ryan on leave and in 2011 the Diocesan Review Committee unanimously agreed that allegations of abuse against Ryan were sustained.  Despite this agreement, in 2012 Bishop Conlon received instruction from Rome to reinstate Ryan because Ryan was not guilty of a “serious crime.”  Bishop Conlon then assigned him to St. Edmund Parish and St. Joseph Mission, but only a week later again placed Ryan on administrative leave “for the sake of the greater good of the Church.”

We Represent Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The attorneys on this website represent survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  We have experience prosecuting civil claims against the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, the Mormon Church, and many other powerful institutions that allowed children to be sexually abused.  If you or someone you love was sexually abused, please contact us to learn your options.

Father James Nowak

Difficulties with Father James Nowak began early on while he was still in the seminary.  In 1960, he was asked to leave the Capuchin Order because he was not “fit in regard to the vow of chastity.”  It was generally known that Nowak repeatedly watched others in the shower or using the restroom, and would roam the corridors and frequent the showers in order to seek such opportunities.  When he wrote to Bishop Blanchette in 1966 to request incardination into the Diocese of Joliet, he disclosed that he had been asked to leave the Capuchin Order because of his problems with chastity.  Despite this knowledge, Bishop Blanchette welcomed Nowak to the Diocese of Joliet, where he would eventually sexually abuse numerous children over the next three decades.  As early as 1967, the Diocese became aware of Father Nowak taking groups of children to swimming pools where he would swim and shower with them.  However, no restrictions were put on his behavior until 1990, when the Diocese prohibited him from being in any “locker room-type situations” with anyone under the age of 25.  Multiple victims of Father Nowak have come forward and described abuse at neighborhood pools, including Bolingbrook Park District. Father Nowak retired in 2007 and was placed on administrative leave in 2012 due to multiple accusations of childhood sexual abuse.

Read the secret priest file on Father James Nowak

Father Michael Gibbney

Throughout Father Michael Gibbney’s seminary years in the early 1970s, many of his superiors not only expressed their concerns about Gibbney, but many also refused to recommend him for advancement.  In 1975 when Gibbney petitioned the Bishop of Joliet for ordination, the Bishop was instructed to pay attention to “certain items” in Gibbney’s file that required attention and a subcommittee was formed.  Over objections by some on the Seminary Board, Gibbney was ordained in 1975.  In 1985 after a father reported that Gibbney had abused his sons on an overnight trip, Bishop Imesch gave Gibbney a series of “rules” regarding interacting with boys, including not taking boys on overnight trips.  Gibbney continued as an active priest until 1992, when he submitted his resignation after more allegations of abuse came to light.  Gibbney spent time with the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, and requested laicization in 2010.  During his time in the Diocese of Joliet, he abused numerous children at parishes in Elmhurst and Bolingbrook, Bensenville, Steger, and Morris.

Read the secret priest file on Michael Gibbney