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
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.”
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
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
Father Lawrence Gibbs, considered Joliet’s “most notorious priest abuser,” was recognized early on in seminary as a “poor candidate” for the priesthood. The Diocese of Joliet received repeated warnings about the character and propensities of Father Gibbs. Although in 1964 the faculty at St. Mary of the Lake seminary voted against allowing Gibbs to continue with his vocation and subsequently asked him to leave, Gibbs continued on at St. Procopius seminary. Again his superiors informed the Diocese of Joliet that Gibbs “bears watching.” In 1971, Gibbs applied for ordination into the Diocese of Joliet but after three hours of deliberations, the Seminary Board voted 9 to 0 against allowing Gibbs to be ordained. During their deliberations a number of the Board members stated that they cannot recommend him for the priesthood and they eventually gave him three options: 1) seek laicization, 2) take a leave of absence working as a layman and returning to an extended diaconate, or 3) continue as a deacon indefinitely. Although he was subsequently rejected by the Diocese of Rockford in 1971 and again by the Diocese of Joliet in 1972, noting he “seems to lack good judgment and prudence,” Bishop Blanchette for reasons unknown ordained Gibbs in May 1973 as a priest of the Diocese of Joliet. Problems arose almost immediately with Gibbs, and he was abruptly transferred to and from a number of parishes in Lombard, Lockport and Glen Ellyn. During the latter half of the 1970s, allegations surfaced regarding Gibbs sexually abusing boys at a cabin. Although Bishop Imesch was directly notified that several families intended to file charges against Gibbs, he simply transferred him to a different parish. Numerous parishioners came forward to express their concerns, but Gibbs was still allowed access to children. In 1992, the Diocese of Joliet finally suspended Gibbs from public ministry.
Read the secret priest file on Father Lawrence Gibbs
Originally a Trappist monk, Father Lowell Fischer requested incardination into the Diocese of Joliet in 1962. Fischer wrote to Bishop Blanchette and explained that he had worked with young boys for the past four years, but that his “extremely active work” caused many “misinterpretations and misunderstandings.” When Fischer left the monastery, his former abbot cautioned Bishop McNamara to put Fischer under “careful surveillance of a good experienced pastor . . . lest in his naiveté, he might make some serious mishap.” Over the course of the next few years, Fischer made it well-known that he enjoyed working with youth, and many commented that he had a “winning way” with boys and that although he was reluctant to form close relationships with other priests, he made notable effort to “gain better report with the school boys.” In 1975 Fischer abruptly resigned from St. Scholastica Parish and announced he was moving to Hawaii and going on “sabbatical” so he would not end up “in bad health or a nervous breakdown.” A year later, Fischer made clear that he could not return to the Diocese of Joliet because of the “lies, slander, and accusations” against him. He spent the next eighteen years in Hawaii before returning to Joliet in 1993 under restriction. Although multiple allegations of abuse involving Fischer came to light, he was not officially removed from ministry until 2002 when a young man came forward and reported that Fischer had not only begun sexually abusing him in 1968, but that he eventually moved to Hawaii with Fischer. In general, Fischer abused boys in multiple locations, including St. John the Apostle, Holy Ghost, St. Scholastica, and within the Diocese of Honolulu. When Fischer abused boys, he often referred to the abuse as “sharing.”
While Father Myles White was still in seminary, concerns arose regarding not only his temperament but also his ability to keep the vow of chastity. In 1967, the Diocese of Joliet stressed that it was of “paramount importance” that White be fully aware of what the law of celibacy requires and the necessity for White to provide an “explicit statement concerning celibacy.” In 1968, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Joliet is made aware that White engaged in acts of “imprudence” with young men, but the Bishop did not feel the problems were “serious enough” to stop White’s ordination. After he was ordained, White was transferred multiple times for a variety of unknown “personal problems” or “mistakes” before becoming pastor of St. Boniface in Monee from 1978 through 1988. He also served as pastor of St. Martin in Kankakee from 1988 until July 1992, when he was arrested on charges of child molestation. Notably, a video surfaced of White sexually abusing a young man and when the police went to White’s home, they found him destroying photographs of him and the young man. White soon admitted to sexually abusing children during a number of his assignments within the Diocese of Joliet. White was removed from ministry and served prison terms in both Illinois and Indiana.