ST. LOUIS, Missouri — The first Catholic priest in the U.S. to be labeled sexually violent when he was convicted in Illinois was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for abusing two boys in Missouri in the 1990s.
Fred Lenczycki, 75, pleaded guilty in May to two counts of sodomy for crimes that occurred from 1991 to 1994, when he served a parish in north St. Louis County. He was sentenced to 10-year sentences for each count, to run concurrently.
Lenczycki admitted grabbing the genitals of one boy and trying to force the other to expose himself. Though the crimes occurred more than 25 years ago, Lenczycki wasn’t charged until February.
Lenczycki apologized in a brief statement in court. His attorney, Matthew Radefeld, called the sentence “disappointing” because Lenczycki has been undergoing counseling and “made great strides.”
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, in a statement, called Lenczycki a “monster whose actions have affected countless victims and stolen the lives of countless children.”
One of the victims, Charlie Gensler III, now 37, called the sentence “a great step toward our healing and exposing the sexual abuse that occurs within the Catholic Church.” But, he said, the pain will never go away.
“Even though I’m happy with the sentence, it is basically all of us who are condemned to a life sentence of pain, grief and suffering,” Gensler said.
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. Those 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.
Lenczycki 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.
Church and court files show that Lenczycki admitted abusing up to 30 boys in Illinois, Missouri and California over 25 years. He now lives in suburban Chicago.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse have demanded more accountability and transparency from the Catholic Church since last year, when a Pennsylvania report detailed seven decades of child sexual abuse by predator priests. The Vatican convened a sexual abuse summit in February to hear the testimony of several victims.
In addition to the criminal cases, Lenczycki is named in several lawsuits.
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