Jeff City bishop challenged on abuse
Jeff City bishop challenged on abuse
SNAP "outs" a priest who worked in Columbia
Few knew of his time in mid-Missouri until last week
Victims question prelate's 'troubling' remarks on seminarians
Group also want church to post accused priests' names on line
Catholic officials should do "more aggressive outreach," SNAP says
Victim want them to"beg witnesses & whistle blowers" to call AG Hawley
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will call on mid-Missouri's top Catholic official to
--disclose that a convicted serial child molesting cleric worked at two mid-Missouri churches,
--explain his "disturbing" comments about lowering seminarian standards,
--post on church websites the names of clerics accused of child molestation, as roughly ten bishops have agreed to do in recent weeks, and
--aggressively reach out to victims, witnesses and whistle blowers, urging them to contact the Missouri Attorney General to report wrongdoing.
Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 2:00 p.m.
On the sidewalk outside Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 903 Bernadette Dr, Columbia (573-445-7915)
Two or three victims and advocates who belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including a St. Louis man who was the group's long time executive director, its Mid-Missouri volunteer leader and a concerned Catholic deacon
A new abuse report released last week in California showed that a serial child molesting cleric, Fr. Frederick A. Lenczycki, worked at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Columbia in the mid-1980s. Fr. Lenczycki apparently also filled in for a priest in St. James.
Fr. Lenczycki was ordained in 1972. He was arrested and convicted in 2004 of abusing three boys in the Joliet, Illinois, area. SNAP believes Fr. Lenczycki was the first US priest in history to be deemed a "sexually violent predator." Because of that designation, he was kept behind bars even after having served his sentence. According to one news account, he “is believed to have molested an estimated 31 boys in three states over his 25 year career as a priest.”
According to an attorney who sued him, Lenczycki was released from custody in 2009 and lived in Berkeley (a Chicago suburb) as a registered sex offender. However, his current whereabouts are unknown.
SNAP has also recently learned that Jefferson City's Catholic bishop, in a 2014 speech, told Catholic therapists that "we have to be careful not to hold our standards so high that nobody can get in" to the priesthood. Now more than ever, SNAP believes standards for the clergy should be toughened, not relaxed. The group wants Bishop Shawn McKnight to explain his remarks.
Because of recent shocking revelations of abuse and cover up across the world, and the resulting outrage from church members, more and more bishops are posting the names of priests with allegations of abuse that have been proven, admitted or found to be "credible." Roughly 50 prelates have done so and about 10 more have committed to do so. None of Missouri's four bishops have taken this step.
SNAP wants Bishop McKnight to be the first in the state to "help protect kids, heal victims and promote truth" by disclosing these men's identities, histories and whereabouts. This is especially true in light of Attorney General Josh Hawley's recently announced inquiry into clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
To his credit, SNAP says, Bishop McKnight recently revealed that a now-deceased accused priest from Scranton Pennsylvania, Fr. John A. "Jack" Pender, worked in mid-Missouri (Richland, St. Robert and Crocker) during the 1970s and 80s. Fr. Pender was accused in 2014 and was publicly identified in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago when a grand jury there issued a scathing report "outing" 301 "predator" priests.
But SNAP feels the bishop should also do "regular and aggressive outreach" about all of the 21+ accused priests in the diocese, not just Fr. Pender. The organization believes there are still dozens and dozens of "deeply wounded victims suffering in silence, shame, confusion and self-blame" who would benefit if church staff moved more compassionately to find and help them.
Finally, while SNAP is highly skeptical of AG Hawley's probe, the group wants Missouri Catholic officials to use pulpit announcements, parish bulletins and diocesan websites to prod victims, witnesses and whistle blowers to participate in the investigation.
There are 81,000 Catholics in 95 parishes in the Jeff City diocese. Bishop McKnight was appointed to the diocese last November.
David Clohessy, Volunteer St. Louis SNAP Leader, 314 566 9790, firstname.lastname@example.org
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.