Walter Lezuchowski, a priest who spent most of the past decade ministering to prison inmates and in a hospital, on Friday became the latest Metro Detroit Roman Catholic clergyman to step down from service under suspicion of sexual misconduct.
The Archdiocese of Detroit confirmed late this afternoon that Lezuchowski is the priest facing a “very credible” allegation that he had sexual relations with a young girl more than 20 years ago. He is among 16 current and former Roman Catholic priests under investigation in Wayne County.
Lezuchowski, 69, already received church-ordered treatment after the archdiocese determined in 1991 that other complaints involving children were credible and required action. It is unclear when the alleged abuse occurred, but Msgr. Walter Hurley told reporters Thursday that the complaints happened about the same time.
“Although it was determined by an independent, non-church evaluation that Fr. Lezuchowski did not represent a threat to anyone, what has happened here is certainly regrettable,” Hurley said in a statement. “Going forward, we can and will learn from this experience.”
Lezuchowski has spent most of his time since his treatment serving on a restricted basis, church officials said. That has consisted of serving as pastor for three months at St. Ronald in Clinton Township.
He also served as a part-time chaplain at Crittenton Hospital in Rochester and Ryan Correctional Facility, a state prison in Detroit, beginning in 1990, the archdiocese noted.
He resigned his position in 1991, at the time of the first sexual abuse allegations, and this time has taken a leave of absence.
Ordained in June 1959, Lezuchowski began his priestly duties as an associate pastor in St. Stanislaus in Detroit that year. In 1963, he held the same position at Our Lady Queen of Heaven in Detroit. Over the next 15 years he worked at Our Lady Queen of Apostles in Hamtramck, St. Albert the Great in Dearborn Heights, St. Robert Bellarmine in Detroit and St. Andrew in Rochester.
In 1979, he was named pastor of St. Aloysius in Romulus, the last assignment listed before allegations of misconduct derailed his career.
The archdiocese noted that Lezuchowski has cooperated throughout the latest allegations, which were first reported to law enforcement authorities, not the church.
Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan outlined the general nature of the current investigations involving priests and said prosecutions in each of the cases may be barred by the statute of limitations.
Lezuchowski’s case would seem to fit that category. He has spent most, if not all, his career in Michigan. If the only allegations date back more than 20 years, it may already be too late.
Duggan said Thursday, however, that in some cases he is investigating to see if there were any more recent unreported allegations to probe.