Retired priest Lenz on administrative leave after sexual misconduct claim
MARQUETTE — Father Frank M. Lenz, a senior, or retired, priest of the Diocese of Marquette, has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately, the diocese announced Monday.
The action was taken as the result of what it called a recently made credible allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor dating back to the 1970s. Lenz has denied the allegation.
In accord with diocesan policy, the allegation has been reported to the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office.
The diocese also has extended an offer of pastoral care to the person making the allegation.
Lenz has been removed from all public ministry duties and prohibited from presenting himself as a priest in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The diocese pointed out that this is not a final determination of guilt. Administrative leave is a precautionary measure while a credible allegation is being investigated. The diocese will announce any change in the status of these priests, according to its website at dioceseofmarquette.org/statusreport.
Bishop John Doerfler said in a prepared statement: “On behalf of the Catholic Church, I offer a sincere apology to all victims of clergy abuse. There is no excuse for what happened to you. You are in my thoughts and prayers, and I am willing to journey with you to find Christ’s peace and healing.”
In a Monday interview with The Mining Journal, Lenz maintained his innocence “without reservation.”
“I completely deny the accusations that this woman has made against me,” said Lenz, who also expressed sympathy for the victim.
He also said he looks forward to being cleared of the accusations.
Lenz, whose 49th anniversary as a priest in the Diocese of Marquette is June 7, noted that no other allegations from a man, woman or child have been made against him in his time serving the diocese.
Lenz said he was allowed to read the report on the incident, which was made Friday. That report alleged that he abused the woman at least a dozen times.
“Just sad and ugly and painful,” Lenz said.
Lenz, who lives in Powell Township, also is president of the Marquette Rotary Club. On Monday he denied the accusations at a club luncheon, adding that he doesn’t expect to resign as president or as a member.
After being ordained in 1969, Lenz became parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Church in Munising that year, and then in 1973 became parochial vicar of St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette. He became parochial vicar of St. Frances de Sales Catholic Church in Manistique with a mission in Gulliver in 1975.
In 1978, Lenz was named pastor at St. Andrew Parish in Nahma with missions in Cooks and Isabella. He became pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Goetzville with a mission in Hessels in 1982, with missions in DeTour and on Drummond Island in 1983. In 1985, he underwent graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
In 1988, Lenz became chaplain at Marquette General Hospital, and in 2001, was named pastor at Holy Family Parish in Flat Rock. He retired to senior priest status in 2007.
Anyone who might have suffered sexual misconduct by clergy, a church worker or volunteer is encouraged by Doerfler to come forward to receive pastoral care leading toward healing.
To bring a complaint regarding the sexual abuse of minors to the attention of the diocese, call one of the victims’ assistance coordinators: Stephen Lynott at 844-495-4330 or Diane Tryan at 844-694-4362.
Those who wish to put their complaint in writing may direct their correspondence to: Victim’s Assistance Coordinator, c/o Catholic Social Services of the U.P., 1100 Ludington St., Suite 401, Escanaba, MI 49829. The letter should be marked “personal and confidential” and indicate whether a response is desired by phone or by letter.
The diocese will also help anyone bring their concerns to church officials outside the diocese if the sexual abuse occurred elsewhere and the person now resides in the Diocese of Marquette.
Anyone who is unsure about bringing a complaint or wants further information may contact Lynott or Tryan.
The diocese always encourages those bringing a complaint to report the incident to local civil authorities. The diocese reports all allegations to the appropriate civil authorities.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.