Lawsuit Alleges Priest Molested Navajo Boy in 1980

By Sue Major Holmes
Chicago Tribune
April 15, 2009,0,5698293.story

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A Navajo man is alleging a priest assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup sexually molested him when he was a teenager in 1980.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Navajo Nation District Court in Window Rock, Ariz., against Charles "Chuck" Cichanowicz, the diocese, the Franciscan Friars Province of St. John the Baptist and Franciscan Friars Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe by a man identified only as John Doe CG.

It was the second lawsuit filed against Cichanowicz in Navajo courts. Another Navajo man who claimed Cichanowicz gave him alcohol and sexually abused him as a teenager in the mid-1980s sued him and the diocese in November 2007 in Navajo court in Shiprock.

John Doe CG, who lives in Arizona, is seeking unspecified damages, alleging sexual abuse, assault and battery, negligence, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A spokesman for the Gallup diocese declined comment, citing the pending litigation.

The Associated Press also left messages seeking comment from Cichanowicz at the Alpine Clinic in Lafayette, Ind., where he now works. The clinic's Web site says Cichanowicz works with adults and with teens age 16 and older, focusing primarily on chemical dependency and addiction but also working with sexual orientation and sexual dependency issues.

Cichanowicz was a deacon and later a priest in the northwestern New Mexico-based diocese in the 1980s, assigned to St. Michaels parish in St. Michaels, Ariz., where John Doe CG lived as a teenager, the lawsuit said. The Diocese of Gallup encompasses San Juan and McKinley counties in New Mexico and most of northeastern Arizona.

The plaintiff alleges Cichanowicz sexually abused him when he was 15, first giving him alcohol, taking him to an adult book store and otherwise manipulating the teen. The lawsuit said Cichanowicz then took him to a Gallup hotel, where they had sexual contact.

The complaint alleges the diocese and the Franciscan orders to which Cichanowicz belonged were accessories because they transferred him when he was caught and continued to assign him to parishes, giving him unsupervised and unrestricted access to children.

They also did not report him to authorities, inform parishes or take safeguards to prevent him from unlawful sexual conduct in the future, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also said the diocese and orders had a duty to protect the plaintiff as a minor and knew or should have known of the priest's "dangerous and exploitive propensities." John Doe CG suffered injuries because of the dangerous conditions the diocese and orders created, it said.

The lawsuit alleges abuse and exploitation caused the plaintiff to develop "various psychological coping mechanisms" that prevented him from taking legal action and or becoming aware of his physical and psychological damage until last year.

The complaint said statutes of limitations do not apply because of "fraudulent concealment" by the defendants.


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