Sex Suit Filed in Ariz. against Former Priest Living in Lafayette

By Sophia Voravong
Journal & Courier
April 15, 2009

A former Catholic priest who currently works at Alpine Counseling Center in Lafayette is being sued by an Arizona man who claims he was sexually abused by the priest in the mid-1980s.

The civil complaint, filed today in Navajo Nation District Court in Window Rock, Ariz, is the second such lawsuit filed in 15 months against Charles Cichanowicz.

It accuses Cichanowicz, a West Lafayette resident, of having repeated sexual contact with a then 15-year-boy on a Navajo reservation in St. Michaels, Ariz.

"We're seeking accountability - what exactly happened there?" said St. Paul, Minn.-based attorney Pat Noaker, whose client is identified only as John Doe in court documents.

"We want to see reform to make sure it does not happen again. ... Some of these most tragic cases could have been avoided."

A message was left this afternoon at a home telephone listing for Cichanowicz seeking comment. According to Alpine Clinic's Web site, he works with both teenagers age 16 and up and adults primarily on chemical dependency and addiction.

Cichanowicz, as a Franciscan priest, served from 1987 to 1990 at St. Boniface Church and from 1990 to 1991 at St. Lawrence Church, according to Journal & Courier archives.

The prior civil complaint against him, filed in November 2007, accused Cichanowicz of sexually abusing a teenage Navajo boy in the mid-1980s while a Roman Catholic priest with a New Mexico parish.

Noaker, who also is representing the unnamed plaintiff, said the lawsuit is in the discovery phase. He said the man in the more recent lawsuit decided to come forward based on response from Alpine Clinic's medical director, Dr. Nizar El-Khalili, after the first complaint, saying that the clinic stood by Cichanowicz.

The Alpine Counseling Center is part of Alpine Clinic.

"What happened years ago is haunting him more than he even knew," Noaker said. "This has really messed him up. ... He felt kind of strongly that it was his moral duty."

A message was left this afternoon at Alpine Clinic for El-Khalili seeking comment.

For more on this story, read Thursday's J&C.


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