Air Force Academy Removes Chaplain
Woman Alleges Affair in '84 When She Was a Cadet

By Dick Foster
Rocky Mountain News [Colorado]
April 21, 2000

An Air Force Academy priest has been removed from chaplain's duties following allegations that he had sex with an academy cadet 16 years ago.

Disciplinary action is pending against the Rev. Pat Nicholson, a 54-year- old lieutenant colonel and Catholic priest, the academy said Thursday. The academy cited the federal Privacy Act in declining to comment on what that action would be.

The cadet, Susan Archibald, now 35 and an Air Force Reservist, says she reported the chaplain's actions to the academy last November.

"I've been a very unhappy person inside. I feel that the core of myself has been damaged, my soul has been damaged," she told the Denver Rocky Mountain News on Thursday.

"I've carried around a lot of guilt. I have problems establishing trust, and this put a strain on my marriage because of the things I kept from my husband," she said.

She said she revealed the priest's action to an academy counselor in 1984, while a cadet, but she does not believe the counselor, who was also an Air Force officer, took action.

Archibald said she was an 18-year-old academy freshman in 1984 when she went to Nicholson, then a captain, for counseling. Within a week the two had begun a sexual relationship that continued until Nicholson was transferred after her freshman year.

Nicholson was gone from the academy when Archibald returned to teach geology in 1993 and bought a home in Monument. When she returned to sell the home last summer, she found Nicholson back at the school. She confronted him about their 1984 affair, which she now considered an abuse of his role, but the two returned to sexual intimacy.

"I fell back into the role of being a victim more easily than I ever imagined," she said. "Then I developed an anger and began to see him not as a good, compassionate priest, but as a disturbed person."

The academy began its investigation after Archibald's allegations in November and announced its proposed decision to her last month: an Article 15 discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that could give Nicholson a maximum 60 days restriction, forfeiture of a month's pay and a reprimand that could effectively end his Air Force career. He would not be prosecuted criminally.

Archibald wants the academy to admit the abuse and take steps to prevent its recurrence.

Archibald also wants a similar admission from the Catholic Church, whose military chaplains are governed by the archbishop of New York.

Nicholson could not be reached for comment and no comment was available Thursday from Catholic officials.


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