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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release

New abuse suit filed against predator priest

Little Rock bishop & diocese named as defendants

Top church staff “knew or should have known” about misdeeds

For 1.5 year, cleric sexually exploited newly-divorced adult parishioner

WHAT
At a sidewalk news conference, a victim and her attorney will
--announce the filing of a new civil sexual exploitation lawsuit against an Arkansas priest and the Little Rock Catholic dioceses,
--disclose several names of two clerics who “knew or should have known” about the abuse, and
--prod others who were similarly abused to step forward so they can begin to heal.

WHEN
Wednesday, April 13, 1:00 p.m.

WHERE
Outside the Pulaski County Circuit Court, 401 W. Markham St.(corner of Spring) in Little Rock

WHO
The victim (speaking only in silhouette), her Florida attorney and a victim who is the long time outreach director of a national support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)

WHY
The just-filed civil lawsuit says Fr. Charles U. Kanu sexually exploited an adult parishioner and counselee, and that church officials (including Little Rock Bishop Anthony Taylor) “knew or should have known that Kanu was a sexual predator, yet took no action to protect women from him,” “failed to report Kanu’s criminal activities to authorities,” and kept giving Kanu “unfettered access to vulnerable parishioners.”

Early in 2008, the alleged victim, now in her 40s, met Kanu at St. Peter the Fisherman parish in Mountain Home. Kanu repeatedly met with her (mostly at his rectory), counseled her, heard her confession, converted her to Catholicism and baptized her that October. (During these sessions, the suit says, Kanu learned “sensitive” information about her which he later used to “manipulate and exploit her into complying with his sexual demands.”)

Based in part on Kanu’s advice, the victim divorced her husband and in spring 2009, Kanu started sexually exploiting her. He continued counseling and abusing her, even after he was transferred to a parish in Helena, Arkansas (for undisclosed reasons). Once he victimized her in Searcy at a Nigerian priest-friend’s rectory and another time in Brinkley, where another Nigerian priest, Father Athanasius Okeiyi, was pastor. “Both of the priests,” according to the lawsuit, “were aware that Kanu was engaging in sexual contact” with the victim.

In 2009 and 2010, the victim’s husband and a Helena parish housekeeper told several church officials of their concerns that Kanu was spending excessive time with the woman. (Fr. Jim Fanrak was one of those notified.)

The abuse lasted for 18 months, stopping in October 2010. Around that time, Bishop Taylor told a Nigerian priest to “look into” the allegations, knowing that he and Kanu were friends. The suit also says that Kanu “sexually exploited other women before, during, and after the time he sexually abused” this victim.

In January 2011, Little Rock Catholic officials released a statement calling Kanu’s actions “non-criminal professional misconduct” but that omitted the word “sexual” and in no way indicated that he’s accused of sexually exploited or victimized a woman. SNAP says that statement was “vague and disingenuous, particularly since Arkansas law suggests that what Kanu did was criminal.”

Bishop Taylor is a named defendant, both individually and in his official capacity as head of the diocese.

Kanu was ordained in 1992 and also worked at parishes in Helena, Marianna, Tontitown and Huntsville. Msgr. Bernard Malone now heads Kanu’s most recent former parish: Immaculate Heart of Mary in North Little Rock.

The alleged victim is now in her 40s and lives in Arkansas. Kanu is believed to have fled to his native Nigeria.

CONTACT
Attorney Jessica Arbour 305 318 5444 cell, 305 931 2200 office, jarbour@hermanlaw.com, Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director (314) 862 7688, (314) 503 0003 cell, David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Director (314) 566 9790 cell


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org