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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Third child sex case filed against teen mental health counselor

He's an ex-priest who has molested teenagers in New Mexico

Despite the accusations, he may still work with teenagers in Indiana

But two weeks ago, his name inexplicably disappeared from agency website

A third civil child molestation lawsuit has been filed against a former New Mexico Catholic priest who recently counseled (and may still counsel) teens and young adults in Indiana. All the suits have been filed in the last 15 months.

Like the first two lawsuits, the new one was filed in Navajo Nation District Court in Shiprock, New Mexico. It says that in 1978-1980, a then 15-18 year old boy was sexually molested by Fr. Charles ("Chuck") Cichanowicz. The crimes took place at in Gallup and on the Navajo Nation Reservation in St. Michaels, Arizona where the boy lived. It began with the priest “grooming” the boy through “naked sunbathing and wrestling” giving him liquor and “manipulating (him) into having sexual contact.”

Cichanowicz is now a teen mental health counselor and addiction specialist at the Alpine Clinic in Lafayette, IN (AlpineClinic.com). Roughly two weeks ago, his name was apparently taken off the clinic’s website, though his employers have made no announcement regarding his status.

Leaders of a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org) have blasted clinic officials for refusing to suspend Cichanowicz or launching an investigation into the charges. Now, they’re calling on the clinic to disclose his status and whereabouts.

"Letting a twice-accused child molester be around troubled kids is callous. But if he’s being allowed to practice elsewhere ‘under the radar,’ the public needs and deserves to know that," said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP national director. "How will clinic staff live with themselves if they learn that this predator has hurt an already wounded or confused youngster who came to the clinic seeking help?"

SNAP has also
-- prodded New Mexico Catholic officials to release information regarding Cichanowicz and
-- urged anyone who saw, suspected, or suffered clergy sexual abuse to come forward, get help, and call to law enforcement.

"It's frightening that a predator would move from one group of vulnerable kids - Native Americans in an isolated setting - to another - kids with chemical additions and other problems," said Clohessy. "We suspect Cichanowicz may have hurt kids in Indiana and, if so, we hope they'll come forward, get help, and call the police."

In 2007, SNAP leaders, along with victims' attorneys, held news conferences outside the headquarters of the Gallup Diocese and Santa Fe Archdiocese in Albuquerque. (While in Shiprock, Cichanowicz was employed by the Gallup Diocese.) Both are defendants in the lawsuits, along with a religious order called the Cincinnati-based Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist, which included, for a time, Cichanowicz' direct supervisors.

According to earlier news accounts, the Alpine Clinic's medical director, Dr. Nizar El-Khalili, says he has heard no complaints about Cichanowicz.

Attorneys for the victims are Patrick Noaker of St. Paul, MN (651 227 9990 work, 612 961-1307 cell) and William R. Keeler of Gallup, NM (505-722-5608).

The latest victim, who filed using a pseudonym, still lives in Arizona.

Contact:
David Clohessy of St. Louis MO, SNAP National Director (314) 566-9790
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis MO, SNAP Outreach Director (314) 503 0003


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