Serial Child Abuser Placed in Indigenous and Rural Communities, SNAP Responds

A new lawsuit contains disturbing allegations that sadly fit with the pattern of how Catholic officials have handled the problem of clergy sex abusers in their ranks: quietly remove them from their parish, transfer them to a far-away community, and move on. We applaud the brave victim who has brought this lawsuit forward and hope it encourages other indigenous survivors of childhood sexual abuse to speak up and make a report to law enforcement.

According to the lawsuit, Fr. James Grear sexually abused a minor from the Navajo Nation after the priest had been transferred to Arizona following accusations that he had sexually abused several minors at his original post in the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. It is especially disturbing that Catholic officials in Arizona decided to place Fr. Grear in multiple locations with schools and access to young children after presumably knowing about the accusations against him in Indiana. In our view, it appears that Diocesan leaders willingly put indigenous children at risk in order to help quell scandal and prevent people from learning about the issue of clergy sexual abuse.

Those attempts to obfuscate the truth appearing to be still ongoing today – despite the fact that Fr. Grear was named on the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana’s list of accused priests several years ago, he still has not been added to the Diocese of Phoenix’ list. The Diocese of Phoenix is where this lawsuit has been filed. Bishop Thomas Olmsted should fix this problem immediately and add Fr. Grear’s name, headshot, and full work history to his list.

Over the course of his career, Fr. Grear was assigned to indigenous communities in Arizona and South Dakota before being transferred to Guam, an American protectorate with an absolutely horrific record of abuse. Catholic officials at every single location where the priest ever lived or worked should do immediate outreach to their parish communities, ensuring people are informed of the allegations against Fr. Grear and are encouraged to come forward and make a report to the police. 

This lawsuit helps to bring attention to an underreported facet of the Catholic clergy abuse scandal. Rarely are black, indigenous, or other survivors of color represented in media coverage. We hope this story will draw more attention to these underserved communities and that this will in turn encourage other survivors of color to feel like they would be supported, not turned away, for reporting their abuse.

CONTACT: Tim Lennon, SNAP President (tlennon@snapnetwork.org, 415-312-5820) , Mary O’Day, SNAP Phoenix (phoenix@snapnetwork.org, 602-677-2188), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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