The plaintiffs in the first sexual abuse lawsuits filed in the courts of the Navajo Nation against the Diocese of Gallup and the Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Albuquerque and the priest who allegedly sexually abused them, have reached a settlement of an undisclosed amount.
The lawsuits alleged that former Franciscan priest Charles Cichanowicz sexually abuse the men in the late 1970s and 1980s while they were teenagers. Cichanowicz served in parishes in St. Michaels, Arizona and Shiprock, New Mexico. One of the lawsuits alleged that the Franciscans transferred the former priest to other parishes when he was caught, and continued to give him unsupervised access to parish children.
The lawsuit accused the diocese of not telling the parishes about Cichanowicz, reporting him to the authorities, or taking steps to prevent further inappropriate and illegal sexual conduct. Cichanowicz has since left the priesthood. An attorney for the plaintiffs said that the former priest did not admit guilt nor did the other defendants offer any apology to the plaintiffs.
According to the attorney, the plaintiffs feel that by filing the lawsuits within the Navajo Nation court system, they have protected others from abuse through raising awareness of abuse in the Navajo Nation.