Congregations informed of alleged abuse by priests
FARMINGTON — The Diocese of Gallup has released more information about sexual abuse allegations against some of its clergy.
On Monday, the diocese published on its website the names of 30 priests and one lay teacher it determined have had "credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor" against them since the 1950s. The affected congregations were notified during Mass on Sunday.
Five priests on the list — John Boland, Charles "Chuck" Cichanowicz, Joseph Coutu, Conran Runnebaum and Lawrence "Larry" Schreiber — served in San Juan County, as did the only lay person, Brett Candelaria.
"It always surprises me that there would be credible allegations against a priest," said Father Tim Farrell, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Farmington. "It not only surprises me, it disturbs me."
Farrell was among dozens of priests in the diocese who stood in front of their parishes Sunday to read a letter from Bishop James S. Wall naming the priests accused of sexual abuse and stating the diocese's commitment to transparency and creating a safe environment for families. Runnebaum and Schreiber served at Sacred Heart, and Boland was chaplain of the church's school, according to the diocese's list.
Releasing the list "was one of the things Bishop Wall wanted to do ever since becoming bishop," said Suzanne Hammons, the media coordinator for the diocese, on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, the diocese began an investigation into alleged sexual abuse by clergy. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2013 in the face of a series of lawsuits claiming clergy sexual abuse.
Farrell said he feels the diocese waited too long to publish the names of the accused priests.
"This should have been dealt with years ago, and here we are in 2014 just putting these names out," he said.
Farrell added, "When someone has a credible allegation, deal with it then and don't wait for a lawsuit."
Although several of the priests served in San Juan County, that does not mean they committed the alleged offenses here, Farrell said.
"They served for many years across the diocese," he said.
The diocese has released 11 of the names on the most recent list previously. The new list does not provide details about the alleged abuse. It includes the priests' names and their assigned parishes.
Many of the priests on the list are also named in lawsuits against the diocese, though not all who have been accused are on the list.
Monsignor James Lindenmeyer, who served at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Farmington, is accused in a May 2013 lawsuit filed in Coconino County, Ariz., of sexually abusing a minor. His names does not appear on the diocese's list.
Hammons said the diocese determined whether allegations against the accused priests were credible based on whether a criminal investigation was conducted or if the diocese could determine patterns in the accusations against a clergy member.
She said the list could expand if the diocese learns of other credible accusations.
The sole lay person on the list, Candelaria, served as a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine teacher from 1991 to 1992 at Holy Trinity Parish in Flora Vista. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine is similar to Sunday school, Hammons said.
In 1995, Candelaria was convicted of sexual abuse in Aztec and spent two years in prison.
He was sentenced in 2009 to 36 years to life for sexual abuse in Denver. The Denver Post reported Candelaria used a church setting to gain access to his victims. While in Denver, he used his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to win the trust of the families of his alleged victims, according to a Denver Post story from 2009.
Boland's name was one of the 11 that previously had been released. He served as a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Bloomfield in 1987 and as a chaplain at Sacred Heart School in Farmington in 1994, according to the Diocese of Gallup. He also served at other locations in the diocese, which encompasses northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona.
In February 2009, Boland's case caught the diocese's attention when the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted considered moving Boland to another parish. Olmsted discovered an article in Boland's file indicating he may have abused children in the past, according to Daily Times archives.
Cichanowicz's name was also previously released. He was accused of abusing multiple teenage boys while serving as a priest at Christ the King Parish in Shiprock and at St. Michael's Parish in Arizona in the 1980s.
Cichanowicz later moved to Indiana and left the priesthood. He became a counselor at a clinic there, where he worked with adults and teenagers. He specialized in helping his patients with chemical dependency and addiction, but also counseled them about sexual orientation and sexual dependency issues, according to Daily Times archives.