PHOENIX — An Arizona man who says he was sexually abused by an Indiana priest more than 40 years ago sued church officials in both states Thursday, saying they allowed the priest into a Navajo Nation school despite his predatory history.
The Diocese of Phoenix, the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana and Father James Grear are all named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in Arizona’s Maricopa County. The plaintiff, who is Navajo, is seeking unspecified damages for pain, suffering and other costs.
The Navajo man was a 14-year-old student in the late 1970s when he met Grear, then the assistant principal at Chinle High School in northeastern Arizona. He said he initially looked up to Grear as they spent time together on youth and church activities, according to the complaint. But between 1977 and 1982, Grear allegedly made repeated and unwanted sexual contact.
Grear was among 12 priests the Lafayette diocese named in September 2018 as having “substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor” dating back decades. Grear was ordained in 1970, and was “removed from public ministry” and “priestly faculties” in 2001.
“Too often the Catholic Church uses Native American communities to hide pedophile priests,” Robert Pastor, the victim’s attorney who has also represented other child sex abuse survivors, said in a statement. “In this case the Diocese of Phoenix and the Diocese of Lafayette worked together to assign Father Grear to Native communities and hide his previous sexual abuse of children.”
Neither diocese immediately responded to messages seeking comment Thursday. A cellphone number listed for Grear appeared to no longer be in service.
Grear and the Lafayette diocese were involved in three similar lawsuits in March 2019. Three men alleged Grear molested them in a gym or in his apartment when they were 12 or 13 in the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, Grear was assigned to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the suburban Indianapolis community of Carmel.
The three men said the diocese protected Grear, who is now 78, from allegations by frequently reassigning him.
The suit comes just three months before a one-time window allowing survivors abused as children in Arizona to sue closes on Dec. 31.