Perpetrator Assigned to Navajo Nation Schools in 1970s and 1980s Following Reports of Child Sexual Abuse While Assigned in Indiana
(Phoenix, AZ) – Today, the Diocese of Phoenix and the Diocese of Lafayette (Indiana) were sued by a survivor of child sexual abuse by Father James J. Grear, a Catholic priest sent from Indiana to work at schools in the Navajo Nation in the 1970s. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Robert Pastor (Montoya, Lucero & Pastor PA) and Jeff Anderson (Jeff Anderson & Associates) on behalf of a man identified in the case as John TJ Doe, alleges sexual abuse by Fr. Grear at Chinle High School where Fr. Grear worked as assistant principal and later, principal.
“Too often the Catholic Church uses Native American communities to hide pedophile priests,” said Phoenix attorney Robert Pastor. “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. In doing so, they knowingly endangered our local children, including John TJ Doe.”
John TJ Doe is Navajo and grew up in Chinle, Arizona. He met Fr. Grear when he was about fourteen years old while Grear was working as the assistant principal at Chinle High School in the late 1970s. “I’ve come to understand I’m not the only kid who Father Grear preyed on, and that there were many other priests sent to places in Arizona and other places that were filled with people the Church thought would stay quiet about abuse,” said Doe.
Since the abuse, Doe has suffered acute and ongoing emotional, physical and psychological harm. For years he could not bring himself to disclose what Fr. Grear did to him to anyone because of overwhelming feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment. “I hope this lawsuit will embolden other survivors from Native communities and elsewhere to come forward and share their own stories.”
The lawsuit was filed under HB2466 / Arizona’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which gives survivors until December 31, 2020 to bring lawsuits for sexual abuse they suffered as children in Arizona.
“There is no question that there are more priests out there who did great harm to children in Arizona and were never held accountable for it,” said attorney Jeff Anderson. “Time is running out to expose these predator priests and those who protected them over the children entrusted to their care. It’s time for survivors of abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix to speak up, speak out, and take action under the Child Victims Act.”
John TJ Doe is available for comment with press. Please contact Robert Pastor with interview requests. Additional context for the case and perpetrator history have been provided in this release following the attorney contact information.
Additional Case and Perpetrator Information
Prior to being removed from ministry by the Diocese of Lafayette in 2001, Father Grear, a serial abuser, worked as the Associate Director for Religious Education for the Diocese of Phoenix, serving multiple schools in and throughout Arizona. Fr. Grear was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana on May 30, 1970. After ordination, he worked briefly at the Ball State University Newman Center (Muncie), before being sent to Brebeuf Prep School (Indianapolis) in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 1974. Following a short stint at Brebeuf, Fr. Grear was sent to the Diocese of Phoenix in 1976, where he worked as a staff member of the Diocese’s Religious Education Department. There Fr. Grear served in a variety of educational assignments, including Associate Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Phoenix, and administrative roles at St. John’s Indian School (Laveen) and Chinle High School (Chinle) in the late 1970s. After leaving Arizona in approximately 1982, Fr. Grear was given various assignments across the country and the globe, including in the Bronx in New York and Guam. For long stretches of time in the 1980s and 1990s, Fr. Grear was either listed in the Official Catholic Directory as “unassigned” or not listed at all.
Pastor says that Fr. Grear’s assignment history, when cross-referenced with the reports of survivors of abuse who have courageously come forward, shows that as the Catholic Church moved him around, Fr. Grear left a path of destruction in his wake. “For decades, and probably longer, Catholic Church leadership followed a game plan to cover for pedophile priests by moving them to a new town, diocese or state once clergy sexual misconduct was discovered,” he said. “The Catholic Church knowingly moved pedophile priests to a new parish or diocese, hoping the families of abused children would stay quiet and the child sexual abuse by Catholic priests would remain secret.”
Pastor says this game plan was particularly evident in Fr. Grear’s assignments. He noted the red flags of Grear leaving his home Diocese in Indiana so soon after he became a priest and then, shortly after, leaving the State of Indiana. Pastor also said the Church often sent the worst offenders to under-served, under-resourced populations, such as Native American Communities, where the Catholic Church counted on victims and their families being less likely to report the abuse. Pastor says the periods of time during which Fr. Grear was not assigned anywhere, and the fact that he was only at assignments for short periods of time, also suggest Church leadership knew Fr. Gear was a problem.
The Diocese of Lafayette permanently removed Fr. Grear from ministry in 2001, and named him on its list of credibly accused priests in 2018. The Diocese of Lafayette continues to keep the information that led to its decision secret.
Father Grear’s Sexual Abuse of John TJ Doe
John TJ Doe is Navajo and grew up in Chinle, Arizona. He met Fr. Grear when he was about fourteen years old while Grear was working as the assistant principal at Chinle High School in the late 1970s. John TJ Doe says the grooming began shortly after he met Fr. Grear and that he saw Fr. Grear as a role model. After some time, Fr. Grear began to shower Doe with gifts and attention. Soon after, he provided the boy alcohol and let the boy and his friends drink with him at his home, where much of the sexual abuse took place. Fr. Grear allowed Doe to move in with him, and tried to recruit Doe to bring other boys to his home, some of whom Doe now fears were also sexually abused by the priest.
Since the abuse, Doe has suffered acute and ongoing emotional, physical and psychological harm. For years, he could not bring himself to disclose what Fr. Grear did to him to anyone because of overwhelming feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment. For most of his adult life Doe has suffered alone and in silence.
“I’m saddened by the fact that the Catholic Church disregarded me and the other native people living in Native communities so much that they would allow a predator like Fr. Grear complete and total access to the children there,” said Doe.
Multiple Accusations of Child Sexual Abuse by Grear Come to Light in the 2010s
At least four men sued the Diocese of Lafayette between 2011 and 2019, alleging child sexual abuse by Fr. Grear when they were children in Indiana in the 1970s and 1980s. One man, who sued in 2018, alleged that Fr. Grear sexually abused him at a youth rally at a Carmel (Indiana) church in 1982. The survivor said he reported the abuse to Diocese of Lafayette Bishop Raymond Gallagher soon after. According to the survivor, the Bishop told him to forget about the abuse, not to tell anyone else, and to ask God’s forgiveness. Other men alleged Fr. Grear abused them as children during his time working as the Dean of Students at Brebeuf Prep in Indianapolis. One of the survivors said his parents reported the abuse to church officials in 1975 but that no action was taken. Fr. Grear would have been sent to Phoenix to begin his assignment at St. John’s Indian School soon after that 1975 report.
“The notion that the Catholic Church prioritized its reputation and the reputation of a pedophile priest over the safety of children should be condemned,” said Pastor.
There are Now 111 Known Abusive Priests and Clerics Who Worked in the Diocese of Phoenix
Last year, the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates, working with Pastor, released a report containing the identities, histories, and photographs of 109 Catholic clerics accused of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix. They reported at the time that one of the most shocking findings among their discoveries in collecting the data for the report was evidence that some perpetrators were transferred and retained in trusted positions with direct access to children even after Church leadership knew they were alleged abusers. Anderson and Pastor said modern means of analysis, evidence uncovered in other litigation, and the growing movement of survivors reclaiming their voice is exposing perpetrators who operated in the geographical boundaries of this Diocese.
“Until the Diocese fulfills its promise of transparency and accountability children remain in grave danger,” said Anderson.
Historically, the Diocese of Phoenix knew of priests who were perpetrators and posed a significant danger to children. The sexual abuse of children has long been a crime in Arizona. However, Church officials chose and continue to keep these crimes hidden, allowing its priests continued and unfettered access to children. In 2003, Bishop Thomas O’Brien (Bishop of Phoenix 1982-2003) admitted that he protected pedophile priests instead of protecting children. Bishop O’Brien admitted in a written agreement with criminal prosecutors that he allowed priests under his supervision to continue to work with children after becoming aware of allegations they had sexually abused minors. It is unknown how many children were sexually abused in the Diocese of Phoenix as a result of these dangerous practices and the systemic cover up of clergy sexual abuse.
On September 22, 2020, another man represented by Pastor and Anderson sued the Diocese of Phoenix and the Jesuit Order, alleging sexual abuse by Fr. James Sinnerud at Brophy Prep in Phoenix. That suit, plus John TJ Doe’s filed today, brings the number of known abusers worked in the Diocese of Phoenix to 111.
“There is no question that there are more priests out there who did great harm to children in Arizona and were never held accountable for it,” said Anderson. “Time is running out to expose these predator priests and those who protected them over the children entrusted to their care. It’s time for survivors of abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix to speak up, speak out, and take action.”