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story.lead_photo.caption Attorney Jessica D. Arbour, left, holds up a photo of Catholic Priest Charles U. Kanu during a news conference Wednesday outside the Pulaski County courthouse. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

— An Arkansas woman claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court that she was sexually exploited by a Catholic Priest and that church officials who knew or should have known about the danger failed to protect her.

The woman - who is identified as Jane Doe in the filing - spoke during a news conference announcing the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon outside the courthouse. The alleged victim said she has suffered depression and anxiety and that she "lives in fear largely throughout every day and night" because of what happened to her.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court alleges a woman was sexually exploited by a priest in Arkansas.

Lawsuit alleges sexual abuse by Ark. priest

Video available Watch Video

The woman purports to have met Father Charles U. Kanu at St. Peter the Fisherman parish in Mountain Home, where he counseled her, converted her to Catholicism and later engaged in sexual acts with her on multiple occasions.

"I think it's time to stop being scared and to stop being silent for things we didn't cause," the woman said, pausing to collect her emotions. "I do feel very strongly that there are other women out there who have suffered by his hand. I hope that in my courage to come forward, they will see that it is OK and there is healing to be found after such a devastating betrayal."

The suit names Little Rock Bishop Anthony Taylor as a defendant.

The filing alleges that Kanu over 18 months used sensitive information he learned from the woman to "manipulate and exploit her into complying with his sexual demands." Attorney Jessica D. Arbour said Arkansas law makes it illegal for a person, specifically including a member of the clergy, to consent to a sexual relationship with a person they have power over.

Arbour said Kanu used his position over the woman to assure her his actions were part of "God's plan."

"He took his time to have her let her guard down and then eventually converted it into a sexual relationship as part of the counseling relationship," Arbour said.

The suit adds that at least two other priests were aware that Kanu was engaging in sexual contact with the woman and that Taylor last year directed a priest to look into the allegations.

The Diocese of Little Rock in January suspended Kanu's priesthood and removed him from a North Little Rock parish he was leading at the time. The Diocese said then it acted after an investigation revealed "non-criminal professional misconduct."

In addition to North Little Rock and Mountain Home, Kanu has also served in parishes at Helena, Marianna, Tontitown and Huntsville.


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  • chuck62
    April 13, 2011 at 3:01 p.m.

    While I find such behavior appalling, I'm also rather uncomfortable that the woman's name and picture are withheld (upon presumption that she's telling the truth, and therefore deserves to have her privacy and reputation protected) while, at the same time, her lawyer holds up a picture of the priest (upon presumption that he's guilty, and therefore deserves whatever personal damage may result). Such a charge, even if false, could ruin a person's reputation and career, not to mention the fear and emotional anguish. Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty?" If someone wants to remain anonymous, that's fine, but shouldn't they at least be required to also extend that same anonymity to the person charged, at least until the verdict is rendered? Shame on the media for making themselves both judge and jury, and for reaching a verdict, as seen by their selective publicity, before any evidence has been presented.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:25 p.m.

    Hey Chuck62,
    Guess you didn't watch the video where it not only shows the victim but also has her speaking about the incidents.

  • travelertoo
    April 13, 2011 at 3:26 p.m.

    I thought they preferred little boys........gotta' watch out for people everywhere these days. What's that Pastor Hagee called the Pope?

  • evanspe12170820
    April 13, 2011 at 5:28 p.m.

    The Catholic Church in Arkansas has had a rather clean record on such issues. Even of proven true, which it in fact may not, it is certainly not something that is pervasive or condoned by Church "management" in our state.

  • JudyJones
    April 13, 2011 at 8:11 p.m.

    We urge anyone who has knowledge or may have been harmed by Father Charles U. Kanu to contact law enforcement or an attorney, not church officials. Sexual crimes, however old, should be investigated by the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the biased amateurs in church offices.

    This very brave victim is to be commended for speaking up and taking action to expose the truth. This is not an easy thing to do. But keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests"

  • jaymac
    April 13, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.

    Judy Jones speaks of "this very brave victim". Green has a way of producing "bravery". Anyone out there that wants to get some green---Come on down.

    If she is on the up and up and just wants to protect others, I don't think 5 million would be her request. The lawyer may want to build this up to a class action lawsuit with 10 or even 30 participants and go for 50 milion.