Almost 100 lawsuits filed against clergy, former archbishop
by Stephen Wynne • ChurchMilitant.com • August 7, 2017
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (ChurchMilitant.com) – The Church in Guam is reeling from a clerical sex abuse scandal.
Since September 2016, the Catholic archdiocese of Agana has been named in 96 sex abuse lawsuits. After lawmakers passed a bill retroactively terminating the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases, dozens of men came forward, alleging that between 1955 and 1994, as minors, they were raped and subjected to other forms of sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese.
Some cases involve up to 50 defendants. Among them are 13 priests, a Catholic schoolteacher, a Catholic school janitor and Anthony Apuron, the former archbishop of Agana, who oversaw the Church in Guam for three decades.
As with abuse cases elsewhere, the suits allege that Guam’s Church leaders knew of the abuse but did nothing to stop it. One priest, an admitted molester, confirmed the leadership’s complacency in court testimony.
Apuron has denied accusations of raping altar boys in his care. After the allegations surfaced, he refused to resign forcing Pope Francis’ hand. In June 2016, the Pontiff stepped in, stripping Apuron of his pastoral and administrative authority and appointing Auxiliary Bp. Michael J. Byrnes of Detroit as coadjutor archbishop of Guam.
Apuron is currently on trial at the Vatican, facing possible laicization.
The archdiocese of Agana has said it takes allegations of abuse very seriously. “We are taking specific steps to address this issue,” it has stated, “including the establishment of a Victim Support Group and the setting up of a trust fund to address the needs of the survivors of clergy sexual abuse.”
The crisis in Guam is the latest in a wave of clerical sex abuse scandals that have swept the Church during the last 15 years. Though often portrayed as involving pedophilia, the root of the issue is, in fact, homosexuality among the clergy.
This was confirmed by a 2017 report issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It found that of cases reported in 2016 “eighty-one percent of the victims were male” and just “one in 10 were under age ten.”
Other studies commissioned since 2002 reinforce the USCCB’s findings; data consistently show that roughly four out of five sex abuse victims are male and 80–90 percent of these are post-pubescent.
The scandal has decimated the faith of some in Guam, where 85 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.
But others are defiant. Peering beyond the current crisis, they are resolving to fight for the resurrection of the Church.
Attorney David Lujan, counsel for several alleged abuse victims, has called for leaders to “remove the cancer caused by these pedophile priests and restore the Catholic Church to its rightful glory.”
Likewise, parishioner Mae Reyes Ada is resolute. “The Church is going through purging and cleansing,” she observes. “It takes somebody with a strong faith to fight this war.”
In an interview with Pacific Daily News, Jaden Comon, who petitioned for Apuron’s removal, vowed, “I’m here to help these people in their fight against the evils that have infiltrated our Church.”
“As young people, we are the future of the Church,” the fourteen-year-old declared. “It’s our responsibility, especially when we were baptized in the Faith, to come and help.”
Comon aims to become a priest.
Stephen Wynne is a staff writer for Church Militant.