Hagatna, Guam, Aug 8, 2017 / 15:55 pm
Nearly 100 lawsuits have accused Catholic clergy in Guam of sex abuse over a 50 year timespan, alleging assault, manipulation and intimidation of the alleged victims, according to a new report.
The accused include Archbishop Anthony Apuron, 13 Guam priests, a Catholic schoolteacher, a Catholic school janitor and a Boy Scout leader. The Archdiocese of Agana is a defendant in 96 lawsuits, which concern claims from 1955 to 1994, reports the USA Today Network’s Pacific Daily News.
“We care deeply about every person who steps forward and we look forward to a full resolution of all cases,” the archdiocese said July 28, saying it takes all allegations “very seriously.”
The large number of lawsuits is in part due to the actions of lawmakers in September 2016, when they retroactively eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse. The criminal statute of limitations, which cannot be applied retroactively, was lifted in 2011.
About 85 percent of Guam’s population of 163,000 people is Catholic, served by 26 parishes. The island is only 30 miles long and about one-fifth the size of Rhode Island. All eight of Guam’s trial judges have recused themselves because they have family or business ties with either the plaintiffs or the defendants in the suits.
The charges against the archbishop allege sexual abuse of four altar boys in the 1970s. Archbishop Apuron, 71, has denied the charges and his attorney has filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits.
In June 2016, Pope Francis stripped the archbishop of his authority and named a temporary apostolic administrator, reportedly at Archbishop Apuron’s request.
The archbishop is facing a church trial that could dismiss him from the clergy. The presiding judge at the tribunal was Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.