Guam is a U.S. island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific home to strategic US military installations and a popular tourist destination. The territory doesn’t receive much media attention on the mainland. However, that may soon change for those following the Catholic priest abuse scandal.
Recent sexual abuse allegations lodged against Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, who has led the Agana Archdiocese for 30 years has caught the attention of the media and the Vatican. Earlier this month, Pope Francis temporarily removed Apuron and Hong Kong-born Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, currently second-in-command of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, would step in as apostolic administrator of Agana.
Abuse allegations concerning Archbishop Apuron surfaced about a month ago when 52-year-old Roy Taitague Quintanilla claimed Apuron molested him when he was an altar boy in the 1970’s. Soon after Taitague’s allegation, another sexual abuse accusation surfaced. This time a mother of an alleged victim came forward to say Apuron had molested her son who died 11 years ago. Deacon Steve Martinez, the archdiocese’s former sexual abuse response coordinator, said there were indications there could be more victims who have not yet come forward. Martinez has accused Apuron of promoting weak policies to tackle abuse, in a bid to prevent thorough investigations.
Similar to the Archdiocese of Boston sex abuse scandal, initial allegations of sexual abuse brought increased scrutiny upon the island’s Catholic Church. An abuse survivors group says Guam has been used as a “way station for problematic priests”, and abuse within the Catholic Church on the island spreads far beyond its Archbishop.
Joelle Casteix, an abuse survivor herself and a spokesperson for SNAP, noted, “I’ve heard from a number of victims who have been sexually abused by priests on Guam and the reason for that is two-fold, number one, Guam has been a way station in many ways for problematic priests, so if there was a priest who abused on the mainland many times, he was sent to Guam to have some rest and relaxation while he still worked as a priest and molested children, and we have seen that happen in a number of cases. Another problem is that it’s actually within the Catholic chaplaincy, the armed forces, we have seen a big problem of sexually abusive priests being put in the chaplaincy and I’ve received numerous phone calls from men and women who were abused as children by chaplains who are stationed at various bases, and for them, the chaplains are then moved on and they can’t probably name this person.”
Sadly, we’ve witnessed this before. The United States and Australia were dumping grounds for abusive priests last century. Now it seems Guam has become the new dumping ground for bad priests.
If you or a loved one have been abused by a Catholic priest or chaplain, please contact me. I understand how the Catholic Church operates and I am a compassionate advocate for those seeking justice and healing.
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