200 horrific sex abuse lawsuits rock Guam Archdiocese

Over 220 former boy scouts, altar boys and students have begun a sex abuse lawsuit against 35 Catholic leaders in Guam’s archdiocese.

Court documents show a systemic pattern of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy took place on the US territory of Guam for over 60 years.

The sex abuse scandal and church cover-up that dates back to the 1950s has seen seven men publicly accusing Guam’s former Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of assaulting them when they were children. One of the seven is Apuron’s nephew.

Although the 73-year old archbishop denied the allegations, in 2018 the Vatican found him guilty of sex crimes against children.

Apuron was removed from public ministry at that time, but remains a bishop and receives a monthly US$1,500 stipend from the church.

He was the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agaña, Guam, from 1986 until 2016 when he was convicted in a secret Vatican sex abuse trial and suspended.

“He believed he was untouchable, more powerful than the governor,” says Water Denton, a former US Army sergeant who alleges he was raped by Apuron 40 years ago as an altar boy.

Denton reported the rape in August 2015 to Apuron’s superior, who was the apostolic nuncio for the Pacific.

He also wrote to Pope Francis. The Vatican opened an investigation.

The following May a survivor publicly accused Apuron of molesting him. Denton then informed the church he would also go public.

The day before his scheduled press conference, Francis suspended Apuron.

Apuron maintained his innocence even after Francis rejected his final appeal.

Comparing the decision to a death sentence, he said: “I lose my homeland, my family, my church, my people, even my language, and I remain alone in complete humiliation, old and in failing health,”.

The Guam archdiocese is not disclosing Apuron’s present whereabouts.

Documents that could have helped prosecute Apuron and many other abusers among Guam’s clergy are believed to have been destroyed.

Apuron’s successor, Michael Jude Byrnes, has said he heard rumours of “a big bonfire” before Apuron left.

Since Apuron’s departure and the subsequent lawsuits, priests in Guam are not permitted to be alone with children, and a committee is reviewing sexual assault claims.

The Guam archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection this year, estimating liabilities of US$45 million.

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News category: World.

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