Pacific Daily News
The Capuchin Franciscans are a defendant in a Guam clergy sex abuse lawsuit filed by a former Agat parishioner Wednesday.
A man identified in court papers only as J.M., to protect his privacy, alleged Capuchin priest Sigmund Hafemann sexually abused him from about 1973 to 1976, including multiple times at the rectory of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Agat.
The Agat church rectory was where Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron allegedly raped and sexually abused altar boys in the 1970s, based on lawsuits filed earlier. Apuron is undergoing a Vatican canonical penal trial.
J.M. was about 10 to 13 years old at the time of the alleged abuse. He took catechism classes taught by Hafemann, the complaint filed in the Superior Court of Guam states. J.M. is now 54 and lives on Guam.
Hafemann died in 1996, the complaint says. The priest served as a missionary on Guam from 1972 to 1976, the complaint states.
J.M. is the 48th person to file a Guam clergy sex abuse lawsuit. It also names the Archdiocese of Agana as a defendant.
The complaint states the Capuchin Franciscans are divided into geographic areas called provinces, including the Province of Saint Mary.
One of J.M.’s attorneys, Seattle-based Michael Pfau, of the law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, has handled lawsuits against the Capuchins and other religious orders in other jurisdictions.
“The lawsuit against the Capuchins marks a new chapter in the Guam Catholic clergy abuse crisis. Religious orders like the Capuchins have their own priests, their own sets of rules, and their own leadership, separate and distinct from the Archdiocese of Agana,” Pfau said in a statement. “At issue in this case will be how the Capuchins and the Archdiocese of Agana jointly supervised Father Hafemann.”
J.M.’s counsel on Guam, Kevin Fowler, of Dooley Roberts Fowler & Visosky LLP, stated Hafemann started the altar boy program at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
“From our research, it appears that Father Hafemann was credited for establishing the altar boy program at the Mount Carmel Church in Agat. That program provided access to altar boys who allege they were later abused by Archbishop Apuron between 1976 and 1978.”