Hon talks about mercy, lawsuits, bills
Pacific Daily News
11 July 2016
The Archdiocese of Agana is revising its response policy for allegations of sexual abuse against officials of the church, weeks after four persons accused Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of sexually abusing altar boys in Agat in the 1970s.
At the same time, Monsignor Brigido “Bibi” Arroyo, the current spokesman for the archdiocese, said Monday that the archdiocese has a new sexual abuse response coordinator — Deacon Leonard “Len” Stohr.
The SAR coordinator post, previously held by Deacon Larry Claros, is a member of a group in the local Catholic Church charged with reviewing sexual abuse allegations.
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, sent by the Vatican to temporarily administer the Archdiocese of Agana while Apuron is stripped of his administrative duties temporarily, said in his latest weekly itinerary that an ad hoc group met on Friday “for the revision of the Archdiocesan Response Policy for allegations of sexual abuse against officials of the Church.”
Arroyo confirmed the revision of the sex abuse response policy, but said the revision was not directly a result of the recent public accusations against Apuron.
He said it is about making sure the best policy is formulated.
“It is to go over the policy, see if there’s revision or update needed. That is being done by the team,” Arroyo told the Pacific Daily News.
Arroyo said once the policy is revised, the expectation is that it will be published for the community to see.
Deacon Steve Martinez, a former sexual abuse response coordinator for the Archdiocese of Agana, said a few weeks ago that the church’s sexual abuse policy is weak, flawed and a failed one that needs to be changed.
Martinez said even if Apuron is the one accused of sexual abuse, the archbishop has the sole authority to determine which sexual abuse allegation gets investigated and has the final word on any investigation findings. He said Apuron, as the accused, cannot be the judge himself.
As early as 2014, Martinez as SAR coordinator requested Apuron to have the response policy reviewed and revised. Apuron replaced Martinez with Claros after that request was made.
To date, the Archdiocese of Agana has not released information about any ongoing investigation by the Vatican on the accusations against Apuron that he sexually abused altar boys when he was parish priest at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Agat in the 1970s.
The four accusers, through attorney David Lujan, filed on July 1 a libel and slander lawsuit against Apuron, the Archdiocese of Agana and up to 50 other unnamed individuals, for calling them liars when they came forward to accuse Apuron of sexually abusing altar boys nearly four decades ago.
They also testified in support of a bill lifting the statute of limitations for the filing of lawsuits against child sex abusers or molesters.
Hon, in a July 10 message as apostolic administrator, seemed to reference the lawsuit, the bill, and the need to treat neighbors with mercy.
“Modern societies have sharpened the tools of the law and people may be led to the belief that wrongdoings can be solved simply by lawsuits or the passage of certain bills,” Hon said.
“Today Jesus asks his followers to go beyond the book of the law and to try to see things from the perspective of mercy, especially during this Great Jubilee Year of Mercy, announced by Pope Francis,” he continued.
Neither the Archdiocese of Agana or Hon has submitted any official comment on the bill, which is undergoing substitution and will be up for another public hearing.
Hon also reiterated the canonical visitations of all the parishes and the two major seminaries in Guam this month.
“This is a way not only of assessing their activities but also a way for their spiritual purification, so that the parishes might better serve the People of God and the seminaries improve in their formation of good pastors,” he said, again calling for prayers and the need to work together to move forward toward “greater unity and stability” in the Archdiocese of Agana.
The Vatican appointed Hon on June 6 to temporarily administer the Archdiocese of Agana. Hon has since appointed and reshuffled the leadership in the local Catholic Church.
The archdiocese has also made public Hon’s itinerary starting from when he left Rome on June 6, and his meeting with Gov. Eddie Calvo on the day he arrived in Guam on June 8. He has since officiated Masses and held several meetings with the clergy and other church members, as well as met with independent accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, among other events and functions.
4th sex abuse accuser of Guam archbishop also an ex-altar boy
03:13 AM June 16th, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO — Another former altar boy came forward June 14 as the fourth alleged sexual abuse victim of Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron.
Roland Paul L. Sondia, now 54, said the church leader molested him when he was a 15-year-old altar boy during a sleepover in the summer of 1977 at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church rectory in Agat where Apuron was parish priest, according to a Pacific Daily News report.
Sondia said he was hesitant to reveal experience with Apuron until his childhood friends from the same Agat neighborhood came out to publicly accuse the archbishop in recent weeks. Apuron has not been charged with any crime.
“This was a man who I trusted and had a lot of respect for,” Sondia, now a father of two, stated during a press conference outside the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Agana.
Sondia’s family, attorney and the families and supporters of the three previous accusers were with him during the press conference. All of them want Apuron removed as head of the Catholic church in Guam.
The Archdiocese of Agana’s response to the latest accusation against Apuron wasn’t retaliatory like its responses to the first accusers who came forward in May.
“The Archdiocese of Agana, taking into serious consideration the allegations presented to the public this morning, will take necessary steps to present the matter to the Holy See, which has final authority in cases related to Bishops,” read a statement from Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, the archbishop that the Vatican sent to temporarily administer the Archdiocese of Agana.
In previous responses, Apuron and the Archdiocese threatened to sue the accusers for spreading “malicious” and “calumnious lies” against the archbishop and the Church.
Former altar boy accuses Guam archbishop Anthony Apuron of past sex abuse
Two other men have come forward to accuse Apuron of sexual assault while they were minors in the 1970s. Apuron has not been charged with any crime. He has denied abuse allegations.
By: AP | Hagatna (guam) | Updated: June 16, 2016 9:18 am
A former altar boy became the third person to publicly accuse Guam’s archbishop of sexual abuse four decades ago, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
Roland Paul L. Sondia, 54, said he was 15 when Archbishop Anthony Apuron, then a parish priest, abused him during a sleepover in a church rectory in 1977, the Pacific Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/21mlTr9 ).
Two other men have come forward to accuse Apuron of sexual assault while they were minors in the 1970s.
Apuron has not been charged with any crime. He has denied abuse allegations.
A phone number listed for Apuron was disconnected. The archdiocese didn’t offer a number to The Associated Press where Apuron could be reached for comment on the latest allegation.
Sondia spoke publicly at a news conference, saying he has tried to put the abuse behind him but felt that he should come forward when childhood friends began sharing similar stories in May.
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, a temporary administrator appointed by the Vatican after the allegations resurfaced, said in a statement that the archdiocese will take the situation into “serious consideration” and present it to the Vatican, which has final authority in cases related to bishops.
Sondia recalled that Apuron woke him at the 1977 sleepover and gestured for Sondia to follow him to his room, where Sondia said he was abused. Sondia said he found the strength to break free and ran out the front door of the rectory.
“Everything happened so fast. I was in shock, I was confused, offended, humiliated and disappointed that the man I looked up to had just asked me if I wanted to have sex with him,” Sondia said, according to the newspaper. “I cried as I walked home that night.”
Sondia stopped serving at any of the Masses that Apuron celebrated. But he said he felt that he could not tell anyone what happened because he didn’t think they would believe him.
“My parents always felt that they didn’t have to worry about me knowing that I was at the rectory helping the priest,” he said.
Sondia is information technology manager at the Pacific Daily News, where he has worked since 1981.
The Associated Press does not generally name people who say they are victims of sex crimes. Sondia, however, spoke publicly at a news conference.
Guam Catholics distressed after 2 rape allegations but resilient in their faith
Pope Francis on Monday named Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai to take over the Hagatna archdiocese after abuse allegations against Archbishop Anthony Apuron.
By: AP | Hagatna (guam) | Published:June 10, 2016 10:52 am
Members of the Catholic church in Guam are reacting with devastation to the accusations that Archbishop Anthony Apuron sexually abused young boys decades ago, but they’re saying they’re still resilient in their faith.
“Everybody’s talking about it. It’s causing a lot of mistrust, anger, and pointing fingers. It’s devastating,” said Patricia Perry, 73.
“We’re neighbors. We grew up together. It’s very conflicting to believe anything,” Perry said. “I just can’t see the archbishop doing those things.”
Pope Francis on Monday named Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai to take over the Hagatna archdiocese after abuse allegations against Apuron resurfaced in recent weeks. A church deacon publicly accused Apuron of keeping the archdiocese’s sex abuse policy weak to protect himself.
In a prayer meeting with clergy and faithful in a packed church on Thursday, Hon sought cooperation and said he was following the Holy Father’s instructions to restore unity, harmony and stability in the local church. Apuron will continue to hold his title, but any decisions are removed from him, Hon said.
“There are different issues from different groups and we have to address them,” Hon said. “But if these issues are addressed in a climate of serenity, and prayer, resolutions can be better accepted by all.”
Apuron has denied the allegations and insisted he’s a victim of a campaign to oust him. He signed a decree on the eve of his demotion prohibiting associating with Catholic groups who are critical of his leadership. But Hon told The Associated Press he wouldn’t enforce that decree.
The group Concerned Catholics of Guam, which has been critical of Apuron, will continue protesting until Apuron is removed from his post, said Tim Rohr, a Catholic blogger.
“His guilt is irrefutable. There is no question, Rohr said. Concerned Catholics of Guam had taken out full-page ads in both major Guam newspapers asking victims of sex abuse to call so that they don’t have to suffer in silence. In recent weeks, two men and their families have come forward to accuse the archbishop of sexual assault while they were minors in the 1970s,” Rohr said.
The mother of a third man, who is now dead, also made an accusation. Father Jeff San Nicolas, principal of Father Duenas Memorial School, said he was hopeful after hearing Hon’s plans to unify the church at the prayer meeting. The truth will prevail is how I see it,” Perry said. “I will never leave the cathedral. I will never leave my Catholic church.”
Archbishop Apuron responds to Vatican’s appointment of an apostolic administrator
Pacific Daily News
07 June 2016
Archbishop Anthony Apuron sent a video from Rome on June 7, 2016 discussing the appointment of Archbishop Savio Tai Fai Hon as apostolic administrator “sede plena” for the Archdiocese of Agana. Archdiocese of Agana
Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron sent a video message from Rome Monday (Tuesday morning Guam time), responding to the Vatican’s appointment of Archbishop Savio Tai Fai Hon as apostolic administrator “sede plena” for the Archdiocese of Agana pending the investigation of allegations of sexual abuse against him.
In Apuron’s video message, which lasts just under 2 minutes and appears to be filmed in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, the archbishop reiterated his innocence. He said he is “a victim of horrible calumnies.”
“The appointment of an apostolic administrator ‘seda plana’ means that while the administrator will discharge the Archdiocese’s pastoral duties, I remain your bishop, I am the Archbishop of Agana,” he said.
Apuron said he was the one who requested Pope Francis to make the appointment of Archbishop Hon.
“By this appointment, the Holy Father has understood the importance of establishing the truth and will allow an independent investigation of these false allegations to proceed,” he said.
“I reaffirm my innocence and I’m a victim of these horrible calumnies and I welcome the assistance provided by the Holy Father in sending us Archbishop Hon. I urge you my dear people to pray for me, your Shepherd, and for our Church. I am convinced even though we’re passing through these difficult moments, the Lord has not abandoned us and he will guide us to the truth.”
A man in his early 50s, Roy Quintanilla, recently came forward to say that Apuron molested him when he was an altar boy in the 1970s. Apuron, at the time, was a parish priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Agat.
Quintanilla inspired Doris Y. Concepcion to also come forward days later to say that, before her son passed away 11 years ago, he told her that he was molested by Apuron when he was an altar boy in Agat, also in the 1970s.
RNS Religion News Service
06 June 2016
(RNS) Mounting accusations of sexual abuse against the archbishop of Guam have prompted Pope Francis to name a Vatican official to oversee the Catholic Church on the Pacific island territory while the charges are investigated.
The decision announced Monday (June 6) to force Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, who has led the Agana Archdiocese for 30 years, to yield his authority, at least temporarily, is the latest sign that Francis is taking tougher steps to tackle the sexual abuse crisis.
Over the weekend, the Vatican announced that the pope had signed off on new measures to remove bishops who fail to respond to abuse allegations.
In the case of Guam’s archbishop, however, the accusations are that Apuron himself abused boys during the 1970s.
The charges emerged last month when 52-year-old Roy Taitague Quintanilla claimed while he was an altar boy Apuron molested him. “I cried then, and I’ve never stopped crying,” Quintanilla was quoted as saying by Pacific Daily News.
His statement prompted a similar allegation by Doris Concepcion, who said her son was abused by Apuron as an altar boy in the 1970s. The alleged victim, Joseph A. Quinata, told his mother what had happened before he died 11 years ago, local media reported.
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.
“His effort of self-preservation has blinded his command to protect. … I’m sad to say that today, my worst dreams have come true,” Martinez said on June 1, according to The Guam Daily Post.
The Archdiocese of Agana issued a scathing rebuke of Martinez, accusing him of “malicious and intentionally false claims” as part of a “relentless” smear campaign against the archbishop.
Apuron has denied the allegations and the archdiocese hired a U.S. law firm to help defend him; Guam is a U.S. territory.
“(Martinez’s claim) is a calumny of such magnitude that the only avenue, which we are following, is recourse to the civil and canonical legal processes to address these intentional lies,” the archdiocese said in a sharply-worded response on June 3.
The announcement that 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 was the latest indication that Francis wants the church to take tougher action against the hierarchy.
Under the new decree published Saturday, the Vatican can investigate a bishop found guilty of serious negligence in tackling “acts that caused serious harm to others.”
The pope specified that such negligence includes failing to oust a suspected abuser; that has not been the case in the past, and that oversight has been one of the most contentious aspects of the church’s response to the crisis.
In such circumstances a bishop would still have the right to respond and the Vatican could subsequently remove him or ask him to resign.
In May, Francis said there should be a zero tolerance approach to pedophilia and asserted there was no statute of limitations in canon law when it came to tackling sexual abuse.
“As a result of these abuses, a priest, whose vocation is to lead a child to God, destroys him. He disseminates evil, resentment, distress,” the pope told the Catholic newspaper La Croix.
Guam archbishop denies sex abuse charge
11:35 PM May 24th, 2016
AGANA, Guam — The head of the Catholic church here is defending himself against claims that he sexually abused an altar boy 40 years ago.
Archbishop Anthony Apuron released a video May 17, in which he denied the allegations brought by Roy Taitague Quintanilla, of Hawaii. Quintanilla has accused Apuron of sexually abusing him when he was an altar boy and the archbishop was a priest at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Agat, The Pacific Daily News reported.
“To be absolutely clear and to avoid any misinterpretations of my statement, I deny all allegations of sexual abuse by Roy Quintanilla,” Apuron said in the video.
The archbishop also referred to “malicious ads” recently featured in local newspapers, including the Pacific Daily News. In a previous news release, the archdiocese said the advertisements insinuated sexual abuse by Apuron.
“As predicted just four days ago, these malicious ads have resulted in a false accusation of sexual abuse,” Apuron said in the video.
The Concerned Catholics of Guam, a group that has been critical of the archbishop, paid for the advertisements, which called on victims of sexual abuse to come forward.
Apuron has been accused of molestation in the past, but has never been charged with a crime.