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Saipan resident files sex-abuse case against former Guam archbishop

HAGÅTÑA —  A former student at Father Duenas Memorial School on Guam is the latest to file a sex-abuse complaint against the disgraced Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, former head of the Archdiocese of Agana, who was earlier convicted by the Vatican in connection with similar cases.

The new case was filed Aug. 8 in the Guam Superior Court by a Saipan resident — identified in the court document as D.M.— alleging that Apuron sexually abused him in the clergy’s residence in Agana Heights during weekends between 1994 and 1995. D.M was then 14.

Anthony Apuron

The lawsuit details the sexual acts Apuron allegedly performed on D.M. on several occasions. “D.M. wanted to escape from Apuron’s house. He wanted to tell someone but felt he couldn’t. The 14-year-old-old D.M. just cried himself to sleep, the lawsuit states.

Since Father Duenas did not offer weekend boarding, it was arranged between the school and the archbishop that the boy would stay at the residence of Apuron. According to court documents, the first overnight was a frightening preview of what was to come. The lawsuit alleges that Apuron first came into the sleeping boy’s room as if to check on his well being, but instead groped him sexually. Later, the boy awoke to find Apuron on top of him, raping him.

D.M. said he did not know how to handle the situation as Apuron was the head of Church on Guam. “D.M. was alone and scared. He felt like there was no one to talk to about what Apuron had done. He had no one to reach out to for help,” according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Charles H. McDonald II on behalf of D.M.

FDMS and the Capuchin Franciscans were also named defendants in the lawsuit that seeks damages in an amount to be established at trial. “The faculty and staff of Father Duenas either knew or should have known that D.M. was suffering from abuse and either was intentionally ignoring what was going or were negligent in their supervision of D.M,” the lawsuit said.

The Archdiocese of Agana issued a statement, acknowledging the latest in the mounting number of sex-abuse cases filed against the clergy.

Nearly 200 people — most of them former altar servers — have filed sex-abuse complaints against more than 20 members of the Guam clergy or others associated with the church since the statute of limitation on sexual abuse against minors was lifted in 2016. Lurid details about how they were abused by priests when they were of pubescent age are recounted in court documents filed by others.

“Archbishop Michael Byrnes extends prayers for D.M. and all persons who have come forward  recently and in the past with claims of being sexually abused by Guam Catholic clergy or laity,” reads the statement from the archdiocese. “The archdiocese will follow its procedures under its new, strengthened sexual-abuse policy,  immediately notifying the Holy See in Rome just as it has with the four previous claims of abuse made against Archbishop Apuron.”

On March 6, the Vatican found Apuron “guilty of certain of the accusations” lodged against him.  The Vatican tribunal did not say how many charges have been filed against Apuron and  did not specify the nature of the offenses for which he was convicted. Apuron has appealed his conviction.

“The archdiocese takes all allegations of sexual abuse very seriously. Under Archbishop Byrnes,  the archdiocese has revamped and strengthened its sexual-abuse and sexual-misconduct policies,” the church said.

“Now aligned with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ stringent Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, our new policy includes mandatory on-line training for all clergy, employees and volunteers on the protection of all children entrusted to our care. Persons who work directly with or supervise our youths are also required to undergo  background checks.”