04 Dec 2014
- By Jasmine Stole - email@example.com - Variety News Staff
HAGÅTÑA — Deacon Larry Claros, the recently appointed sexual abuse response coordinator for the Agana Archdiocese, said he believes that Archbishop Anthony Apuron is innocent.
Recently, former Guam resident and ex-seminarian John Toves revealed publicly that he had knowledge that the archbishop molested his male relative some 30 years ago. Claros and Toves met briefly yesterday morning at the Chancery office here in Hagåtña.
Toves said he wanted to meet with Archbishop Apuron personally while he is on Guam but Apuron’s spokesman, Rev. Adrian Cristobal said the archbishop was “fully booked” yesterday when Toves arrived at the Chancery office. Instead, Toves met with Claros.
After the short meeting, Claros said the meeting with Toves went well. The deacon said a review board met and decided not to investigate the claims made in Toves’ letter.
“There is no investigation. These are just allegations brought forth by Mr. Toves and the review board met to look at these allegations and see if there was anything we need to investigate and there was not,” Claros said.
The victim should make the accusations of molestation, Claros said, not another person.
“I think if anyone is to go ahead and give allegations, that the responsible person needs to surface and make those accusations (him) or herself versus a third party,” the deacon said.
Accusations against Apuron should have been brought to the “proper authorities” like the police, Claros said.
The policy of the archdiocese on sexual abuse calls for the victim to make a complaint and that is what the review board is looking for, Claros said. “The committee is looking more at ‘where’s the victim?’ because our policy is that it is the welfare of the victim that needs to be attended to first and foremost,” he said.
The archdiocese’s policy on sexual abuse advises that the proper response to allegations of sexual misconduct is to report the suspected sexual misconduct to the archbishop and to civil authorities. Next the archbishop is to verify that any report required by law to be made is made. The archbishop is then supposed to notify the sexual abuse response coordinator, direct an archdiocesan investigator to do a complete investigation and direct the accused person not to have contact with the complainant.
The archdiocese’s policy defines a complainant as a person who alleges that sexual misconduct has occurred.
“As far as I know this is the first I’ve heard of any allegations and it’s a very sad state right now that the leader in our community is going to go through this scrutiny; however, I’m confident that truth will prevail,” Claros said.
Toves said the actions of Claros and Apuron are not in line with the church’s sexual misconduct policy. “You know it’s all the smoke-and-mirrors game and it’s all the placate-and-hope-they-go-away game,” Toves said. “To me it does not look like it’s seriously being investigated. In (Deacon Claros’) own words, it’s not being investigated.”
Toves said he will try every day for the rest of his stay to meet directly with Apuron.
In the 1980s, while he and his relative were in high school attending Tai Seminary, Toves said he recalled Apuron picking up and dropping off his relative with some regularity. Later in the 1980s, Toves said he found out his relative was abused by Apuron.
Toves has not spoken to alleged victim
Toves said he stands behind his allegations and he’s received support from other Catholics. Although his relative, who lives off-island, has yet to stand up and address the accusations made by Toves, Toves said he takes full responsibility for his actions. He also said he has yet to speak to his cousin about what going to the archdiocese about the alleged sexual abuse.
Apuron said in a statement released last weekend that he is filing a defamation suit, but did not indicate who the lawsuit would be directed against.
A lawsuit is something Toves is hoping would happen because it would require the archbishop to provide a deposition under oath.
Toves said he’s hoping other victims of abuse will reach out to him and has made himself available. He said he will send the reports directly to the Vatican and will sign a confidentiality statement in case other possible victims fear retribution from the church.
Toves said victims can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org/.
Since he’s been on Guam, he said he’s received two “suspicious” emails and he is cautious about his whereabouts. He said he’s not foolish not to think there might be some concern for his safety.
Yesterday’s meeting with Claros was the first response Toves has received from the archdiocese about his Nov. 21 letter alleging Apuron abused his relative.
He has met with Rev. Paul Gofigan and was scheduled to meet with Monsignor James Benavente yesterday. Gofigan expressed support, Toves said of their meeting.
In addition to discussing Apuron’s alleged abuse of Toves’ cousin, Toves hoped to ask Apuron to reinstate Gofigan and Benavente to their positions at the Dededo Catholic parish and the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica, respectively.
“It’s about other victims, future victims,” Toves said. “Other actions by the archbishop to vindictively punish people for other reasons. He plays the church like it’s a game of chess. It’s his toy.”