Source: The Associated Press
HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Atop a lofty hill overlooking the ocean in the U.S. territory of Guam, a residence for the governor and a ceremonial one for the archbishop sit together, a decades-old symbol of their seemingly equal power on an island where nearly everyone is Roman Catholic.
Catholicism is woven deeply into the Spanish-influenced culture of this land of 165,000 people. Families consider it a blessing to be closely associated with priests, and having a son grow up to be a priest or a daughter become a nun is a source of pride.
That’s why allegations that the island’s archbishop molested altar boys decades ago have divided churchgoers and put the governor in a difficult spot politically.
When the Legislature unanimously sent him a bill eliminating the two-year statute of limitations for suing over sexual abuse, priests worked feverishly to stave it off, telling parishioners at Sunday Mass at the island’s 26 churches that the measure would bankrupt the church.
Gov. Eddie Calvo, a Catholic, had to think hard about what to do.
“You could see right away that that the man was conflicted,” said Rev. Francis X. Hezel, an assistant pastor at Santa Barbara Catholic Church in Dededo. “He is, after all, the chief executive of an island that’s 80 percent Catholic.”
In the end, despite petitions bearing thousands of signatures, Calvo signed it into law last month, opening the church up to potentially millions in liability.
“I am saddened that even a single injustice had to happen in order to make this law necessary. There are no winners. Justice is the only victory,” he said.
Archbishop Anthony Apuron, 70, has vigorously denied allegations he molested at least five altar boys in the 1960s and 1970s. The allegations got little attention when they first came to light in 2014 but resurfaced this summer after a deacon accused Apuron of keeping the archdiocese’s sexual abuse policy weak to protect himself.
One of the alleged victims, Roy Taitague Quintanilla, 52, of Hawaii, said he was 12 when Apuron, then a parish priest, touched him inappropriately after persuading him to spend the night at his house.
“I cried then, and I’ve never stopped crying,” he said at a news conference in May. The Associated Press does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Quintanilla has spoken publicly.
Apuron has not been charged. His lawyer did not return repeated messages seeking comment.