Archdiocese: Law firm, investigator examine allegations

By Haidee V Eugenio

he Archdiocese of Agana announced Friday it is working with a prominent U.S. law firm and an independent investigator to look into recent allegations made against Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

Archbishop Anthony Apuron

Archbishop Anthony Apuron

In a media release, the church responded to accusations made in recent days by a local deacon.

Deacon Steve Martinez, the former coordinator of a local church group charged with reviewing sexual abuse allegations involving clergy, said at a press conference Wednesday that Apuron purposely kept the archdiocese’s sexual abuse policy weak to protect himself.

On Friday, the church said that this allegation 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 statement continues: “We are working with one of the most prominent U.S. legal firms to address these issues and with an independent investigator to inquire about this allegation and these rumors. These intentional lies oblige the Archbishop to take appropriate and immediate canonical measures in regard to Stephen Martinez.”

The media release identifies Martinez as “Mr. Stephen Martinez.” His title as deacon is not stated.

Martinez, when sought for comment, said on Friday the key word is “incompetence,” adding that the archbishop was incompetent when he failed to investigate his own violation of the sex abuse policy regarding notification that Martinez advised him of in 2014.

The archbishop removed Martinez from his position as sexual abuse response coordinator after that.

Martinez said the archbishop was incompetent when he failed to initiate an investigation into recent allegations by Roy Quintanilla, a 52-year-old man who said he was molested by Apuron as an altar boy, and Doris Concepcion, whose son allegedly told her he was molested before he died in 2005.

The archbishop decided to attack them “rather than reach out to them with care and support,” he said.

He also said the archbishop was incompetent when he failed to step aside as the accused until the investigation has been completed.

“Perhaps the true test of competence would be to rapidly commence an independent and professional investigation of the sex abuse allegations brought forward in 2015 and 2016,” Martinez said.

‘Unsubstantiated’

The Archdiocese, in its statement, said it is facing “one allegation — contradicted by other testimonies — and some unsubstantiated rumors of sexual abuse.”

“We are dealing with unproven allegations, not with proven crimes,” the statement said. “To insult the archbishop as Mr. Martinez did is not only against any Christian standard, but also below any standard of due process which have to be granted to every person: a man is innocent until proven guilty and the Archbishop has adamantly denied these allegations.”

The archbishop, the highest leader of the Catholic Church in Guam, has twice been accused publicly in recent weeks of sexual abuse.

Quintanilla, who now lives in Hawaii, said he was sexually abused by Guam’s current archbishop about 40 years ago. Quintanilla said he was a 12-year-old altar server for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, in Agat, when the alleged abuse took place.

Days later, Concepcion, of Prescott, Arizona, told Pacific Daily News her deceased son, Joseph “Sonny” A. Quinata, was molested by Apuron when the latter was the parish priest in Agat in the late 1970s.

The archbishop denied the allegations. He has not been charged with any crime.

The Archdiocese of Agana’s media release does not specify whether the law firm or independent investigator will look into the sexual abuse allegations against the archbishop.

When asked for additional details about the law firm’s and the independent investigator’s scope of work, the Archdiocese of Agana’s Chancellor, Father Adrian Cristobal, said “at this time, the Archdiocese is not providing the specifics of the investigation but I wish to assure you that we are applying the sex abuse policy in this area.”

The Archdiocese said the archbishop has always taken very seriously any allegations, and even rumors, of sexual abuse and acted on them.

It said this is what the archbishop did in the case of Father Paul Gofigan, who was removed when he refused to restrict from active and voluntary church activities a registered sex offender and murderer. Gofigan was removed in 2013.

The Archdiocese said this is what the archbishop also did when he limited the faculties of Father John Wadeson following the surfacing of an old unproven allegation, subsequently cleared by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Wadeson left Guam in 2014 after the archbishop removed him from his position of priest.

This was also what the archbishop did when Father Luis Camacho was removed as pastor, and has had ministry limited, “when his only accuser was the same Stephen Martinez who was reporting rumors,” the Archdiocese said. Camacho was accused of custodial interference in 2015.

‘Incompetence’

Both the Archdiocese of Agana’s statement and Martinez used the word “incompetence.”

The Archdiocese said Martinez has distinguished himself “egregiously for his incompetence.”

Martinez, for his part, said the archbishop was incompetent in at least 11 instances, from dealing with Father Wadeson’s issue in 2014 to dealing with persons who have recently come forward alleging sexual abuse by Apuron of two altar boys in the 1970s.

The Archdiocese said Martinez, as the former archdiocesan financial officer, unbeknownst to the archbishop, failed for six consecutive years to submit the required financial reports to the proper authorities at the Vatican.

“This glaring incompetence caused many problems for the Archdiocese,” the church said.

“It is obvious that Mr. Martinez is part of the (Tim) Rohr group conspiring to topple Archbishop Apuron from his service as Shepherd and a successor of the Apostles, a service he had been doing for the last thirty years defending Guam from many immoral inroads and we challenge anybody to prove the contrary.”

Tim Rohr, a local blogger who runs the website JungleWatch.info, which features articles on the local Catholic Church, was previously named by the Archdiocese as among those spreading malicious lies about the archbishop and the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese said earlier it plans to sue Rohr and his associates.

Martinez said the archbishop was also incompetent when he failed to do the following:

  • perform a required psychological evaluation and background checks on Father John Wadeson;
  • update the sexual abuse policy to address the issue of conflict of interest should there ever be an allegation against the archbishop or any person involved in the administration of the sex abuse policy; and
  • promptly investigate the allegation against Father Luis Camacho.

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