Deacon: Other victims of priest abuse have reached out

By Haidee V Eugenio

Archbishop Anthony Apuron
Archbishop Anthony Apuron

Deacon Steve Martinez, the former coordinator of a group in the local Catholic Church charged with reviewing sexual abuse allegations involving the clergy, said Thursday he’s aware of “three other victims that have made contact but they are still not ready or willing to move forward with filing a formal complaint.”

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

Apuron and the Archdiocese of Agana have denied the two allegations and announced plans to file lawsuits against those whom it said have been perpetrating “malicious lies” about the archbishop and the Catholic Church.

There still is no investigation by the local church conducted in relation to the sexual abuse complaints, Martinez said.

The first public accusation against Apuron was by a former altar boy in Agat, Roy Quintanilla. He said he was molested by Apuron when the latter was parish priest at Mount Carmel Church in Agat in the 1970s.

The second one was by the mother of a former altar boy also in Agat. Doris Y. Concepcion, now living in Prescott, Arizona, told Pacific Daily News her son, Joseph “Sonny” A. Quinata, revealed his secret about Apuron molesting him in the 1970s, shortly before he died 11 years ago.

Martinez reiterated that assistance, including counseling, is available to victims.

‘Bullying tactics’

“One problem is the bullying tactics by the Archbishop and his cohorts. They are worried about being harassed by the Archbishop and they are worried about being sued. I am working to try and help them get past this fear. It took a fair amount of courage for them to make even a first contact,” Martinez told Pacific Daily News.

Martinez said he’s hoping his work on Wednesday when he called a press conference “will help them and others to come forward.”

“Some of them have had terrible lives because of (what) Father Tony (did) and each needs to come to the point of admitting this sad reality at their own pace. It is a tragic situation that must be fixed. The Church should be helping in every way possible. But since the accused is the leader of the Church, he is making every effort to block their stories from coming out. Intimidation is his biggest weapon at this time. Sad,” Martinez said.

The identities of the three others are not disclosed, and it is not known at this time whether these other three individuals’ allegations also point to Apuron or other priests serving or used to serve in Guam.

Martinez said victims or those who know of any victim of sexual abuse can contact the numbers advertised in the newspapers recently: 777-6836 and 997-6969.

Apuron removed Martinez from his post as sexual abuse response coordinator for the Archdiocese of Agana through a letter dated Oct. 24, 2014, the same date the archbishop appointed to the same position the current coordinator, Deacon Rizal “Larry” Claros.

Martinez received his replacement letter after he sent two letters to Apuron in July and then in August 2014.

In those letters, Martinez alleges the archbishop violated his own Church’s sexual abuse policy and about the need to make the policy stronger so it can better protect not only the Archdiocese but also the children and the community.

Martinez said the local church’s sexual abuse policy is “weak,” “flawed” and a “failed” one that needs to be changed. The current sexual abuse policy, according to Martinez, protects only Apuron and those around him but not the innocent children who are victims.

For example, even if the archbishop 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 probe findings. Martinez said the archbishop, as the accused, cannot be the judge himself.

The Archdiocese of Agana was sought for comment but none was received.

“Like I said (on Wednesday), our Church has a wound that needs to heal. But before it can heal, it needs to be fully cleaned so no infection comes back later,” Martinez said.

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