The world’s largest network of clergy sex abuse survivors said the Vatican’s ongoing investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron will not lead to justice for former altar boys, citing a lack of transparency in the canonical trial process and the absence of punishment for church officials who helped cover up the abuses.
Civil courts, however, give survivors a chance at healing
and justice, said Joelle Casteix, volunteer western regional director
for the Illinois-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or
“In the civil courts, there is transparency, accountability
and justice. There is also a deterrent. Hopefully through the civil
process, survivors will get healing and justice,” Casteix said.
altar boys who accused Apuron of sexually abusing or raping them in
Agat in the 1970s have filed separate lawsuits in the U.S. District
Court of Guam.
Apuron is also undergoing a canonical trial at the
Vatican, but canon lawyer Patrick J. Wall said Apuron will not be at the
Vatican for any of the proceedings.
“I am not totally confident
that this Vatican investigation will lead to justice,” Casteix said.
“Justice means transparency, and nothing in the canonical trial process
is transparent. Healing requires atonement, and nothing in canonical
trial process will show survivors that wrongdoers will atone for what
they have done.”
Casteix said there is also no deterrent. “Nothing
in the canonical trial process punishes the men who covered up for
Apuron for years. No one is any safer in the process,” she added.
The only person with the power to stop Apuron is Pope Francis, Casteix said.
Francis is the reformer he claims to be, he would ensure that Apuron
was at least somewhere supervised, safe, and away from children and
vulnerable people during the canonical trial process,” Casteix said,
adding, “Unfortunately, Apuron is a free man and living unsupervised in
law firm Lujan and Wolff, which represents 16 former altar boys in
clergy sex abuse cases including those accusing Apuron of alleged rape
and sexual abuse, tracked down Apuron in Fairfield, California.
a former Catholic priest who is now an advocate for clergy abuse
survivors, said unlike a civil trial, a canonical trial is a highly
secretive process with many possible outcomes.
“We will never
truly know where the progress stands with the canonical trial,” Casteix
said. “Even Apuron himself has no idea what the status is. The process
could take years. The best avenues for justice for survivors have always
been the civil and the criminal justice systems. For Apuron’s victims,
the civil justice system is the only way we will find out what church
officials knew and when they knew it.”
Sablan, president of Concerned Catholics of Guam, said the group hopes
the canonical trial and the civil trials will result in justice and
healing for the victims.
He said Concerned Catholics and the Laity
Forward Movement will also continue their peaceful protest in front of
the cathedral-basilica until Apuron is removed as archbishop and