Hagatna, Guam, Aug 8, 2019 / 03:03 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Agaña is facing dozens of lawsuits related to clerical sexual abuse, and is encouraging any other alleged victims to contact the archdiocese before the deadline to file lawsuits expires this month.
More than 220 former altar boys, students, and Boy Scouts are suing the archdiocese over sexual assaults by 35 clergy, teachers and scoutmasters, the Associated Press reports.
The last day to file a claim against the archdiocese is Aug. 15.
In 2016, Guam’s territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse. Former Archbishop Anthony Apuron was found guilty of some of several abuse-related charges by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last year.
In January 2019, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November 2018, allows the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in the abuse lawsuits, which amount to over $115 million.
Archbishop Michael Byrnes of Agaña has said that Apuron left behind no records of sexual abuse allegations in the archdiocese. And unlike many dioceses on the U.S. mainland, Guam has yet to issue a list of priests whom the Church deems credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, the AP reports.
Archbishop Byrnes has offered “deepest apologies” to the victims of Apuron, whom he listed by name. The victims were altar boys. They included the former archbishop’s nephew and a former seminarian. They said the crimes happened while Apuron was a parish priest.
The Vatican first opened its investigation in 2015 after a victim reported his alleged abuse to the apostolic nuncio for the Pacific. The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March 2018 found Apuron, 73, guilty of some of several abuse-related charges. He immediately appealed the decision.
The Vatican court upheld the original decision Feb. 7, and the CDF announced the final sentencing April 4. Apuron has maintained his innocence and said he is “deeply saddened” by Pope Francis’ decision to sentence him.
Apuron was sentenced to privation of office; forbidden from using the insignia attached to the rank of bishop, such as the mitre and ring; and forbidden from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese.
He was not removed from ministry or from the clerical state, nor has he been assigned to live in prayer and penance.