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SNAP unimpressed with Archbishop's response

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The nation's largest support group for individuals who have been abused in religious organizations is continuing to push the head of the Catholic Church on Guam, Archbishop Anthony Apuron, to act.  Three weeks ago the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) wrote a letter to the archbishop demanding he fully disclose the names of accused child molesting clerics who are working or have ever worked or lived on the island.

Apuron responded however that to date no member of the Catholic clergy on Guam has been charged with or convicted of sexual abuse.  SNAP in a second letter today calls his response "horrible", as Southwest Regional Director Joelle Casteix said, "it was horrible for survivors of sexual abuse."

Casteix penned both letters to Archbishop Apuron, demanding he come clean with the names of priests on Guam who allegedly molested catholic children.  SNAP claims they have received calls from two survivors on Guam who claim they were victims of sexual abuse by local clergy and knew of at least ten others alleging the same thing.  Casteix says to hear the archbishop's response that no clergy member has been charged or convicted of sexual abuse is unacceptable.

"It's common knowledge that most men and women who hurt children are never reported and never prosecuted.  And we're confident and we see it across the country that leaders in the church will withhold information hide document and protect perpetrators, and we believe that the archbishop may be sitting on this information.  To simply say that no one has been arrested - that there's no problem - is reckless and dangerous," she noted.

Casteix goes on to say the Archdiocese of Hagatna has kicked victims to the curb and denied them basic rights of faith and dignity. She adds even small token steps on behalf of the archbishop will change lives for the better. For example, posting information about SNAP in all churches and printed and online publications (one of the many requests ignored in their first letter to the archbishop).

She is also calling on Apuron to hold an open well publicized meeting with Catholics and victims to address survivors concerns the organization has a list of other demands.  "Number one," Casteix said, "we need to post information about survivor and support groups everywhere, we need to let survivors know that its safe for them to come forward, that they will not be shunned in their community and that they have done absolutely nothing wrong, and that what happened to them is not their fault.

"Secondly, I would ask that the archbishop open up the files right now, let the secret files  that every bishop in the United States has, and prove to us that there's' been no problem.  And to show us through transparency and open us that he's really willing to help survivors."

Casteix in the meantime plans to be on Guam next month to reach out to victims.  "My intent at that time is to hold meetings that are either drop in or a gathering meeting that will be totally confidential for survivors to come in and talk about what happened and voice their concerns in a safe and confidential environment," she said.  "To give people help and support to give them therapeutical services and stuff to let them know that they're not the only ones."

KUAM News did call Archdiocese Spokesperson Deacon Jeff Barcinas for a response, however he had not seen the letter. Once the Catholic Church has a chance to review it, we will present their side of the story. 

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