SNAP names priest for alleged sexual abuse - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

SNAP names priest for alleged sexual abuse

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests is hoping to provide a support group for individuals on Guam who have been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of members of clergy.  In preparation for the support meetings that will be held over the next two days, the organization uncovered some disturbing information about clergy who have spent time on Guam in the hopes that victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests or other church members will have the courage to come forward.

Although the Archdiocese of Agana has made it clear that no member of the clergy on Guam, has ever been convicted or charged with sexually abusing children on the island, SNAP believes there is strong evidence to support claims that abuse has happened and may still be occurring on Guam.

"I believe that Guam has been a dumping ground for priests who've had problems elsewhere because they knew that the close-knit Catholic community on Guam would not complain, and that's tragic, and it needs to stop," proclaimed SNAP Southwest Regional Director Joelle Casteix.  She says as she prepared for her trip to the island, she inquired with the SNAP Network if anyone had information about clergy abusers on Guam.

"I want the church to be a safe place for our children to go. I want to know that the men who stand behind the altar who say they are the presence of God on earth aren't hurting kids," she continued.  "And that's not a whole lot to ask."

Sure enough, Casteix says she uncovered details about Andrew Mannetta - a former pastor in Hawaii who was accused of sexually abusing a male minor for four years.  "I guarantee you he didn't just show up in Hawaii and decide he was going to be an abuser. He was here for six years," Casteix said.  "I can guarantee you that he sexually abused while he was on the island. Guarantee.  And there's never been any outreach by the archdiocese."

According to BishopAccountability.org, Mannetta served as a priest on Guam for nearly a decade beginning in 1983, serving as a seminarian at Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journey Catholic Church in Chalan Pago, and as pastor of the Santa Teresita Church Mangilao and at the Our Lady of Assumption Church in Piti.  In 2007 the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu reached an out of court settlement for $375,000 to avoid a sex abuse trial.

Casteix says she also received information from Wisconsin survivor Peter Isley, who was one of dozens of children abused by Father Gale Leifeld, who was tried in the 1990s and admitted to sexually abusing kids.  "Peter and another one of his victims came forward and said, 'Oh yeah, Father Gale used to always talk about how he would spend time on Guam and how much he loved it here'. So while he was never assigned here he would vacation here.  Here's a guy who admitted to molesting kids, spent a ton of time; there's been no outreach," Casteix noted.

Leifeld died in 1994.

Casteix says she also received documents from another victim who claims he was abused more than four decades ago by Father Randy Nowak.  "First," said the SNAP official, "it's his letter alleging that he was abused by Fr. Randy Nowak who is still here on the island, then here's an e-mail from Fr. Nowak admitting the abuse, saying he was so sorry and struggling for quite some time with it."

Casteix also said, "We don't know if Fr. Nowak actually did it. There's no proof. But then we have a psychiatrist's bill and a check from the capuchins to the victim to pay for his therapy."

The capuchins in White Plains, New York, which oversee capuchins on Guam, wrote the check for $1,300 and agreed to continue paying for the victim's counseling.  Fr. Nowak is listed on the Pacific Capuchins web site as having assisted on a temporary basis at almost every Guam parish staffed by the capuchins.  Although it said he resides in the Agat fraternity, KUAM News attempted to contact the priest, who is now residing at the St. Fidelis Friary in Sinajana.

Casteix says these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg and evidence that the Guam archdiocese must take action.  "If the archbishop is going to maintain the charter for the protection of children and young people, they have to warn people about this stuff, and that's my concern and that's part of the reason why I came - to have meetings so that people can find support, find healing, find empowerment and so no child ever has to suffer in shame and silence," she said.

She also said, "It's a dangerous and reckless denial and if he (the archbishop) truly, truly wants to be the shepherd for his faith it is time for him to be open and transparent."

Casteix urges all victims of sexual abuse or anyone who has a reasonable suspicion that someone is being sexually abused to contact police immediately and make a report.

KUAM News attempted to get comment from the Archdiocese of Agana, but spokesperson Deacon Jeff Barcinas is currently off-island and is expected to return tomorrow.  Archbishop Anthony Apuron is likewise off-island, and Fr. Nowak did not return our calls at the St. Fideles Friary.

SNAP will hold a confidential support group meeting tomorrow night 7:30-9:30 in the evening at the Hilton Hotel in Tumon.  On Thursday, Casteix will be available to answer questions and discuss issues during confidential drop in hours at the Nieves M. Flores Memorial Library from 3-4:30pm in the afternoon in Hagatna.

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