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Archdiocese reviewing sexual abuse allegations

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The Archdiocese of Agana is reviewing allegations of sexual abuse that have been made by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.  No one showed up to SNAP's confidential support group meeting last night, but an official from the organization says she's not discouraged as more and more victims are coming forward about sexual abuse that occurred by members of clergy on Guam.

People are coming out of the woodworks to talk about abuse," noted Joelle Casteix.  Even though SNAP's southwest regional director sat alone at a ballroom inside the Guam Hilton on Wednesday night, she's not discouraged.  Yesterday and today she received several phone calls from survivors of sexual abuse.

"These are high-ranking government officials, people who have a lot at stake by coming forward and saying they were abused," she stated. "And a gentleman who was abused by Andy Mannetta right here on Guam."  Manetta, as we reported, had been working on Guam for about a decade before working in Catholic churches in Hawaii. He was accused of sexually abusing a male minor for four years, for which the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu gave the victim $375,000 to avoid a sex abuse trial.

Casteix says Mannetta's victim on Guam came forward after hearing his name on KUAM's news broadcast the other night. She says all of the victims had the same response - the abuse must be exposed and the Archdiocese must be transparent about the abuse they maintain happened on Guam.

Casteix explained, "Most were altar boys and most had very, very Catholic families and just didn't feel comfortable talking about it. One gentleman told me about his struggle in life was to overcome and he found himself overcompensating to be as successful as he could to make sure the abuse didn't get him down. All of them talked about how it was the 'big gorilla in the room' that no one talked about, that everyone knew the abuse was going on is going on, but people just don't want to talk about it.  And that needs to change."

With a papal letter issued last week calling for transparency, Casteix says it's something the archbishop should follow instead of continuing the culture of silence.  She's urging survivors to begin change by speaking out.  "Anger is very empowering," she said.  "Once they see that things aren't as they should be and the archbishop is still covering things up and that kids are still at risk that spurs a lot of survivors to come forward and talk. I'm hoping that by shining a light on what's going on here, we can really get a good group of people together to make change."

Casteix will meet with survivors tomorrow for one-on-one meetings and is scheduled to leave the island on Saturday.  Casteix says her work here on Guam is just beginning and she intends to be back on the island in the next six to eight weeks to continue holding meetings with survivors and start up a support network here. 

She urges all victims to log onto SNAPNetwork.org for more information.

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