Archdiocese speaks out against SNAP - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Archdiocese speaks out against SNAP

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Although the Catholic Church on Guam has with-held comment on allegations of sexual abuse, evidently behind the scenes they've been preparing to help victims who may come forward. 

The Archdiocese of Agana has finally broken its silence on allegations of sexual abuse of minors in local churches.  The allegations were made by the Survivors Network of those Abused by priests and today Archdiocese Spokesperson Deacon Jeff Barcinas says the Catholic Church is preparing to receive victims.  He told KUAM News, "This is a grave concern we definitely want to make sure we put the focus on the victims and nobody else and try to help them heal this is the position of the church and what the archbishop has been indicating."  

Deacon Barcinas says they will soon release a statement on the policies of how victims will be received by the church, but legal counsel and officials of the church must first review it.  "Of course, the first thing is to report to the authorities and then for them to come to the Chancery Office to report anything," he said.

The Archdiocese has been asked by SNAP to comment on the status of two local men with in the church - Father Raymond Cepeda and Father Randy Nowak.  Asked if Fr. Cepeda been defrocked, Barcinas said, "I cannot comment on that right now, there will be another statement on that."  He replied in similar fashion about Fr. Nowak.

KUAM News asked Barcinas if he was planning on making the names of priest(s) who have been defrocked on Guam public, to which he replied, "We would have to address that at a later time."

The deacon say the church will be very cautious on how it moves forward in handling specific allegations of abuse, noting, "The church require that it be reviewed thoroughly and allegations are not just being put forward and we take seriously the names that are being put forward."

Deacon Barcinas says the Archbishop will not reply directly to SNAP's letters, saying, "SNAP is not our concern - our concern is victims and alleged incidents."  He also said he believes the organization may "have another purpose", explaining, "I think you can look on Internet, but I don't think they are here for helping victims."  He said he thought SNAP has another agenda, but would not comment on what they might be.

Barcinas would say that he and other deacons will be available to offer assistance to any person who feels they have been victimized by a member of the Catholic clergy on Guam.  "If the alleged incidents or abuse do occur to any children in the Archdiocese of course it is expected for people to report to the authorities that has always been the position of the church.  We have nothing to hide we have nothing to hold back," he stated.

We were not told by the archbishop's spokesperson when a statement on the defrocking of Guam priests would be released.

SNAP's Southwest Regional Director Joelle Casteix, meanwhile, responded to the church's statements today, issuing the following statement:

"SNAP's only agenda has been to keep kids safe and help victims find healing and accountability.  The only way that can happen is through open communication, transparency, pastoralism, adherence to true Christian values and adhering to the law.  As I have said before: Standing up and pointing a finger at the leadership of the church is not disrespectful to God. It is respectful to children."  She went on to say, "It's a shame that the Archbishop believes otherwise.  Apparently, no children are safe in the Archdiocese of Agana."

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