Guam Archdiocese calls Cruz's bill "overkill" - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam Archdiocese calls Cruz's bill "overkill"

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Local law currently requires teachers, nurses, social workers and other professions to report any cases or suspected cases of child abuse to law enforcement.  And now, the vice-speaker of the 30th Guam Legislature is proposing to add priests to that list.  B.J. Cruz's Bill 372 amends a public law to mandate clergy members report abuse to the authorities. 

Introduced by the vice-speaker yesterday, Cruz says the legislation makes it clear in Guam civil law that clerics cannot claim privileged communications as a basis for failure to make such reports.  Some residents we spoke will support the move.

But for Deacon Jeff Barcinas, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Agana, he says the bill is overkill.  He points out a subsection in the very law Cruz is trying to amend already includes any person who comes into contact in their profession.  The deacon said, "On the law it basically says that all priests and clergy are not exempt from reporting and they must adhere to the reporting requirements."

When asked if he thought the measure by Cruz is unnecessary, Barcinas noted, "I think it is moot, given that we have already taken a proactive approach since 2002."  So have any cases of child abuse have been reported to authorities since that time?

"I'm not aware.  Not aware of any," Barcinas responded.

The spokesman for Guam's Catholic church says he thinks the singling out of priests is suspect, adding, "What with Senator B.J.'s bill, the real intent by singling out priest and clergy."

The bill would include not just priests in the law but of bishops, pastors, deacons and other members of clergy. Vice-Speaker Cruz says as a former Family Court judge he was constantly frustrated by priests' refusal to report alleged abuse, especially sexual abuse, because they were prevented by church rule.

Whether or not the bill succeeds in the Legislature, it has proven to bring even more attention to the issue of allegations of child abuse in Guam churches.

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