SNAP to start Guam sex abuse support group
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will be on Guam holding support group meetings this week as they attempt to begin a thoughtful healing process and start a vibrant support network on the island. Their visit comes at the same time the organization is heading to Europe to provide a support network for numerous victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Ireland.
SNAP Southwest Regional Administrator Joelle Casteix will hold several meetings this week locally in an effort to begin a support group for individuals who claim they've been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy on the island. Casteix, who arrives on Guam late tonight, said in October of last year she received phone calls from two individuals who said they were victims of sexual abuse and knew of several others who had similar allegations.
The Archdiocese of Agana and Archbishop Anthony Apuron have said that they have not received any such complaints and no clergy have been convicted of sexual abuse. SNAP, however, has written two letters to the archbishop, calling on full disclosure of the complaints of sexual abuse.
Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz says he intends to meet with Casteix and says the organization's visit couldn't be better timed as Pope Benedict XVI over the weekend admonished Irish bishops for their handling of a half-century of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in Ireland. Cruz says the archbishop must heed the pope's instructions, as well, saying, "He also has to come forward and do something about this. "And he's gotten instructions, it may have been addressed to the Church of Ireland, but if you read it and just say the church of Guam it could be read as instructions to us also."
Four leaders from SNAP are headed to Europe to offer help to those who have been sexually abused by clergy members. Despite the pope's letter to Ireland, the organization is still disappointed as they contend the pontiff continues to refuse to take decisive action to improve the crisis.
"The problem with the church on Guam," said Cruz, "is they've had this technical 'nobody's been arrested and nobody's been convicted'. But the more important question is in the 26 years that you've been archbishop of the Archdiocese, how many priests have you sent to therapy, how many of them came back and are still here in the parishes, how many of them have we offended and how many have you laicized?"
Cruz claims he knows of a laicization of a priest last year that allegedly was sexually abusing boys in one of the parishes on island.
SNAP is hoping to reach out to these victims by holding a confidential support group meeting on Wednesday evening from 7:30-9:30 in the evening at the Hilton Hotel on Tumon Bay. 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 3:00-4:30 in the afternoon in Agana.
Casteix arrives on island late tonight and stresses that the meetings SNAP has on Guam are free of charge and any disclosed or shared will be kept completely confidential.