Texas Firm Makes Inquiry over Ex-priest and Alleged Rapist John Sutton
By Haidee V Eugenio
Pacific News Center
September 27, 2016
|The Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna as shown in 2014.|
A Dallas, Texas-based law firm is reaching out to anyone who has information about a Catholic priest who worked on Guam from 1971 to 1974 and who last year was accused by a man of raping him repeatedly when he was a student in Texas.
Attorney Tahira Khan Merritt said the priest, John H. Sutton, worked on Guam in the early 1970s and moved to Texas in 1984 to work as a chaplain and teacher at Wichita Falls’ Notre Dame Middle-High School, a diocesan institution of the Fort Worth Diocese.
Merritt said that’s where Sutton and his friend, school Principal Ronald M. Staley allegedly abused her client, identified in court documents only as “John Doe 117."
Sutton worked on Guam from 1971-1974 at Father Duenas Memorial School in Mangilao, a Catholic high school for boys. He also worked at Duenas Memorial Minor Seminary. He taught U.S. and world history while on Guam. But after that, his whereabouts were uncertain, Merritt said.
“If anyone in Guam or elsewhere has information about Father John H. Sutton when he worked in Guam, please contact us in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org,” Merritt's law firm stated in an email.
The former student alleged that Sutton sexually abused and raped him, starting when he was in the 7th grade at Notre Dame in Wichita Falls, Texas. He alleged that the abuse started with groping and rape and later progressed to sadistic punishments.
He also alleged that Sutton and Staley, who are longtime friends, would sexually abuse him together or separately.
In March 2015, John Doe 117, through Merritt’s law firm, sued the Diocese of Fort Worth and its bishop, Michael F. Olson, for allegedly working to cover up the former student’s sexual abuse claim, among other things. The lawsuit was amended four months later, in July 2015, to include the school principal as one of the sexual abusers.
John Doe 117, now a resident of Cheney, Spokane County in Washington, filed the complaint 11 years after Sutton's death. He died Sept. 11, 2004.
According to Merritt, Sutton’s record in the Official Catholic Directory shows frequent changes in assignment, misleading and inconsistent entries, and two gaps in his career history. These include the period from 1974-1975, or right after his assignment on Guam.
The Archdiocese of Agana in recent months has faced allegations of sexual abuse and rape by local clergy decades ago, including accusations against Archbishop Anthony Apuron.
Apuron has not been charged with any crime.
A now deceased priest, Antonio Cruz, and former island priest Louis Brouillard, were also publicly accused. Brouillard, now living in Minnesota, admitted to sexually abusing altar boys when he was on Guam. Brouillard was on Guam from the late 1940s to 1981.
Gov. Eddie Calvo on Sept. 23 signed a controversial bill that would allow victims of child sex abuse to sue their abusers and the institutions with which they are associated, at any time.
On Guam, former altar boys have come forward starting in May this year to publicly accuse priests of sexually abusing them in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The publicly accused members of the clergy include Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, who has been placed on temporary leave on June 6 by the Vatican.
The Archdiocese of Agana has so far not released information whether it is actively investigating Brouillard’s case. Former altar boy Leo Tudela publicly accused Brouillard of molesting him in the 1950s. Tudela, now a resident of Hawaii, is being represented by Attorney David Lujan.
The archdiocese, however, said it will be investigating the allegation against Cruz and Apuron. A former altar boy alleged that he saw Cruz and Apuron, who was still a 19-year-old seminarian at the time, of sexually abusing another altar boy at the same time at a Guam church rectory in the 1960s.
Penance and punishment
John Doe 117, in his complaint filed in 2015 in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, said he was a victim of sadistic punishment by Sutton who, at the time, was his history teacher and the school chaplain between 1989 and 1991. John Doe 117 is seeking a monetary relief of more than $1 million .
In the complaint, the former student said when he tried to tell a school counselor about Sutton’s abuses, the student alleged he was subjected to further sadistic punishment by the priest. The bishop and other school officials also became aware of the student’s concern.
John Doe 117 said it started when Sutton accused him of copying an assignment from an encyclopedia. The complaint said Sutton would lead the boy to the chapel and into its sacristy, two to three times a week during lunch hour, wherein he was “disciplined” by sexually assaulting him.
The complaint said the pattern started with the priest groping the boy’s private part while the boy was kneeling in prayer, to performing oral sex upon him. This developed into a sadistic ritual of sexual abuse that involved anally penetrating the boy with various tools of torture, the complaint said. John Doe 117 alleged that he also heard the sound of camera clicking during some incidents of abuse.
In the complaint, John Doe 117 alleged that as a direct result of the school and the bishop’s negligence, Sutton was afforded continual opportunities to physically and sexually exploit, assault and abuse him.
A copy of the original complaint against the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth Diocese and its bishop is available at https://www.scribd.com/document/257875635/Olson-Suit.
The website www.bishop-accountability.org, which lists the names of priests and bishops with sex abuse allegations filed against them, indicated that Sutton served a single year as a parish priest in the Pueblo diocese, and was later on assigned as chaplain in an orphanage, in a hospital, and in the U.S. Navy where he had served during World War II.
After two more one-year parish assignments in California, Sutton worked as a teacher and sometimes chaplain at high schools in Los Angeles for up to eight years, Guam for three three years, and Texas for eight years, with parish assignments interspersed.