Deacon Says Church's System Is Flawed
By Krystal Paco
June 1, 2016
While the Archdiocese of Agana has provided limited information on how they're moving forward with investigating allegations against Archbishop Anthony Apuron, one man who is very familiar with the church's sex abuse policy says the system is flawed. Deacon Steve Martinez was a former sexual abuse response coordinator for the archdiocese. That is, until he was dismissed from his duties back in October 2014 after speaking up about a conflict of interest in church policies.
"The conflict of interest needs to be modified and I requested him to gather together the review board, our legal counsel, and to have a meeting to discuss the changes so we could strengthen and improve the policy and provide for a safer environment for all of our children," Martinez announced today. Fast forward to today, and it appears the very policies he questioned are protecting Archbishop Apuron in the midst of allegations of molestation.
Martinez continued, "The archbishop has purposely kept his sex abuse policies weak in order to protect himself and those around him."
Current church policy reads that the archbishop calls the shots, even if he stands as the accused. Instead of stepping down from his position, the archdiocese continues to defend Apuron's innocence and announced plans to sue those spreading what they call malicious lies against the church.
"What the policy clearly says in Section 4a4 if the accused are felt to be a potential danger to the community; they should step down from their position until the investigation is resolved until the review board has made its recommendation and until the archbishop has decided how to proceed with the accused. But the archbishop has not stepped down - instead of protecting the innocent, he has attacked them.
"He has called them liars."
The archdiocese also called on the Archdiocesan Review Board to convene and look into the allegations. Before they could meet however, three members resigned and one recused herself. In a previous interview with KUAM News, member Vincent Pereda stated he called it quits because of the flawed policy and that as a licensed therapist and clinical social worker, he believed the testimony provided by alleged victim, Roy Quintanilla.
Quintanilla alleges it was 40 years ago when the then-priest Apuron molested him when he was an altar boy at Mount Carmel Church in Agat. Shortly after Quintanilla publicly accused Apuron, Doris Concepcion spoke out about her son, Joseph "Sonny" Quinata. Sonny was an altar boy at the same Agat church. It wasn't until Sonny was on his deathbed did he tell his mother Apuron molested him as a young boy.
In an e-mailed comment to KUAM News, Review Board member Mariles Benavente states she's recused herself because she is a practicing catholic member of the Neocatechumenal Way and notes that as a licensed therapist and clinical social worker, their code of ethics requires they communicate any competing or conflicting areas of interest. She asks that her recusement not be viewed as a statement of judgment for or against either party involved but as a matter of appropriate, professional ethical response.
"The archbishop can appoint members to the review board," Martinez pointed out. "It's unfortunate because the members of the Review Board who were in place were highly qualified individuals. But they were put in a position that they felt compromised in their independence to give recommendations. No matter who he put in place, new members would be in that same compromised position."
Martinez alleges Apuron continues to hide behind the church, saying, "None of the allegations that I have heard have been allegations against the church or the institution."
He also calls on other alleged victims to speak out, and the island's faithful to come forward and address Apuron, as well. "Write the archbishop and tell him how disappointed you are or tell him what changes you would like to see," he suggested.
KUAM News has repeatedly contacted current sexual abuse response coordinator Deacon Larry Claros for comment. He asked all questions be forwarded via email. None of our questions were answered.