Sex Abuse Crisis in Guam

A new sex abuse scandal has broken out in Guam (here for RNS coverage). Guam, whose total population is about 155,000, is about 85% Catholic. According to Wikipedia (here), it has almost always had less than 50 priests. But the dimensions of priestly child abuse are so great – starting at the top with the archbishop – that the government has passed a law eliminating the statute of limitations. There are currently about 100 lawsuits facing the clergy. In many cases, pederast priests also became Boy Scout leaders; the Boy Scouts are co-defendants in about half the cases.

Archbishop Apuron is currently on trial in the Vatican. RNS interviewed Tom Doyle, a priest and canon lawyer who has been involved in the Church’s child abuse scandal since it first broke in the 1980’s. (He was the expert the Boston Globe consulted with in Spotlight.) Doyle pointed out that such high level trials in the Vatican are “very, very rare, and the reason it’s rare is because the Vatican or the popes have protected the bishops.”

Some of the descriptions are incredible. One example: “In 1988, then-priest Raymond Cepeda threw Timothy Ryan Shiroma, then around age 9, to a basilica office floor and got on top of him, according to Shiroma’s lawsuit. When Shiroma began to cry, Cepeda allegedly unzipped a backpack, pushed Shiroma’s head inside and sexually assaulted him.” This was in a crowded public building.

This kind of abuse was widespread, and apparently well known. But nothing happened until recent years, despite popes declaring a policy of “zero tolerance” for decades.