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Denton told his mother, but says she accused him of making it up. He told another priest, but that man did nothing and later turned out to be an abuser himself. For decades, Apuron oversaw a culture of impunity where abusers went unpunished. Long after it erupted into scandal on the mainland, clergy sexual abuse remained a secret on Guam.

On this island where four out of five people are Catholic, the abusers held the power. Now, thousands of s of court documents reviewed by The Associated Press, along with extensive interviews, tell a story of systemic abuse dating from the s to as recently as They show a pattern of repeated collusion by predator priests, with abuse that spanned generations and reached all the way to the very top of the church hierarchy. Apuron still denies the allegations.

Army sergeant. But it was me against him, and I had nothing to lose. Restrictions on suing the church were eased only after Apuron was suspended. Since then at least lawsuits have been filed alleging abuse by 35 clergymen, teachers and Boy Scout leaders tied to the Catholic Church.

Seven men have accused Apuron in lawsuits of sexual assaults they endured as boys, including his own nephew. The archbishop, now 73, insists all his accusers are liars. But in a secret church trial last year, the Vatican found Apuron guilty of sex crimes against children, removing him from public ministry and effectively exiling him from Guam. To this day, no member of the Catholic clergy on Guam has ever been prosecuted for a sex crime, including Apuron. Secret church files that could have helped provide evidence for prosecutions are alleged to have been burned.

And unlike dozens of archdioceses on the U. Despite church law that requires bishops and archbishops to maintain records on sex abuse allegations, the new archbishop, Michael Jude Byrnes, said his predecessor left him nothing. Many streets in the former Spanish colony of , are named for bishops and priests — including some now accused of sexual abuse.

A brief history of Catholicism on Guam, from its tumultuous arrival to its place today as the most powerful institution on the island to revelations that priests had sexually abused children for generations. Even before Apuron, survivors — and a frequent abuser — reported sexual assaults to the church, only to have their cases ignored.

When Leo Tudela reported abuse to the Capuchin monks in , they just moved him to another church and Catholic school. There, a teacher, Father Louis Brouillard, took a special interest in the thin year-old with the tuft of dark hair. Brouillard, a wiry, red-headed Minnesotan, came to Guam in after being expelled from the Catholic seminary on the mainland over accusations of making sexual advances toward boys.

Popular for being a lax disciplinarian and easy grader, Brouillard often kept a camera strapped around his neck. Brouillard asked Tudela to live with him and four or five other boys in the rectory of Santa Teresita Catholic Church, where Tudela, now 76, says he was regularly raped and molested. The Associated Press typically does not identify sexual assault survivors, but those in this story agreed to interviews or were named in public court filings.

Multiple survivors recount other priests and adults present during the abuse, including on Boy Scout excursions organized by Brouillard. He also volunteered as a swimming instructor, they say, filming boys nude and sexually assaulting them at a jungle swimming hole. In , Brouillard was transferred back to Minnesota after, according to lawsuits, a complaint was made against him to Guam police.

He paid for at least three Guamanian boys to visit him and abused them, the lawsuits allege. Brouillard was finally removed from public ministry in , but continued to receive a stipend from the church. After survivors began coming forward in , Brouillard ed a sworn statement admitting to sexually abusing at least 20 children, including Tudela. He died in October at the age of 97, still a priest. Brothers Ramon and Tomas De Plata are among 15 men who have filed lawsuits accusing Cruz, now dead, of sexual assaults.

Ramon says his family complained to the village commissioner but heard nothing. Tomas says the abuse started in the summer of When he was 11, he says, Cruz performed sex acts while Brouillard took photos. The following March, Apuron — then a seminarian in his late teens — was at a sleepover in the rectory, the brothers say.

Ramon says the future archbishop got up from the bed and placed a hand on his shoulder. Shaken, Ramon, then 10, asked his brother to take him home. Tomas and other survivors also remember seeing black-and-white pornographic photos of Cruz, Brouillard and others having sex with boys, secretly developed in a makeshift darkroom on church property.

So Denton felt privileged when in the spring of , Father Tony invited him to spend the night before Sunday mass in the squat concrete block rectory. He ate supper and then got intensely drowsy, he remembers. Please stop! Denton confided in an older altar boy, who said Apuron had abused him too. Soon after, the charismatic young priest was named auxiliary bishop for Guam. In a visit to San Dimas and Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Merizo, Apuron told a teenager stacking bibles on a shelf in a back room to kiss his ring, according to a lawsuit filed in February.

When the teen bent over, Apuron grabbed his head and forced him to perform oral sex. The victim, who is identified only by his initials, said Apuron told him no one would take his word over that of a bishop. That same year, Denton reported his rape to a priest in Maryland, where he was then stationed. He says the priest advised him to pray. Mark Apuron grew up knowing his Uncle Tony was a big deal. After his parents moved from the mainland back to Guam when he was 15, Mark looked forward to spending more time with him.

Inside, the vanity was lined end to end with bottles of pricey deer colognes, which Mark Apuron sprayed and sniffed as he smoked and drank. Without knocking, his Uncle Tony suddenly opened the locked door, his face flush with anger. Mark says he froze in fear as his uncle grabbed him, pushed him down over the counter and yanked down his pants. He thought he was about to get a whipping, he says, but instead there was a sharp wave of pain as he felt something penetrate him.

Using the countertop for leverage, Mark jammed himself back hard, forcing his uncle off. When forced to go to future family events, he says, he would see his uncle staring at him intensely. He never found the right words to tell his parents what happened. With Tony Apuron as archbishop, pedophile priests were protected from the top. Fourteen men say in court papers that they were sexually assaulted by Father Raymond Cepeda, a parish priest at Santa Barbara Catholic Church and School.

One, identified by the initials P. Instead, he says, he was repeatedly preyed upon for sex starting in The teen reported Cepeda to Monor Zoilo Camacho, a senior pastor who recommended he take his complaint to the archbishop. Camacho himself was later accused of molesting at least three young altar boys, earning their trust by giving them Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks, and sexually abusing a school girl. When P. He has since disappeared from public view and did not respond to messages seeking comment. Despite P. However, there was no indication evidence was handed over to police.

And although Cepeda, now dead, was removed from the priesthood, Apuron still allowed him to teach catechism classes to children. Cruz, then the vice speaker of the Guam Senate. He had gone to the archdiocese in after suspecting his godson was being abused. A clergy sexual assault survivor himself, Cruz introduced a bill in to lift the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits, opening a two-year window to seek compensation.

Apuron immediately used his influence to lobby against it. During debate on the Senate floor, Cruz said, other legislators snickered as they showed him mobile phones with texts and calls from the archbishop. Plaintiffs had to submit to a mental health evaluation shared with the court. In the two years the law was in effect, no survivors came forward. Apuron threatened to sue for defamation. The Vatican opened an investigation. In May , a man from Guam publicly accused Apuron of molesting him as an altar boy at the Mt. Carmel rectory. A few days later, a mother disclosed that before her son died, he told family members Apuron had sexually assaulted him during a church sleepover.

Tired of waiting, Denton informed the church he was returning to Guam and going public. On June 6, the day before his scheduled press conference, Pope Francis suspended Apuron. Apuron has stayed out of the public eye since his suspension. In a written statement issued in April after Pope Francis rejected his final appeal, the former archbishop maintained his innocence. Phone s listed for him are disconnected. His lawyer in Guam, Jacqueline Terlaje, said Apuron declined to provide additional comment. Priests on Guam are now forbidden from being alone with children.

But for most of the priests accused thus far, there will never be an earthly reckoning. The criminal statute of limitations for their assaults has long expired. Monor Camacho, Father Cruz, Father Cepeda and several other accused priests rest together in a quiet corner of Pigo Catholic Cemetery, their stones etched with the cross and adorned with plastic flowers. Two former altar boys have accused Anderson of sexual abuse. One of them, Robby Perez, now a year-old elementary school teacher in Louisiana, told AP Anderson asked him to spend the night at St.

Jude Thadeus Catholic Church in , when he was As he dozed off, Perez says, he felt a hand on his crotch. Perez says he endured five years of sexual abuse, never telling anyone. Toward the end, Perez says, he fell in love with the priest. But when he professed his feelings, Anderson ended their relationship, saying he had to put God first. Perez was heartbroken. He underwent years of therapy to stop blaming himself. Six months after Perez filed his lawsuit in , Anderson was fired from his teaching job, according to Chaminade. Children could be heard playing inside. Anderson, now 72, quickly shut the door behind him and placed a finger to his lips, shushing the reporter.

He said he remembered Perez. Guam archdiocese spokesman Tony Diaz said there appear to be no records explaining when Anderson left the island or his current status within the priesthood. He was never charged with a sex crime. Walter Denton is one of the few survivors who got an opportunity to face his abuser as an adult. On the day of the party, Denton was the first guest. Apuron greeted those lined up for his blessings, working his way around to Denton. Do you know who I am? He quickly excused himself to the hosts, and then the priest and his former altar boy walked outside.

Denton said the archbishop began to cry and asked for forgiveness. The soldier replied that what he did was unforgivable. Back at the house, the archbishop pulled out from his bag a CD of himself singing hymns, a framed photo of him in religious regalia, and a second frame with the likeness of the Virgin Mary. He handed them to the soldier. He still thinks about what happened almost every day, but after decades away from the church, he is once again attending Sunday mass. God has blessed me.

Guam's ex-archbishop shielded culture of clergy sex abuse.

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