We now know that Alicia Limtiaco, the recently resigned top federal prosecutor for Guam and the Northern Marianas, has accepted the position as board chairwoman of Hope and Healing, an entity established by the Archdiocese of Agana to help multiple victims of sex abuse by former Guam priests.
This is a new challenge for Limtiaco, who's still at the prime of her career but happened to be among dozens of holdover top federal prosecutors President Donald Trump wanted to replace, regardless of their performance.
When that legal door closed for Limtiaco, it turned out another opened. This one could give her a chance to have an impact on helping a community heal from the hurt of a trail of alleged abuses of children – numbering more than 50 as of last week – by Guam priests decades ago.
After Limtiaco's new role was announced yesterday, she made statements that:
- the archdiocese or anyone in the church leadership will not control the Hope and Healing board's decisions and actions to help the victims of priest abuse; and
- that Hope and Healing will let victims decide whether to pursue legal action or get help from Hope and Healing.
Victims may even choose to go on with the lawsuit route, and at the same time get help from Hope and Healing, she said.
These are reassuring words from Limtiaco, who, given her background in the local and federal justice system, might be in the best position to stand firm if the church or the archdiocese does get in the the way.
"I have been reassured that this board will be an independent board, that we will not be controlled by the archdiocese, that we are not a board that is here to defend the church or the archdiocese and or any perpetrators of clergy abuse," Limtiaco said.
"We are here to ensure that (the victims') voices are heard; we are here to ensure that justice is served," Limtiaco said.
These assurances from Hope and Healing, through Limtiaco, show some signs the efforts to help victims will be sincere.
These recent moves are a far departure from the days of years past, under the reign of now-suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron. Under Apuron, whispers of abuse of children and calls for church leadership accountability fell on uncaring ears, according to some of Apuron's critics. There were times, say some of Apuron's critics, when whistleblowers were portrayed as the enemy of the church, rather than trying to help the church clean house.
There are additional steps ahead, such as how the church will proceed with ongoing lawsuits, and who the rest of the members of the full board for Hope and Healing will be.
In the meantime, until the actions of Hope and Healing show otherwise, once-skeptical observers might want to step back for now. Give these latest efforts, which are promised to be centered on the needs of the victim to heal, a chance.
Victims may be warming up to the Hope and Healing's efforts, too.
Mike Caspino, executive director of Hope and Healing, said yesterday its hotline, 888 649-5288, has been receiving "dozens and dozens" of calls.
Somehow there must be a middle ground. There should be closure for the victims, and the outcome should also leave the church still standing, after all the victims have been helped.
There are countless other island Catholics who need the spiritual guidance of the Catholic Church, so it's in everyone's interest for this island institution to not be totally fallen.