After nearly four decades of silence, Walter Denton yesterday spoke to those gathered in front of the Pastoral Office at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in Hagåtña, alleging that he was sexually molested by then-parish priest, now Archbishop Anthony Apuron. The confession followed an announcement that Pope Francis has relieved Apuron of his duties and appointed an interim administrator for the archdiocese.
“I was raped by Anthony Sablan Apuron, who at that time was a priest in Agat,” Denton said at the media conference yesterday.
With family and supporters by his side, Denton – making the third accusation of sexual abuse of altar servers by Apuron within the last three weeks – said the incident “changed the direction of his life,” and described how the abuse started in April 1977 when Apuron asked him to stay overnight at the rectory of Mount Carmel Church in Agat, where Apuron was a priest.
Denton, then a 13-year-old altar boy, said Apuron insisted that he sleep in the bedroom with him. He said that during the night, he was sodomized by Apuron.
Denton, 52, currently lives in Casa Grande, Arizona. He said he spent 23 years 11 months in the U.S. military but over the years, the experience of being raped by Apuron weighed on him.
“It bothered me all my life. There were many times when I was alone I would just break down and cry,” he said. “I know that I am not the only one that this has happened to. There are other Agat boys who have experienced the same thing that I have gone through. I only hope and pray that justice will be served to the man who did this to me and other young innocent boys.”
Denton said Apuron needs to be removed from his office so he cannot come in contact with innocent young men.
“It's a travesty. He robbed the innocence from my husband and nothing can bring that back,” said Shirley Denton, wife of Walter Denton.
On Monday, Pope Francis named Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, as "apostolic administrator" sede plena for the Archdiocese of Agana.
According to a release from the Archdiocese on Monday, the appointment followed a request from Apuron for an apostolic administrator pending the investigation of the abuse allegations.
Apuron said the appointment of the apostolic administrator "sede plena" means that Archbishop Hon would be in charge of the archdiocese’s pastoral duties while he remains the archbishop of Agana.
The pope’s appointment of the administrator came two days after he issued new legal procedures to remove bishops if they were negligent in addressing sexual abuse cases by priests.
Tim Rohr, realtor and Catholic blogger and critic of Apuron, said the Vatican’s decision to appoint an apostolic administrator shows that they are paying attention to what was going on.
“This is not common," Rohr told the Post. "This is only done when the archbishop or the bishop of the diocese is considered to be incapacitated, or as an emergency measure.”
Lawyer David Lujan, who is representing Denton, said should Apuron or the archdiocese initiate legal action, it would be welcome because there will be more disclosures soon. He added that he is working with at least three more victims.
In May, alleged victim Roy Quintanilla described to the media how Apuron sexually molested him 40 years ago, also while Apuron was a priest in Agat and Quintanilla was an altar server. Lujan also represents Quintanilla.
Following Quintanilla's accusation, Doris Concepcion – formerly of Guam but now living in Arizona – said her son, Joseph A. Quinata, admitted to her shortly before his death in 2005 of being sexually abused by Apuron in the late 1970s.
Apuron, who has headed the archdiocese since 1986, has not been charged with any crime.
Quintanilla’s niece, Sharleen Santos-Bamba, was at yesterday's press conference and spoke on behalf of her family. “We are here to support Walter Denton," she said. "His story is horrific, and what happened to him, vile. We know there are others and we want others to come forward. How many victims must come forward before any action is taken?”
A written copy of Denton’s testimony was delivered to the pastoral office following the press conference.
In a video message from the Vatican, Apuron denied the accusations, saying that with the appointment of the new administrator of the archdiocese, the pope showed he “understood the importance of establishing the truth and will allow the independent investigation of the allegations to proceed.”
Meanwhile, Joelle Casteix, the Western Regional Director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), released a statement following the appointment of Hon, saying the group is “encouraged that the Vatican has taken this first step.”
SNAP also said it is urging the new administrator “to engage in a complete and independent investigation of the allegations against Apuron and to act upon the findings swiftly and appropriately."
SNAP said it also hopes the new administrator “reaches out to and works with victims and local Catholics who have demanded transparency and change, and also encourage anyone who has seen or suspected abuse to report immediately to civil authorities.”
SNAP also asked Guam lawmakers to “revisit legislation that allows victims of sexual abuse to use the civil courts to expose their abuser and the organizations that cover up and facilitate abuse.”
“It is only through this kind of legislation – that includes exposing organizations that hire and protect predators – that the people of Guam can learn the true scope and scale of the coverup of sexual abuse,” SNAP said.