Although their ultimate mission is to see Archbishop Anthony Apuron defrocked, the Concerned Catholics of Guam considers out-of-court settlement talks for the victims of sexual abuse by former Guam priests a positive effort toward community healing.
"That is excellent that the attorney for the victims is willing to sit with his clients and the (Hope and Healing program) to seek justice and fair compensation for the pain and agony experienced by these former young children and altar boys who suffered such terrible abuse," Sablan told The Guam Daily Post.
The Archdiocese of Agana established Hope and Healing to receive complaints of abuse, provide counseling and try to negotiate a possible compensation on a case-by-case basis.
The attorney representing the bulk of the now 70-plus cases in both local and federal courts, David Lujan, announced Thursday he would be asking the U.S. District Court of Guam hold off on the cases he has filed against the Archdiocese of Agana, the Boy Scouts of America, and several former priests, including Apuron, who are accused of abusing and molesting young boys under their care in decades past.
The issue of clerical child sex abuse has rocked the island's predominantly Catholic population as allegation after allegation surfaced naming prominent former and current officials of the local Catholic church. Such accusations include the retired Bishop of Saipan, Tomas Aguon Camacho, and most recently Guam's first Chamorro bishop, Archbishop Felixberto Camacho Flores.
Lujan has stated he was intrigued by Hope and Healing's goal of resolving all the cases by Sept. 1 and that he is willing to work with the program to see that happen. While negotiations may have started, however, Lujan made it clear that none of the cases have been settled yet and that his clients have not yet agreed to settle - only that they are willing to hear Hope and Healing out.
The Hope and Healing program is administered independently of the Archdiocese of Agana, and was formed under the order of Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes to reveiw claims of sex abuse of minors by priests or church officials. Program Director Mike Caspino has reported that claims made to Hope and Healing are varied and that some who call the program's hotline have stated they want some kind of monetary compensation to pay for medical bills and that others have called in seeking only counseling.
CCOG's president told The Post the group encouraged all victims to seek counseling for the pains they suffered at the hands of clergy.
Sablan also answered questions about whether CCOG planned to call for a name change to the Archbishop Felixberto Camacho Traffic Circle near Ypao Point in Tumon. According to Sablan, pushing for a name change is "not in (their) game plan at this point in time."
Sablan reported CCOG would wait to see how the case against Guam's first Chamorro bishop turns out before they decide on any action, but that they could consider petitioning the Archdiocese's Chancery Office for a name change if developments call for it.
(With a report by Andrew Roberto/The Guam Daily Post)