Frustration grows over Vatican investigation

DE PLATA: Ramon De Plata's boyhood family home was next to the Catholic church in Chalan Pago. De Plata's grandmother, Josefa Afaisen, donated part of the land the church occupies. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

"I've never lost faith in God or the Catholic Church – just the people who caused this on me and my family." – Ramon De Plata

Victims of cleric sex abuse are growing weary that the Vatican has yet to wrap up its investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

Ramon De Plata of Chalan Pago said he will never forget what he saw when he was 10 years old in the parish rectory at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Chalan Pago.

During an overnight stay with other altar boys in 1964, De Plata alleges he saw Apuron – a seminarian at the time – and another clergy member, Rev. Antonio Cruz, engaging in sexual activity with another 10-year-old altar boy.

"I saw Apuron and I saw what they were doing to the other altar boy," De Plata said. "I guess he got targeted."

Two of De Plata's brothers, Fermin, who is deceased, and Tomas, were also sexually abused and molested by Cruz, who is now deceased. He said his older brother, Tomas, was blackmailed and forced to help the priest for several years because he was reminded of the photos that were taken of the priest performing sexual acts on him. Tomas De Plata filed a lawsuit against the church alleging he was repeatedly sexually abused and later found photos of priests engaging in sexual acts on altar boys and burned them.

Their younger brother, Fermin, had nightmares, Ramon recalled. "Fermin used to scream at night," he said.

Every Sunday, De Plata joins other members of the laity movement calling for the defrocking of Apuron.

"He needs to stand up and face what he did to us, because he did something bad," De Plata said.

Apuron, according to De Plata's lawyer, David Lujan, is believed to be living in Fairfield, California. De Plata called Apuron's decision to leave Guam a "cowardly" move.

"If you're not guilty then come out and face it," De Plata told The Guam Daily Post. "I know what I saw. I saw Apuron do those things to that boy. I want him defrocked."

De Plata believes Apuron himself may have been a victim of sexual abuse by other clergy members during his journey to become a priest, as Apuron was a seminarian during the alleged incident at the Chalan Pago parish.

"I want him defrocked. He doesn't deserve to be getting a pension," he said.

Thirty sex-abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Archdiocese of Agana over the past several months, and four of those cases were filed by victims who said Apuron had sexually abused them.

De Plata said he never confronted Apuron about what he saw in the parish rectory, but he did come face-to-face with him while stationed in Washington while serving in the U.S. Army 30 years later.

"He shook my hand and I told him, 'I know you. I remember you when you were a seminarian. I was an altar boy back there in the '60s.' As soon as I said that, he walked away.

"I know he was shocked and I hit a nerve."

De Plata said it was his way of letting Apuron know that he knew what he had done.

He said he and other victims of abuse are frustrated that Apuron knew what was happening to altar boys and, as he rose the ranks to archbishop, did nothing to right the wrongs of the past or protect others as the shepherd of the Catholic faithful. De Plata urges the Vatican to come back to Guam and listen to the victims, alongside their attorneys.

"Come here and investigate," De Plata said. "The crimes didn't occur in Rome or Fairfield, California. Come here and let me show where it happened."

Ultimately he wants to see Apuron defrocked, and for the Catholic Church to admit the abuse occurred and that they knew about it.

Until that happens, De Plata said he will continue to protest.

"I've never lost faith in God or the Catholic Church - just the people who caused this on me and my family."

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