A Vatican verdict and a church on brink of bankruptcy

VATICAN MEETING: A photo from the Vatican's official website shows former Archbishop Anthony Apuron in a conversation with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Feb. 7. More than a month later, a Vatican tribunal found Apuron guilty of unspecified charges. Photo courtesy of the Vatican

A private school opportunity on Guam to get a better education for one Saipan student turned into a year of sexual abuse that has traumatized the victim for decades, according to a new lawsuit filed against former Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

D.M., who used initials to protect his privacy, accused Apuron of raping and fondling him on multiple occasions while staying at the archbishop's personal residence in Agana Heights in 1994 and 1995.

The lawsuit names Apuron, the Archdiocese of Agana, Capuchin Franciscans and Father Duenas Memorial School.

D.M.'s parents were "highly educated" and were devout Catholics. They believed private schools offered a better education for their son than a Saipan school and arranged for him to attend high school on Guam when he was 14 years old.

The teen attended Father Duenas on weekdays and returned to Saipan occasionally for weekend visits, but usually stayed with Apuron on weekends as the Father Duenas seminary did not offer boarding on weekends.

The boy's parents placed a great deal of trust and faith in the church and the high school's ability and willingness to protect their young son from harm, court documents state.

D.M. stayed with Apuron for approximately 27 weekends during the 1994-1995 school year.

The lawsuit states D.M. stayed in a downstairs bedroom.

Apuron informed him he would have a roommate, another student from Saipan, but during the first weekend of his stay, the roommate was away, visiting family.

Abuse allegations

D.M. recalled getting ready for bed and putting on his pajamas and falling asleep. He awoke to Apuron opening the door and entering the room.

The lawsuit alleges that Apuron made his way to the bed and kneeled on the floor and began fondling the teen for a while before he stopped and left the room. D.M. cried himself to sleep and awoke again to Apuron, who allegedly was on top of the boy raping him, the lawsuit states. While the teen was pinned down, he yelled for Apuron to stop, according to the lawsuit.

Throughout the school year, Apuron allegedly raped D.M. multiple times and fondled him multiple times.

"D.M. did not know how to handle the sexual assaults by Apuron, as Apuron was the archbishop of Guam," the lawsuit states.

Long-term trauma

The lawsuit states D.M. was so traumatized by the assaults he began demonstrating signs that he was suffering from abuse while he attended class. He alleges faculty and staff at the school knew, or should have known, that D.M. was suffering from abuse and either "intentionally ignored what was going on or were negligent in their care and supervision."

After the school year ended, D.M. returned to Saipan and refused to return to the school. He convinced his parents to send him to a different school in Hawaii. D.M. later attended college, but the trauma from the sexual abuse required him to take an extra year to graduate, the lawsuit states. He went on to law school but was unable to continue beyond his first year.

"The memories of the trauma continued to intrude into his mind, and he could not complete law school," wrote D.M.'s attorney, Charles McDonald.

D.M. tried to attend graduate school but was unable to complete his studies because of the stress he was suffering, the lawsuit states. Although he's been gainfully employed, he is not getting paid what he would have made as a lawyer or with a graduate degree in the sciences as he had tried to do, according to the lawsuit.

McDonald maintains his client has struggled with alcohol abuse, anger issues and relationship problems as a direct result of the sexual assaults he suffered on Guam. He continues to suffer from embarrassment, emotional distress, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life.

They have asked the Superior Court of Guam for damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

Archbishop Byrnes: Rome notified

Archbishop Michael Byrnes issued a statement extending prayers for D.M. and all people who have been sexually abused by Guam Catholic clergy.

The archdiocese will follow its procedures under its new, strengthened sexual abuse policy, and notified the Holy See in Rome about the latest accusation made against Apuron, Byrnes stated.

In March, the Vatican found Apuron guilty of certain unspecified allegations and banished him from Guam and stripped him of his title.

He appealed the sentence and the imposed penalties were suspended until final resolution.

Earlier rape claims

Apuron left the island in 2016 after child molestation charges against him surfaced. He's accused of sexually assaulting four altar boys when he was a priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Agat. A fifth victim, Apuron's nephew, Mark Apuron, more recently came forward and accused his uncle of raping him in the Chancery bathroom in 1989 or 1990 when he was a teen, The Guam Daily Post files state.