On the same day an 18th child sex abuse claim was filed in Guam's federal court, the legal counsel for the alleged victims said yesterday that he expected the number of accusers to double.
Attorney David Lujan and one of his clients spoke briefly with the media yesterday at the Archdiocese of Agana Chancery before meeting with a representative of a Vatican-led tribunal sent to Guam to receive testimony from those who have accused former Guam clergy of abuse as part of an ongoing investigation into Archbishop Anthony Apuron. The Vatican investigation is penal, or criminal, in nature, according to documents.
While all of the accusers that Lujan currently represents are former altar boys, attorney Gloria Rudolph noted that some of the victims whose cases have not yet been filed never served as altar boys.
"Some of them weren't altar boys," she said. "They were students at Catholic schools."
Shrouded in secrecy
As the number of cases alleging abuse by former Guam clergy continues to rise with each passing week, at least three members of a Vatican-led tribunal arrived at the Chancery in Hagåtña yesterday to receive testimony from those who have leveled accusations of abuse.
Members of the tribunal who arrived at the Chancery include a cardinal, a religious professor from Boston College and a notary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Rev. James Conn and Rev. Justin Wachs were observed entering the Chancery around 9:20 a.m. yesterday morning.
When the group arrived, Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes kindly asked that the Vatican officials not be photographed because anonymity is a requirement for their task, which is usually shrouded in secrecy.
In fact, the events surrounding Apuron's canonical trial have offered a rare glimpse into the proceedings of the traditionally secret tribunal, according to attorney Patrick J. Wall, a former priest and advocate for victims of clergy abuse. Wall previously told the Post that he was not aware of any U.S. lawyer challenging the process because such proceedings were usually done with the utmost secrecy.
Burke, who was formerly a Vatican supreme court judge, will be the presiding judge over the secret tribunal, summoned former altar boy Roland Sondia to appear at the chancery for “the purpose of giving ... testimony,” according to a decree Burke signed on Feb. 3. Sondia is one of several former altar boys, including Roy Quintanilla and Walter Denton, who accused Apuron of sexual abuse when Apuron was a Guam priest.
Sondia refuses to testify without lawyer
The Post obtained documents stating that decrees of summons were sent to Quintanilla in Hawaii and Denton in Arizona in addition to the one sent to Sondia. According to Post sources, Denton's mother, Rita Okiyama, was also summoned to provide testimony, but refused to appear before the tribunal.
Burke’s role in the Guam tribunal was at the request of Rev. Gerhard Ludwig Muller. Muller is an appointee of the Pope, and heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with “faith and morals.”
According to Post files, Conn is expected to be the advocate for Apuron, and while Apuron is not on island, his presence is not required for either the canonical or civil trial to move forward. Conn is also the priest Lujan questioned yesterday for contacting Lujan's clients directly, without Lujan's approval.
"He has no respect for the procedures. He was told by all the clients that he needs to go through their lawyers respectively ... and (Conn) said he doesn’t have to do it. I did write him a two-page letter asking a series of questions and up to now he has not responded, and my understanding is that he has no intention to respond."
Lujan and Sondia met briefly with Wachs yesterday morning and explained that Sondia refused to be interviewed without Lujan's presence. Lujan explained Wachs' role as something like the court reporter for the tribunal and that he would be in charge of recording and transcribing any testimony.
"I told Father Wachs that ... our position is that Roland will not be deposed live, however we are willing to submit a declaration or an affidavit in writing and of course they are willing to accept it," Lujan said. "[Wachs] did warn that the presiding judge (Burke) may be affected by the fact that he did not witness Roland’s demeanor while testifying or being asked questions. So, of course, we informed him that we agreed and understood that."
Lujan distrusts priest
Wachs told Lujan that if they changed their minds about Sondia's appearance before the tribunal, Burke would be on island throughout today. Lujan, however, said he would not change his mind and told media that he would be sending Sondia's affidavit to the proper authority sometime next week.
Instead, Lujan told Wachs to give Conn a message.
"I don’t trust (Conn) at all because of his actions and his refusal to respond to my letter," he reportedly said to Wachs. "He’s not done anything to give me confidence that he is doing what’s really right for ... Roland and it ... will most likely be an influence with my other clients."
Lujan explained that the tribunal was "travelling East" to Hawaii and then Arizona, where they were scheduled to meet with his other clients, Quintanilla and Denton, but that none of his clients would comply with the Vatican decree to meet with the tribunal without their legal counsel.
Lujan further told Wachs that if the tribunal wanted to restore his confidence in their proceedings, or if they wanted to expect their cooperation, one way to that would be to "remove someone that we object to."
While Lujan said he objected to Conn's presence, he did not expect his request would be taken into serious consideration and that because of that, the tribunal would get similar responses from all of his other clients as well.
Sondia, who was present for the entire meeting, said he was "really overwhelmed" and that it felt like the entire ordeal with his confession was starting all over again. He added that, at least for him, healing has not yet begun.
“I’m very nervous - I’m close to these people here," Sondia said. "I haven’t seen them (the tribunal) - just the thought of me sitting in front of them to give my testimony, it’s overwhelming. I don’t know how to react.”
Vatican knew for nine years
Lujan added that in his discussion with Wachs, he was led to believe that the protocol number listed on the decrees sent to his clients indicated that the Vatican investigation of Apuron began as far back as 2008. As such, Lujan said he suspected that the Vatican has been aware of abuse claims for at least nine years.
Out of the 18 accusations now filed in court, 10 have named former Guam priest Rev. Louis Brouillard. Lujan confirmed that most of Brouillard's victims were altar boys and Boy Scouts members since he acted as both a priest and scout master during his time in Guam in the 1940s through the '70s. While Lujan could not confirm that he was representing any more victims of abuse by Apuron, he expected that more were out there.
"I have to believe that there's more," he said. Lujan added that he had heard of one or two other priests that have yet to be named who are suspected or accused of engaging in abuse.
Improved Church policy
When asked about the recent efforts by the Archdiocese of Agana to improve the Church's handling of abuse allegations, Lujan responded that while it was a move in the right direction, it did little to address the concerns of victims.
“I really pray that it works, but for the victims that I represent, like Mr. Leo Tudela, I believe it occurred maybe 60 years ago," he said. "It’s rather late, huh?”
Citing instances of abuse that dated as far back as the '50s and '60s that Brouillard himself said Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner knew about, and the fact that "thousands" of similar lawsuits have been processed by courts throughout the U.S., Lujan criticized the Archdiocese of Agana and said that Guam was "really late in the game."
Of the 17 cases he said he expects to be filed, three will likely name Bishop Emeritus Tomas Camacho of Saipan, who was recently accused of child sex abuse from his time at the Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Inarajan in the 1970s. Lujan said the three accusers were children from the Inarajan Parish at the time they were abused.
When asked if the numerous instances of abuse and the Church's failure to respond to complaints had at all affected his faith as a Catholic, Lujan offered an adamant denial.
"Hell no," he said. "I believe in the faith, I don’t believe (in) some of the men and they’re not going to drive me away. We should drive them away.”
While Byrnes has said he would consider an out-of-court settlement, Lujan denied that he had spoken to anyone from the Church on that front, saying it was too early for such a conversation.
"Of course, they're going to file their motion to dismiss," he said. "They'd rather pay their lawyers than the victims."
Before meeting with Lujan and Sondia, the tribunal met with Deacon Steve Martinez, who was the former Sexual Abuse Response Coordinator during Apuron's administration. Martinez confirmed with the media that he had met with Burke, but declined any further comment.
Martinez was listed on the Chancery sign-in log along with another individual, Lolita Groves, who also noted her reason for being at the Chancery as "tribunal meeting."
Catholic faithful hold protest
As the tribunal continues to hear testimony from accusers and those close to incidents involving alleged child sex abuse, Church officials will likely be subject to continued protests by members of the Laity Forward Movement.
As Lujan and Sondia entered the Chancery offices yesterday morning, a solemn crowd of protesters marched around the statue of Pope John Paul II, holding signs reading "Defrock Apuron" and "I Love My Catholic Church" as they recited the rosary.