Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes said yesterday a parent of a child who attends Bishop Baumgartner Memorial Catholic School has asked that the school drop the bishop's name.
The former Guam bishop is named in numerous child sexual abuse cases as being aware of certain abuses of altar boys, and allegedly did little to stop or investigate the abuse.
During a press conference held yesterday afternoon concerning developments in the Task Force for the Protection of Minors' efforts to educate archdiocesan schools and parishes, Byrnes fielded questions from the media which included mention of a complaint made to Bishop Baumgartner Memorial Catholic School.
"I'm aware of that particular (request), and as far as I know right now it's simply from one person," he said. "(It's) taken seriously, but it's one of those situations that's going to take a while for us to discern the way forward because there's going to be at least two sides to the story."
According to court documents, former Guam priest Rev. Louis Brouillard said in a written statement that former Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner approached him about reports of child sexual abuse and told him to "do better and say prayers as penance." Brouillard has been accused of abuse from the 1950s through the 1970s, served at numerous Catholic parishes around the island and has publicly admitted that he abused 20 or more boys during his time in Guam.
Educating the schools
Task force Chairwoman Sarah Thomas-Nededog reported yesterday that all 14 private Catholic schools have completed their educational programs for staff, faculty and students pertaining to new sex abuse reporting policies, including mandatory civil authority reporting required by the adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Nededog introduced the members of the task force, which includes clinical social worker Vince Pereda, attorney John Weisenberger, and retired police officers Ray and Josephine Fernandez. According to Nededog, the training focuses on educating those who work with children on the physical and behavioral signs that can point to instances of abuse, and educating children on how they can better engage themselves in prevention.
Sister Dorothy Lettiere of the Academy of Our Lady of Guam explained how the educational material was specifically geared to different students' age groups and mentioned certain day care presentations that focused on the differences between "good and bad touch." She added that the task force was dedicated to preventing abuse and to responding to allegations of abuse.
"It's time for letting our kids be kids, to laugh and to play, to watch bugs crawl, to imitate barking frogs, to engage in sports, to discover new things, to play with their cats and dogs, to dream about what they want to be when they grow up," Lettiere said. "At such young ages, they don't need to carry around the burden of being sexually mistreated and living with feelings of shame and guilt, betrayal and despair and carrying these into adulthood."
With educational and training efforts at schools now complete, the task force is turning its attention to parishes. As of yesterday's press conference, church officials reported two parishes had completed training. Trainings for two more parishes were scheduled to take place within the week.
Silent no more
One of the parishes that already completed the training, the San Isidro Malojloj Parish, is also named in several pending federal court cases as one of the locations where Brouillard allegedly abused at least 14 minors in the 1970s.
Ruth Taimanglo, a representative of the Malojloj Parish, said she felt parishioners and the community had "come a long ways" in their treatment of abuse allegations. She cited examples from her own past as a teenager in the '70s when she said anyone talking about abuse allegations were immediately shushed and told not to talk about such things.
"We've moved from being at that point of ignoring and being silent to now we're able to speak up, to pay attention, to stand up and I think that's a step that our community and parish is becoming stronger," Taimanglo said. "We no longer want to ignore, we want to understand and believe, and then we want to be able to act and do something to help our children for the future."
Updating the faithful
Yesterday's press conference marks the first in a new series for the archdiocese that officials are calling, 'Updating the Faithful.' Just like it sounds, church officials said the monthly events will be held on the first week on the month to update those concerned on "different issues, initiatives and efforts" of the Archdiocese of Agana. These events will also include an introduction of a different group each month to help "promote the many good groups and individuals who are doing good things in our archdiocese in these extraordinary times."