The latest sex abuse case filed in the District Court of Guam alleges that a former Guam Catholic priest, who later became bishop of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, repeatedly molested and raped an altar boy decades ago.
Melvin Duenas is the 17th victim to come forward and file a lawsuit in the District Court against the Archdiocese of Agana, retired Bishop Tomas Aguon Camacho of the CNMI, and Louis Brouillard, a former priest who worked at parishes and schools on Guam. Camacho, 83, is accused of sexually abusing Duenas for at least three years before the former altar boy ran away.
The complaint, which seeks a minimum of $5 million in damages, alleges Duenas was repeatedly sexually molested and raped by Camacho when he became the priest for the Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Inarajan in the 1970s. The lawsuit accuses the Archdiocese of Agana of knowing about the sexual abuse and assisting Camacho and Brouillard with keeping the misconduct “hidden or secret.” It also accuses the archdiocese of failing to adequately investigate, discharge or discipline Camacho and Brouillard, and other priests known to have sexually abused children.
Calls to Camacho went unreturned as of press time.
Saipan media have reported that Camacho has faced various health complications in the last few years and rests at his Kannat Tabla home in Saipan. In 2015 he celebrated his 30th Episcopal anniversary.
'This happened on almost a nightly basis'
Camacho is now the second former head of a diocese in the Marianas to face sex-abuse allegations involving altar boys as alleged victims. Suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron left Guam last year, and was recently found living in California, after he was accused of sexually abusing former altar boys when he was a Guam priest. The lawsuits were filed for the former altar boys by attorney David Lujan, who seeks to hold the Vatican responsible.
Duenas was 10 years old when he was promoted to be the church's chief of the altar boys. The boy would ring the church bell three times a day, prepare for Mass, clean the church and serve as an altar boy at Mass every morning and night, and three times on Sundays.
Camacho sought and obtained permission from Duenas’ father to have the boy live in the guest room at the St. Joseph Rectory in Inarajan, court documents state. From approximately 1971 to 1974, Duenas was “repeatedly sexually molested and raped by Camacho," the lawsuit alleges. "Camacho would lock Duenas in Camacho’s bedroom and force (him) to undress” and perform sexual acts.
“This happened on almost a nightly basis,” court documents state. Duenas “constantly resisted the sexual abuse and tried to prevent Camacho from penetrating (Duenas), but he could not free himself,” the complaint states.
During this time frame, Duenas occasionally served as an altar boy at the San Isidro Catholic Church of Malojloj during special events. Duenas' lawsuit alleges he was also sexually molested and abused by Brouillard, who was the priest at the church.
“On many occasions, while Brouillard was saying Mass, he would be completely naked under his robe,” the complaint states. “Whenever (Duenas) served as an altar boy with Brouillard at the Malojloj parish, Brouillard sexually molested and abused Melvin.”
Duenas now seeks closure
The abuse, Duenas alleged, continued when he was a Boy Scout and visited the Carmelite Monastery Convent, where Brouillard lived. Duenas' lawsuit states he and others were forced to take turns performing sexual acts on Brouillard. Sometime between 1974 and 1975, “in an effort to escape the torture from being repeatedly sexually molested and raped,” Duenas ran away from the Inarajan Rectory.
In 2006 or 2007, while Duenas visited Saipan, he attempted to contact Camacho “in an effort to seek closure.” Despite leaving messages, notes and emailing the Cathedral in Saipan, Duenas received no response, according to the lawsuit.
Camacho was born in Chalan Kanoa and ordained as the second local Catholic priest there in June 1961. He served as a priest in Rota for two years between 1968 and 1970. He returned to Guam, where he was assigned to the parishes in Tumon and Inarajan, respectively. Following his time at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Camacho was then assigned to Agana Cathedral as the rector until 1976 when he was promoted to monsignor. He was then assigned to Saipan as an Episcopal vicar and in 1984 was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, a position he held until he retired in 2010 and became a bishop emeritus.
Lujan said the archdiocese continues to pay Brouillard and Camacho a monthly stipend, even after Brouillard became inactive as a priest, and after Camacho retired in 2010. Duenas is seeking damages of at least $5 million dollars for the emotional, physical and mental distress caused by the alleged abuse.