"The true goal of Hope and Healing is to get victims to sign away their hard-won legal rights and trade 'spiritual counseling' for transparency and accountability from church officials. That’s disgusting." – Joelle Casteix, western region director, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

An organization that helps thousands of child sex abuse victims nationwide says a new program designed to help victims on Guam heal from past abuse is "disgusting."

Joelle Casteix, western region director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told The Guam Daily Post she was "horrified" at the initial press conference that announced the Hope and Healing program and the selection of Mike Caspino as the director.

Caspino, a California-based attorney, was hired by the Archdiocese of Agana to lead the program and urged sex abuse victims to come forward to heal.

"The true goal of Hope and Healing is to get victims to sign away their hard-won legal rights and trade 'spiritual counseling' for transparency and accountability from church officials. That’s disgusting," said Casteix.

Protecting selected interests

She accused Caspino of only protecting the interests of the church. "I personally know several people who are dealing with him concerning legal issues at a local elementary school and have seen how he works with people who have been victims of abuse," Casteix said.

As a survivor and an advocate who used civil litigation to expose her abuser and get justice, Casteix said she was insulted when Caspino said during a press conference that litigation does very little to help victims.

"I have found that the only people who are not helped in the litigation process are wrongdoers: those who abuse children and cover up the crimes. Victims, on the other hand, find vindication, healing, justice and accountability," Casteix stated.

Sending mixed messages

Attorney David Lujan, who represents several dozen victims of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy on Guam, also expressed concerns with the selection of Caspino and whose interests were really being protected through the new program.

The victims' legal counsel also accused the church of sending mixed messages to victims by calling for hope and healing while also seeking the dismissal of at least 37 civil complaints alleging abuse.

Casteix agreed and said the church is speaking out of "both sides of their mouth" and true hope and healing come from truth, accountability and transparency.

She renewed her call for Archbishop Michael Byrne's to publish the list of every cleric who abused on Guam, make public Apuron's secret personnel file containing evidence of abuse and cover-up, and stop fighting the victims in court.

Casteix said if Byrne's truly wants to foster hope and healing, he should never try to con victims by selling a "sham nonprofit" with a church lawyer at the helm.

Instead she suggested he "boot out every priest who covered up abuse, turn over evidence to the cops, and make sure that Apuron never gets near another child. He would clean house, not slap up new paint over rotting boards."