Vatican to seek dismissal of Guam rape case

ROME: Pope Francis speaks with former Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron on Feb. 7, 2018, in Rome. La Stampa file photo

The Holy See, or the Vatican, will be seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed against it by a former Catholic school student who claimed that former Archbishop Anthony Apuron raped him in the mid-1990s.

"The Holy See intends to file a motion to dismiss based upon numerous grounds, including lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficient services of process and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," the Vatican's legal team said in court filings.

That motion would detail the team's defense against claims that the Vatican is liable for an archbishop's rape and molestation of children, among other things.

While the Vatican brought in its top lawyers for U.S. cases, led by California-based Jeffrey S. Lena, the plaintiff's legal team recently tapped Pennsylvania-based attorney Marci A. Hamilton, a leading expert on clergy sex abuse and child sex abuse statutes of limitation.

District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Monday granted three motions related to this particular Guam clergy sex abuse case:

  • The Holy See's legal team may file up to 35 pages of memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss the case, which is in excess of the 25-page limit.
  • Hamilton is admitted to practice in the District Court of Guam, joining Guam-based attorney Charles McDonald II's team in representing the plaintiff accusing Apuron of rape and molestation.
  • The plaintiff, identified in court documents only as "D.M." to protect his privacy, shall file a disclosure statement setting his true identity. This statement shall be filed under seal within a week.

Besides Lena, the Vatican legal team in the Guam case also includes Guam-based attorney John S. Unpingco and California-based attorneys Alexis I. Haller and Jennifer L. Bruno.

The Vatican team said the additional pages they requested are "necessary in light of the complexity of this case," including issues of sovereign immunity.

D.M.'s lawsuit claims, among other things, that the Holy See is a responsible party in Apuron's conduct toward the plaintiff and other children in Guam.

The plaintiff is a former Father Duenas Memorial School student who alleges Apuron raped and molested him multiple times during school year 1994-1995 at the archbishop's private residence.

D.M.'s lawsuit got the Vatican's attention when his attorney, McDonald, sought the federal court's help in reaching out to the U.S. Department of State to serve papers on the Holy See.

The Vatican stripped Apuron of his title as archbishop of Guam after a tribunal convicted him in 2018 of sexual abuse of minors, and that decision was upheld in 2019. Apuron still faces lawsuits, including the one filed by D.M.

There have been nearly 300 Guam clergy sex abuse claims filed since 2016.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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