A retired bishop in the Northern Marianas has been accused of sex abuse against an altar boy. The charges date back to 1971, when Tomas Camacho served as a priest in Guam and, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, it’s just the latest in a long series of accusations.
By this point, the outline of the charges looks very familiar. According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Guam, Melvin Duenas alleges that he was abused from the age of ten, when he was chief altar boy at St. Joseph Catholic Church, where Tomas Camacho served as a priest. The abuse only stopped, when Duenas ran away from the rectory sometime in 1974 or ‘75.
That makes 17 such cases filed in Guam, beginning with accusations against Archbishop Anthony Apuron last June, to a case filed last Wednesday. The Pacific Daily News reported that a former altar boy alleged that he was repeatedly molested by former island priest Louis Brouillard in the 1970s. Last year, Brouillard, now 95 and a resident of Minnesota, publicly admitted that he abused more than 25 boys in the 30 years he worked on Guam. Last September, Guam’s Governor Eddie Calvo, signed a law that lifted the statute of limitations for lawsuits against child abusers and their institutions.
There will be a jury trial in each case; if the charges are upheld, the Catholic Church would be required to pay a minimum of 5 million dollars in damages…again, in each case.
Guam’s New Archbishop, Michael Jude Byrnes, says the Church is considering bankruptcy protection and out of court settlements to reduce its financial exposure; Archbishop Apuron retains his title and salary while he awaits a church trial at the Vatican.