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More than 220 former altar boys from Guam have filed sexual abuse lawsuits against Catholic Church organizations, for failing to protect them from predatory priests when they were children.
The complaints were filed ahead of an August 15 deadline set by the District Court of Guam, for anyone to file a childhood sexual abuse lawsuit following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by the archdiocese in January 2019.
The archdiocese indicates it is in debt due to $45 million in liabilities and faces claims of alter boy sexual abuse dating back to the 1950s, which has implicated 35 priests and other Roman Catholic Church employees over that time period.
One of the latest complaints (PDF) was filed on August 13, in the U.S. federal court the territory of Guam. The lawsuit names the Sisters of Mercy and Santa Barbara Catholic School and the Archdiocese of Agana as defendants.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, identified only as T.T.T., was an altar boy at Santa Barbara Church and attended Santa Barbara Catholic School in 1979, when Father Raymond Cepeda, now deceased, allegedly molested him.
The lawsuit claims the incident sent T.T.T. on a downward spiral, resulting in him leaving the Catholic Church and developing sex, alcohol and drug addictions. The lawsuit claims the Sisters of Mercy, who ran the school, and the Archdiocese knew or should have known about Cepeda’s activities, and failed to protect T.T.T., a child at the time, from him.
The claims come amid renewed attention to sex abuse allegations against Catholic church priests, and problems that many now say was a covered-up for decades.
Throughout the U.S., focus on Catholic Church abuse scandals have gained widespread media attention since August 2018, when a grand jury report highlighted cases involving at least 90 Catholic priests accused of sex abuse in the Pittsburgh area alone, involving allegations and cover-ups that spanned decades.
That report indicated the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania covered up abuse involving priests who abused more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the course of 70 years. After 90 of those priests were identified, it sparked investigations by the Justice Department and states’ attorneys general nationwide.
In February, the Vatican held a four-day conference on addressing problems of sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. This was followed by an edict from the Pope in April which calls for all sex abuse claims against Vatican personnel to be reported to police immediately. While it only legally applies to the Vatican, church officials say the edict is meant to be a guide for the entire church apparatus.
A number of states have recently enacted or proposed legislation that extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse involving minors, leading to a growing number of complaints being filed nationwide against the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America and other organizations.