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Pacific News Minute: Guam Archdiocese Moves for Dismissal of Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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This week, the Archdiocese of Guam asked a federal court to dismiss dozens of law suits filed by former altar boys who say they were raped and assaulted by priests as far back as the 1970s. The key to the suits was a law passed last year that lifted the statute of limitations, and as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, that law is also the basis of the Archdiocese’s argument.


Under the old law, suits had to be filed within one or two years after the alleged abuse. But as outrage grew following publication of the altar boys stories, the legislature approved a bill that removed the time limit entirely. Even as he signed the bill, Governor Eddie Calvo wondered whether it was constitutional to lift the statute of limitations retroactively. Afterwards, 47 cases were filed, which ask for millions of dollars in damages from individual priests, from the Archdiocese and, in some instances, from the Boy Scouts.

On Monday, attorneys for the Archdiocese argued that, even if the law is constitutional, it only applies to perpetrators, and not to third parties.  


Last week, attorneys for Archbishop Anthony Apuron asked the federal court to find the 2016 law entirely unconstitutional, and dismiss the four suits that name him as an abuser.


The day after its filing, The Archdiocese named attorney Michael Caspino executive director of a settlement fund for victims of clergy abuse, The Hope and Healing Fund. Caspino told the Guam News, “Litigation doesn’t solve these cases - slugging it out in court just makes victims a victim twice.”


If victims agree, he said he would ask the court to put the suits on hold to allow three or four months to resolve every case. “My main commitment to this is to the healing of the victims,” Caspino said, “We’re ready to do whatever it takes.”

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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