Father Adrian Cristobal, former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Agaña, is being recalled from his clerical mission in Arizona to face a $5-million sex abuse claim lodged by a 35-year-old man who served at a Barrigada parish when he was a minor in mid-1990s.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court is the latest in the running allegations of clergy sex abuse on Guam, where the number of cases has reached over 150 and is projected to cost the church an estimated $600 million in court judgement.
The plaintiff, identified by his initials, L.J.C., alleged that Father Cristobal sexually abused him on several occasions when he was an altar server at San Vicente/San Roke parish in Barrigada from 1995 to 1997. He was then 12 to 14 years old.
The Archdiocese of Agaña subsequently issued a statement acknowledging the latest civil action, which named father Cristobal and the Catholic Church as defendants.
“Father Adrian, while a priest of the Archdiocese of Agaña, is currently off-island. He was given permission to be on mission in the Diocese of Phoenix since November of 2017, but because of the complaint filed against him, he is now being called back to Guam,” the Archdiocese said. “While in Phoenix, Father Adrian has not been receiving a salary or honorarium from the Archdiocese of Agaña.”
The archdiocese said the latest complaint “will be handled in accordance with our sexual abuse and sexual misconduct policy. This includes notifying the Diocese of Phoenix of the claims of sexual abuse filed against Father Adrian.”
The lawsuit accused the Church of hushing up Father Cristobal’s actions despite its awareness that that the priest “had sexually abused and molested L.J.C. and other minor children for years.”
Instead of reporting Father Cristobal’s “wrongful actions” to law enforcement, the complaint states, the Church for years “assisted” the priest by keeping the incidents under wraps “to protect the Agana Archdiocese, as well as the Roman Catholic church as an international institution.”
The lawsuit alleged the archdiocese did nothing to stop Father Cristobal from “from engaging in additional instances of sexual abuse” and to have him “acknowledge and take responsibility for his wrongful actions.”
“To this day, the Agana Archdiocese and Does never contacted L.J.C, L.J.C.'s family, or children they know Fr. Adrian had sexual contact with. The Agana Archdiocese and DOES 1-50 have been content that any other children that were sexually abused by Fr. Adrian while he was serving as a priest, will remain affected by guilt, shame and emotional distress,” states the lawsuit represented by lawyer David Lujan.
The complaint narrates the incidents of sexual abuse — the first took place when Father Cristobal summoned L.J.C. into the office after mass. “When L.J.C. went into the office Fr. Adrian was waiting for him and began scolding him about his shirt not being tucked in. Fr. Adrian told L.J.C. that his shirt is supposed to be tucked in during mass and instructed L.J.C. to undo his pants so that he could show L.J.C. how to properly tuck in his shirt. As Father Adrian explained to L.J.C. how to tuck in his shirt, he grabbed L.J.C.'s (private parts) and asked L.J.C, ‘Do you like that?’”
It did not stop there. Father Cristobal allegedly went on to perform an indecent act in front of L.J.C, who by then “froze with fear and confusion.”
“L.J.C. pushed Fr. Adrian away, and ran out of the office as he pulled up his pants, and ultimately ran home. After this incident, every time L.J.C. saw Fr. Adrian, Fr. Adrian would hug and caress L.J.C.'s ear, which made L.J.C. feel very uncomfortable,” the complaint states.
In another occasion, the complaint said, Father Cristobal invited L.J.C. and other altar servers to a retreat at a private beach in Ipan, Guam. “There was one big tent for Fr. Adrian and other priests who were also present, and several small tents for the altar servers. During the retreat, L.J.C. recalls Fr. Adrian summoning the boys one-by-one into the big tent. L.J.C. refused to go when his name was being called, but recalls hearing some of the boys saying, ‘Stop. You're hurting me!’ After this retreat, L.J.C. noticed that some of the altar boys stopped coming to church and serving mass.”
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The lawsuit alleged that the last incident occurred after L.J.C. just finished serving mass for a funeral. He was changing his clothes when Father Cristobal came into the room. “As L.J.C. tried to exit the room and walk around Fr. Adrian, Fr. Adrian grabbed L.J.C. and squeezed his (private parts) so hard that it caused L.J.C. to be in extreme pain. L.J.C. shoved Fr. Adrian and ran out of the church,” the complaint states.
The complaint said, “L.J.C. enjoyed helping out around the church” after school, but eventually quit serving at the parish when he “could no longer handle the pain, humiliation and embarrassment” from being sexually abused. He kept it a secret, the complaint says, “but began acting out as a cry for help.”
Cristobal’s alleged misbehavior, according to the complaint, caused L.J.C. “to suffer, great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life; and have incurred and/ or will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling.”
The latest stone cast at the Church came weeks after the Vatican announced the conclusion of a trial which found Archbishop Anthony Apuron guilty of “some of the allegations.”
“The archdiocese extends prayers for L.J.C and all persons who have come forward recently and in the past with claims of sexual abuse by Guam Catholic clergy or lay persons. We take all allegations of sexual abuse very seriously,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “Under Archbishop Michael Byrnes, the archdiocese has revamped and strengthened our sexual abuse and sexual misconduct policy. This includes aligning our policy with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ stringent Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and implementing mandatory live and on-line training of all clergy, employees and volunteers.”