Chandler resident Francis Charfauros, 49, wanted to be a priest when he was younger, but he said an encounter with the Rev. Jack Niland when he was 14 and living on the small Pacific island of Guam changed that.
Charfauros is now one of many who have brought lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Agana in Guam alleging sexual abuse at a rectory there.
The lawsuit alleges that Niland molested Charfauros in 1982 while the boy was living at the rectory at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the village of Agat in Guam, a U.S. territory.
Charfauros is the 67th person to file a Guam clergy sex abuse lawsuit in local and federal courts after the statute of limitations was lifted late last year. Charfauros filed his suit in federal court in May.
Charfauros' attorney, David Lujan, has begun negotiations with Hope and Healing Guam on Charfauros' case and others.
Hope and Healing Guam is an initiative that seeks to resolve clergy sex-abuse cases by offering those affected with counseling, treatment and compensation. The program's initial funding from the archdiocese was $1 million, the Pacific Daily News reports.
The church and its attorney did not respond to The Republic's multiple requests for comment.
Charfauros said he kept his secret for years until he heard the testimony of Roy Quintanilla, 52, who came forward in 2016 with allegations of sex abuse by the Rev. Anthony Apuron, who worked in the same rectory as Niland.
3 Arizona connections
Apuron was a parish priest in Agat for 40 years, according to the Pacific Daily News. The newspaper in Guam is, like The Arizona Republic, part of the USA Today Network.
Other accusations of sex abuse in Guam have had Arizona ties.
Casa Grande resident Walter Denton, 52, came forward last year, alleging Apuron raped him in April 1977.
Shortly after Denton came forward, Doris Concepcion alleged her son, Joseph Quinata, told her — just before he died 12 years ago — that Apuron molested him when he was an altar boy in Agat in the 1970s. Concepcion now lives in Prescott.
Charfauros said he did not have much contact with Apuron during his time on the island and most of his time at the rectory was spent with Niland, who has since died.
At the time, Charfauros was looking to become a priest himself. He said he had been an altar boy and enjoyed participating in church events.
"At that age it's pretty normal to try to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life," Charfauros said, adding that a friend introduced him to Niland, who asked Charfauros to stay at the rectory to learn the ways of the cloth.
Charfauros jumped at the chance, as the rectory was closer to school and he would get to learn more about what he considered to be his future profession.
'Startled by a presence'
Charfauros began staying at the rectory, helping set up events, reading scripture and spending time with Niland, who often referred to him as a "special boy," Charfauros said.
Then one night Charfauros said he was "startled by a presence" in his room, only to wake up and see the priest standing over his bed. Niland asked him how things were going before telling Charfauros he was "excited" to have him there, Charfauros said.
The next night Charfauros was awoken by Niland removing his clothes. When he attempted to resist, he said Niland held him down so he could not escape.
"I was terrified," Charfauros recalled, adding, "It's hard to describe even now."
After the incident, Charfauros ran home and never returned. He didn't tell anyone about what happened that night.
His mother thought he had done something wrong and was kicked out of the rectory, he said. She only recently discovered the truth.
"It was hard for her," Charfauros said about how his mother took the news. Now she is his connection to the island, keeping him up to date on the cases being brought against the church.
"Just because they wear the cloth doesn't mean they are a good person," Charfauros said, adding that he still has respect for the profession.
Charfauros' lawsuit includes Niland and 50 "Doe entities" who Charfauros and his attorney say turned a blind eye or aided in covering up the abuses.
"Each such Doe is legally responsible in some manner for the events, happenings, and or tortious and unlawful conduct that caused the injuries and damages alleged," the suit says.
The suit alleges that those within the church were "aware of the sexual abuse committed by Niland and deliberately remained quiet."
The lawsuit asks that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Agana pay $5 million.
"The systematic and ongoing pattern of sexual abuse of young children was characteristic of an internal society within Defendant Agana Archdiocese and whose norms were based on pedophilic conduct disguised by the rituals and pageantry of liturgical services," the lawsuit says.
A test of faith
Charfauros moved a lot after the events of 1982 because of his father's military service. He moved to Chandler in 2003. All the while, he kept his secret and pursued different ambitions.
Charfauros said he never lost his faith, and in some ways the events strengthened it. He cites "faith and forgiveness" as the two main things that helped him cope with the events of that night.
"It altered my life plans," Charfauros said.
Charfauros remains a practicing Catholic and said those in his congregation understand he holds no resentment toward the church, just the person whom he says "committed a wrong" against him.
Charfauros said his main hope with the lawsuit is that it gives others the courage to come forward and state their names. Most of the people who have levied claims against the church have remained anonymous.
"If you feel that person did you wrong, then stand up, speak out and find the strength," Charfauros said. "Just talk to somebody."