Aug. 16, 2019
Best of the Week — First Winner
AP investigation: Guam’s ex-archbishop protected culture of clergy sex abuse of children
Knowledge of clergy sex abuse is widespread on the mainland of the United States. But it has long been a secret in the small, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic U.S. territory of Guam.
Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker, working with Atlanta-based enterprise photographer David Goldman and Seattle video journalist Manuel Valdes, helped to puncture that veil of silence when AP examined thousands of pages of court documents in lawsuits brought by abuse victims and then conducted extensive interviews.
The AP team detailed a pattern of repeated collusion among predator priests, with abuse that spanned generations and reached all the way to the top of the territory’s church hierarchy, ruled over by then-Archbishop Tony Apuron, who himself had been accused of the rape of a 13-year-old choir boy when Apuron was a parish priest.
The care and sensitivity of the reporting and images were essential to the project’s power. “To see my story told in this way gives me a lot of peace, that I have a purpose,” said Walter Denton, a former U.S. Army sergeant and survivor of abuse nearly 40 years ago.
For telling a sensitive and little-known story of systemic clerical abuse dating from the 1950s to as recently as 2013, Biesecker, Goldman and Valdes share AP’s Best of the Week award.