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Vatican removes from office and exiles Guam archbishop accused of sexual abuse

This November 2014 file photo shows Archbishop Anthony Apuron standing in front of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in Hagatna, Guam. (AP Photo/Grace Garces Bordallo, File)

(RNS) — Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who was accused of sexually abusing young men, has been found guilty of some of the charges against him by a Vatican tribunal, which removed him from office and exiled him from the island.

He retains the right to an appeal.

The five-judge apostolic tribunal of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced the verdict on Friday (March 16) but did not specify which allegations the 72-year-old archbishop had been found guilty of, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Pope Francis placed Apuron, a Guam native, on leave in June 2016 after accusations emerged that the archbishop had abused young men throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Apuron had led the island’s diocese since 1986.

Accusations came from former altar boys who said Apuron sexually abused or raped them when he was a parish priest in the 1970s. The most recent charge emerged in January 2018, when Apuron’s own nephew accused the cleric of raping him in the chancery bathroom in or around 1989 or 1990 — when Apuron was already an archbishop.

Apuron, who was never criminally charged by civil authorities in Guam, has denied all the allegations. U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a prominent canon lawyer, was the presiding judge in the investigation.

The tiny island has been rocked in recent years by mounting allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church there. In addition to the charges against Apuron, 13 parish priests, a Catholic schoolteacher and a school janitor have all been accused of sexual abuse in Guam, according to a 2017 investigation by the Pacific Daily News. The investigative team unearthed nearly 100 lawsuits alleging the abuse of children over the course of nearly four decades.

Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, a former auxiliary bishop of Detroit, is primed to replace Apuron in the diocese if the conviction holds. But Apuron retains the right to appeal the ruling, during which the penalties against him are suspended.

About the author

Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins is a national reporter for RNS based in Washington, covering U.S. Catholics and the intersection of religion and politics.

31 Comments

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  • Now that Law has gone to his heavenly reward, there is a vacant luxury apartment in Rome where Apuron can stay.

  • Exiled from Guam. I’m sure, for his own safety. Or perhaps, just to put him beyond the reach of the civil authorities.

  • Ah, well, then. So Apuron has been found guilty of something. It is good to know even if we don’t know what. I hope the Vatican realizes that unspecified conclusions founded on secrets don’t really help anyone recognize if fairness or justice has been/is being achieved.

    But this is a big story with lots of side stories. I hope there is some follow-up that fills in where a number of issues now stand. I would also like to know that Apuron’s exile is not some luxurious space (that he is not living a life of luxury) and he is being watched.

  • Well, that’s a bit pf progress, but there is much more to be done. Also, will Apuron be prosecuted by civil authorities?

  • ALL victims of abuse by clergy need to receive justice in the form of financial compensation. It’s not enough to just exile someone and hope the crime just disappears, which is what the Catholic church is doing.

  • As usual, the statute of limitations probably excludes criminal prosecution. Which is likely why the tribunal exiled him from the island.

  • For his own safety I’m sure. Haven’t been there since ’88 but I know there are plenty of places left to “get lost”.

  • The Vatican statement said, “In the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution.” Apuron has already appealed.

    Even if he hadn’t:
    1. He was only removed from ministry i.e. he retained all the honors and income of his rank.
    2. He has been reportedly living in California. Hardly much of an “exile.”

  • Is there actually some reasoning supported by real facts underpinning “ALL victims of abuse by clergy need to receive justice in the form of financial compensation.”?

  • Isn’t living in Californial, with Governor Moonbeam and Nancy Pelosi, living in one of the outer circles of Hell?

  • You’re rather typical of canines, although I must say you’re the first one I’ve encountered who either can use a keyboard or has trained a human to do it for you.

  • Okay, you’ve made yourself clear – you’re a rabid anti-Christianist.

    Do you actually have an intelligent comment to make, or are you just planning on ranting?

    If so, I can use the Block function and clear up my Notifications Inbox.

  • Unfortunately – just as one can find examples of institutionalised racism one can also find examples of institutionalised abuse. Within the RCC (as within some other organisations) the prevalence of wicked behaviour suggests localised institutionalism – to an extent where the gaps between the local bits is difficult to observe.

    That does not mean that every member of an organisation is wicked, merely that the environment attracts those who are wicked because they see a low probability of sanction knowing that the ethos of the organisation militates against exposure.

    As in –

    “In Dublin one priest built a private swimming pool in his back garden to which only children of a certain age and appearance were invited,” Martin recalled. “He was in one school each morning and another each afternoon. This man abused for years and there were eight priests in the parish. Did no one notice? More than one survivor tells me that they were jeered by other children in their school for being in contact with abuser priests. The children on the streets knew, but those who were responsible seemed not to notice.”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/article6936293.ece

  • Yes, plug “In Dublin one priest built a private swimming pool in his back garden” into Google and you get dozens of hits, mostly on websites like ncronline.org for obvious reasons.

    The source, of course, was Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, speaking to an assembly at Marquette University in Milwaukee April 4, 2011.

    Of course, this is not “institutionalized abuse”, this is one priest, one unverified story from a member of the Irish episcopate, accompanied by one accusation about “the ethos of the organisation” from one its enemies.

    If it occurred, it was a failure.

    Had the individual in question been an atheist, whether it was a failure or success would be up to the observer and his or her particular set of morals.

    Btw, your url appears to have expired some long time ago.

  • When seven priests, who ought to be looking for such behaviour, either don’t see it, don’t consider it important enough to report or keep quiet to avoid aggro – that’s localised institutional abuse. That’s ground level – it seems to work its way through the hierarchy to the very top.

    Not saying everybody – but a substantial number, not saying only the RCC.

    As to your invocation of atheists – It doesn’t make sense. Atheists don’t have regimented career structures like the RCC/Anglicans etc. etc.. Such institutionalisation is therefore impractical – but abuse by anyone, religious or atheist, and the wilful covering up of such abuse, is equally immoral and should be prosecuted with entirely the same rigour.

    And mandatory reporting should be equally required irrespective of any supernatural belief or none.

  • When a story without dates or names or place is provided by someone who is trying to make some sort of point, it certainly gets attention, but there’s not enough context to know if it happened, if there were seven priests rather than one or seventy, whether anyone reported it, or much of anything else.

    That, as far am I concerned, also wraps up your comment about “regimented career structures”, along with noting that the allegation or story involves one priest doing that which he ought not, not seven.

    Are you going to claim that atheists don’t act solitarily?

    I would say the chances of legislating against the seal of confession and successfully enforcing such legislation here in the United States is zero.

    I would certainly hope that in any other country which has even the slightest respect for freedom of religion the same would be true, but admit parts of the Commonwealth give evidence of contra leanings.

  • “The report, by the Commission of Investigation, said: ‘The Dublin archdiocese’s preoccupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets.’ The archdiocese ‘did its best to avoid any application of the law of the state’, it added. (Mail Online)”

    “the allegation or story involves one priest doing that which he ought not, not seven.” Minimise all you will – a (more Christ-like?) view might be to be more concerned about the lives damaged by someone (whoever) rather than the sin of the abuser.

  • I believe you’ve “shot your wad” on this one.

    The Catholic Church has never denied that sinners commingle with saints in this life, even in the Church itself, even among the highest and mightiest of the hierarchy.

    Like Psicop, you simply disregard the fact that no one proposes, suggests, or endorses the notion that what these sinners do is anything more than a moral failure, potentially earning damnation.

    The same cannot be said for an atheist since there is no atheist moral code.

    In the eyes of many of the old Guard in Russia, Stalin was an atheist saint.

  • I recall being told that Stalin was seminary trained – though that is not to say he learnt his attitudes to people there is it?

    There is no obvious religious moral code – or rather there seem to be as many religious moral codes as there are religious people. Many of them are wholesale adoptions of authoritarian control pretending to be “morality” and all incorporate pre-Israelite codes (Hammurabi, the Pharoic Laws etc.).

    Adding an overlay of a preferred religious flavour simply detracts from the essential humanity of genuine morality.

    Getting your morality wholesale is not something to be proud of –
    particularly when it rejects large elements of the teaching it is supposedly based upon (take no thought for the morrow – leave your family etc.).

    Atheists have a moral code – it’s just that they think for themselves rather than blaming a third party for their imperfection.

    I’m now going, with my partner and dog, to spend the week being carefree in a fantastic pub, eating well, relaxing and laughing whilst surrounded by wonderful scenery (Welsh Borders).

    No doubt you will still be around when I return.

  • Stalin was enrolled in seminary by his mother, Keke, who tried all she could to ensure that he did not wind up like his father, a brutal bully. However, he lost interest in his studies and his grades began to drop. He grew his hair long in an act of rebellion against the school’s rules, and seminary records contain complaints that he declared himself an atheist, chatted in class, was late for meals, and refused to doff his hat to monks. He was repeatedly confined to a cell for his rebellious behavior.

    He joined a forbidden book club which was active at the school. Among the authors whom he read in this period were Émile Zola, Nikolay Nekrasov, Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Friedrich Schiller, Guy de Maupassant, Honoré de Balzac, and William Makepeace Thackeray. Stalin adopted the nickname “Koba” from the bandit protagonist of Alexander Kazbegi’s “The Patricide”.

    It must have been the Thackeray.

    There is no obvious atheist moral code.

    For there to be an “essential humanity of genuine morality”, there actually has to be morality. If atheism has one, it has done an exceptional job of hiding itself.

    Yes, atheists think for themselves, and act for themselves, as Stalin rather grandly and decisively demonstrated.

    The commonality appears to be atheists do not want to be told what to do or not do.

  • Exile sounds terrible, but it actually benefits Apuron. Local authorities won’t be able to get to him for prosecution. So I must congratulate the Vatican for — once again! — placing a cleric it knows to have been guilty of abuse, beyond the reach of the law. Well done!  

    I must also congratulate them for this skillful application of triangulation. They’ve admitted Apuron was guilty of abuse, and even made it seem like they’re “punishing” him, but in the end, they’ve ensured he never will truly be punished in any meaningful way.  

    And to think there are Catholics out there who remain incensed that I’m a proud Catholic apostate as a result of the things the R.C. Church has done (and continues to do). Go put your own house in order before you rail at me sanctimoniously that I left your precious Church and continue to critique it. Your own Jesus would want you to do that:  

    “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Mt 7:3-5)  

    Jesus said it, now you get off your whiney behinds and do it. OK?  

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