Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana, Guam, gives the homily during an Oct. 22, 2012 Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican for the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Pope puts Guam archbishop accused of sex abuse on leave

(RNS) Mounting accusations of sexual abuse against the archbishop of Guam have prompted Pope Francis to name a Vatican official to oversee the Catholic Church on the Pacific island territory while the charges are investigated.

The decision announced Monday (June 6) to force Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, who has led the Agana Archdiocese for 30 years, to yield his authority, at least temporarily, is the latest sign that Francis is taking tougher steps to tackle the sexual abuse crisis.

Over the weekend, the Vatican announced that the pope had signed off on new measures to remove bishops who fail to respond to abuse allegations.

RELATED STORY: Francis lays down the law to bishops who cover up

In the case of Guam's archbishop, however, the accusations are that Apuron himself abused boys during the 1970s.

The charges emerged last month when 52-year-old Roy Taitague Quintanilla claimed while he was an altar boy Apuron molested him. “I cried then, and I’ve never stopped crying,” Quintanilla was quoted as saying by Pacific Daily News.

His statement prompted a similar allegation by Doris Concepcion, who said her son was abused by Apuron as an altar boy in the 1970s. The alleged victim, Joseph A. Quinata, told his mother what had happened before he died 11 years ago, local media reported.

Deacon Steve Martinez, the archdiocese’s former sexual abuse response coordinator, said there were indications there could be more victims who have not yet come forward.

Martinez has accused Apuron of promoting weak policies to tackle abuse, in a bid to prevent thorough investigations.

"His effort of self-preservation has blinded his command to protect. ... I'm sad to say that today, my worst dreams have come true,” Martinez said on June 1, according to The Guam Daily Post.

The Archdiocese of Agana issued a scathing rebuke of Martinez, accusing him of “malicious and intentionally false claims” as part of a “relentless” smear campaign against the archbishop.

Apuron has denied the allegations and the archdiocese hired a U.S. law firm to help defend him; Guam is a U.S. territory.

“(Martinez’s claim) is a calumny of such magnitude that the only avenue, which we are following, is recourse to the civil and canonical legal processes to address these intentional lies,” the archdiocese said in a sharply-worded response on June 3.

Chinese new bishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai attends a ceremony in which Pope Benedict XVI ordained five new bishops at the Vatican on February 5, 2011. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GUAM-ARCHBISHOP, originally transmitted on June 6, 2016.

Chinese new bishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai attends a ceremony in which Pope Benedict XVI ordained five new bishops at the Vatican on February 5, 2011. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GUAM-ARCHBISHOP, originally transmitted on June 6, 2016.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The announcement that Hong Kong-born Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, currently second-in-command of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, would step in as apostolic administrator of Agana was the latest indication that Francis wants the church to take tougher action against the hierarchy.

Under the new decree published Saturday, the Vatican can investigate a bishop found guilty of serious negligence in tackling “acts that caused serious harm to others.”

The pope specified that such negligence includes failing to oust a suspected abuser; that has not been the case in the past, and that oversight has been one of the most contentious aspects of the church's response to the crisis.

In such circumstances a bishop would still have the right to respond and the Vatican could subsequently remove him or ask him to resign.

In May, Francis said there should be a zero tolerance approach to pedophilia and asserted there was no statute of limitations in canon law when it came to tackling sexual abuse.

“As a result of these abuses, a priest, whose vocation is to lead a child to God, destroys him. He disseminates evil, resentment, distress,” the pope told the Catholic newspaper La Croix.


  1. So this pope removes an unknown bishop in Guam but leaves in place his own appointments like Barros in Chile and Cardinals Pell and Errazuriz in the Vatican and his friends like Cardinal Barbarin in France and Daneels in Belgium.

  2. And don’t forget Law of Boston fame who is now living in luxury just down the street in Rome. My heart goes out to those who have and continue to suffer by the abuse of such as these.

  3. I notice you are apparently fascinated with same sex abuse. Is heterosexual abuse fine by you? Are you unaware that an overwhelming majority of males who molest male children are heterosexual? I’m guessing it makes you feel better, and supports your biases, to label child sexual abuse “gay”.

  4. Very interesting the the diocese of Agana, Guam foots the bill to hire a law firm to defend and investigate Apuron, but if a priest has an allegation leveled against him — true or false — he has to pay his own expenses, even after a grand jury finds no probable cause and his diocese and SNAP won’t give up and accept the verdict.

  5. Your prejudices distort your comments. What you are doing is not presenting information. You are expressing your homophobia. I’m sure that makes you feel better. You may even be completely convinced that what you are saying is true. It’s not, but you’re making it very clear that what matters to you is your sexual issues.

    Enjoy yourself.

  6. You’re the one who needs to tell anyone who reads your comments that it’s important for you to label the child abuse “gay.” No one else is doing that. It’s on you.

  7. Nope. This is your issue, beginning and end. I’m not taking it on for you or falling for your distractions. Your are the one focused on gay sex. Deal with it,

  8. PEDOPHILES should be arrested and jailed.


Leave a Comment