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Vatican delegate urges Pope Francis to fire Guam archbishop over abuse

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

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The special investigator Pope Francis appointed to look into allegations that the Catholic archbishop of Guam abused altar boys is urging the Vatican to remove the cleric.

In a statement read at services in the island’s 26 Catholic churches on Sunday (Sept. 18), Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai said he was now in Rome and had asked the Holy See to dismiss Archbishop Anthony Apuron and appoint a successor after Apuron refused to stand down voluntarily.

“I can assure you that the gravely serious allegations against Archbishop Apuron will continue to be dealt with by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which will hold a canonical trial, “ he said, referring to the powerful Vatican department that investigates abuse cases.

“His Holiness, Pope Francis, is monitoring the proceedings.”

Francis has pledged zero tolerance for clerical sexual abuse and set up a commission to tackle the issue and ensure the protection of minors.

Hon’s statement, also published on the diocese website, was entitled: “Putting the house in order without burning it down.”

Francis named Hon three months ago to investigate claims against Apuron, head of the Archdiocese of Agana in the U.S. island territory in the Western Pacific.

READ: Pope puts Guam archbishop accused of sex abuse on leave

The allegations date back to the 1970s and involve at least four former altar boys who claim they were molested by Apuron, then a parish priest.

Apuron, 70, who has headed the Guam archdiocese since 1986, has not been charged with any crime.

“On behalf of the church, I want to apologize personally to the survivors of sexual abuse everywhere who have suffered so much at the hands of clergy,” Hon said.

Francis temporarily stripped Apuron of his administrative powers in the church in Guam and temporarily replaced him with Hon on June 6.

Hon, who said he was backed by the advisory council of the Agana archdiocese, has presented two letters — the first asking Apuron to resign and the second calling for the Holy See to remove him.

“We cannot undo the appalling betrayal of trust and faith and the horrendous acts that clergy have committed against the youngest and most innocent among us. We are committed to helping them heal in body and soul,” Hon said.

Guam lawmakers recently approved a bill that seeks to remove the statute of limitations on sex crimes. Hon opposed the move saying it would have “damaging and unintended consequences” and expose the church to “unlimited financial liability.

“As happened in thirteen other dioceses in the U.S., the result will very likely be to drive the Archdiocese into bankruptcy,” he said.

About 80 percent of Guam’s 162,000 residents are Catholic.

(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS)

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • A canonical trial? Is that Latin for coverup?

    How about if you have evidence, you hand it all over to the civil authorities so that another pedophile can be jailed.

  • No, quite the opposite. I was suggesting, first, evidence– you can find that word in my posting, in fact. Followed by a trial, followed by judgment. That’s why you give the evidence to the police, not an organization known for covering up child molestation for centuries.

  • Apart from the possibility of actual, you know…prison time if found guilty, a canonical trial and a civil one are practically identical.

    Oh, and it’s also illegal to not report the abuse even if one is a priest or therapist. I’m pretty sure sending him to the Vatican instead of letting him stand trial doesn’t look good, either. Why, it almost makes the Church look like a worldwide organized child molestation ring.

  • Pope Francis has removed the “Bishop of Bling” of Germany “for spending 31 million euros of Church funds on his residence;” a South American bishop due to “serious pastoral concerns” and “for the greater good and unity of the Church of Ciudad del Este and episcopal communion in Paraguay;” and a Spanish bishop over an alleged affair with his married secretary. Pope Francis has excommunicated an Australian priest for supporting women’s ordination and same-sex marriage and the president of the Austrian Catholic movement “We are Church” and her husband for celebrating Mass in their home without a priest.
    All without “special investigations” or “canonical trials.”

  • Let us not forget Wesoslawski of the Dominican republic. A known pedophile, he was sent to Rome for a church trial, and then died of something or other right before it could begin.

    Actually, it was a heart attack. Perhaps someone read an Agatha Christie novel, and he got a bunch of foxglove leaves in his salad, and not spinach after all. It’s hard to tell the difference.

  • “Why, it almost makes the Church look like a worldwide organized child molestation ring.”

    Oh Majorana, that’s such perfect irony. I love it.

  • Hon opposes the removal of the statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes because it will cost the RCC it’s most precious thing — MONEY.

    Out of one side of his mouth, Hon says “We are committed to helping them [abuse survivors] heal in body and soul.” Riiiight.

    And from the other side of his mouth we hear, “Guam lawmakers recently approved a bill that seeks to remove the statute of limitations on sex crimes. Hon opposed the move saying it would have ‘damaging and unintended consequences’ and expose the church to ‘unlimited financial liability.’ ” Riiiight.

    Somewhere I read that the love of MONEY is the root of evil.

  • The Catholic Church *is* the wealthiest organization on the planet, with the largest real estate holdings, too. It’s no wonder how they got to hold such an esteemed position (hint: it wasn’t through doing the right thing).