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Pope names Detroit bishop to Guam archdiocese rocked by sex abuse allegations

Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes has been appointed by Pope Francis to take over the Archdiocese of Guam, effectively replacing an embattled archbishop accused of sexually abusing altar boys. Photo courtesy of Archdiocese of Detroit and the office of the Most Rev. Michael J. Byrnes
Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes has been appointed by Pope Francis to take over the Archdiocese of Guam, effectively replacing an embattled archbishop accused of sexually abusing altar boys. Photo courtesy of Archdiocese of Detroit and the office of the Most Rev. Michael J. Byrnes

Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes has been appointed by Pope Francis to take over the Archdiocese of Guam, effectively replacing an embattled archbishop accused of sexually abusing altar boys. Photo courtesy of Archdiocese of Detroit and the office of the Most Rev. Michael J. Byrnes

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes has been appointed by Pope Francis to take over the Archdiocese of Guam, effectively replacing an embattled archbishop accused of sexually abusing altar boys.

The Vatican announced the pope’s decision soon after he left Rome Monday (Oct. 31) for his two-day official visit to Sweden to mark the start of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But there was no indication of whether Guam’s Coadjutor Archbishop Anthony Apuron had resigned or when the succession would take place.

A coadjutor usually has the automatic right to succeed a bishop.

In September, the special investigator appointed by the pope to look into allegations of abuse urged the Vatican to remove Apuron after he 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,” wrote the investigator, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, in a statement read at services in the island’s 26 Catholic churches in September. “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 was titled: “Putting the house in order without burning it down.”

Francis asked Hon to investigate claims against Apuron, who heads the Archdiocese of Agana in the U.S. island territory.

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

(Josephine McKenna is RNS’ Vatican correspondent)

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.

6 Comments

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  • Hopefully, the day will come when all the sexual predators within the Catholic Church will be flushed out, and protocols will be in place to restrict or prevent the potentiality for such abuses to recur.

  • Pope Francis has 100% tolerance for bishops who aid, abet and cover up for pedophile priests as he did in Buenos Aires. That’s why he appointed Cardinals Pell and Errazuriz to his Council as soon as he was elected. That’s why he appointed Bishop Juan Barros in Chile, called those who opposed Barros “lefties” and then refused to release information to the Chilean court.”Currently, there are at least 15 active bishops accused of complicity with abusive priests who have no fear of being disciplined.” http://www.bishop-accountability.org/bishops/enabling/index.html

  • All I can say is, God help Bishop Byrnes. I know bishops must go where they’re sent, but to move from Detroit to Guam in the midst of such scandal takes a special kind of godly servant.

  • Bravo for Pope Francis for finally taking on Apuron’s arrogance and obstinance! It took him long enough. Had this kind of thing been among his first actions as pope, the message would have gotten through loud and clear that there’s a new sheriff in town, and pedophelia will not be tolerated at any level in the Roman Catholic Church.

    Elsewhere in today’s RNS roundup is Pope Francis’ statement that full unity will happen in about another 500 years. This is as good an example as you’ll find of why his projection is accurate!

  • “an embattled archbishop”

    I read that and it sounded like a heroic character fighting against great odds. It just didn’t hit me right, and maybe that’s just me.

    Why are these criminals not being prosecuted in governmental criminal courts along with the rest of the common criminals? Why are they not looking at prison sentences in Guam? That’s exactly where they belong. How many pedophile priests are in prison in the Vatican? I mean a real prison with guards and cells and uniforms and other inmates. Those guys are simply predators who prey on innocent girls and boys. Put ’em with the rest of the scum.

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