On Friday the Vatican’s tribunal announced the conclusion of a year-long trial against an archbishop in Guam, stating that he has been found guilty of some charges stemming from allegations of sexual abuse of minors and has been removed from office.
According to a March 16 statement from the Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Anthony Apuron, 72, was found guilty of “certain” accusations and penalized with removal from the office and prohibition from residing within the Archdiocese of Guam.
The CDF did not state which charges the archbishop was found guilty of.
Apuron was already relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority by Pope Francis in 2016, in the wake of the allegations, and was replaced by Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, formerly of Detroit.
The canonical trial against Apuron began in October 2016, with Cardinal Raymond Burke, a canon lawyer, appointed by Pope Francis as the trial’s presiding judge. Byrnes told reporters that the Vatican reached a decision on the case in October 2017, though no information regarding its outcome had yet been released.
The Vatican court stated March 16 that the sentence is eligible for possible appeal, but if no appeal is made the sentence becomes “final and effective.” In the case of an appeal, “the imposed penalties are suspended until the final resolution” of the trial.
The most recent allegation against Apuron was made Jan. 10 by the archbishop’s nephew, Mark Apuron. He filed a lawsuit Jan. 10 claiming that his uncle raped him in a Church bathroom in 1989 or 1990. This was the fifth lawsuit to accuse the archbishop of sexual abuse of minors during his time as a pastor and bishop.
The archbishop denied the allegations in a statement Jan. 18, writing, “God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me, including this last one,” according to Guam Pacific Daily News.
In addition to this claim, Apuron also faced four other accusations from former altar boys, who charged the archbishop with abuse in the 1970s when he served as a parish priest in Agat.
The first allegations against the archbishop were made public in May 2016. Mark’s attorney, David Lujan, said that his client was too ashamed and embarrassed to tell his family about the alleged abuse until recently.
Archbishop Byrnes, who is empowered by the Vatican to oversee the Archdiocese of Agana but has not yet formally succeeded Apuron, has since implemented new child protection policies in the archdiocese, including a safe environment program that Byrnes said will “help to instigate a change of culture in our Archdiocese.”
Byrnes adopted in February 2017 the US bishops’ conference’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its essential norms on dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.
The Archdiocese of Aga√±a is currently a defendant in 96 sexual abuse lawsuits, involving Apuron, 13 priests, a Catholic schoolteacher, a Catholic school janitor, and a Boy Scout leader. Most of the lawsuits were filed after 2016, when Guam’s territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse.