An archbishop accused of sexually abusing young men is to be removed from office and ordered off the island that he served on after being found guilty by a Vatican canonical trial.
Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who led the Archdiocese of Agana in the US Pacific territory of Guam, was judged guilty of certain accusations against him, although a statement announcing the verdict did not specify which ones.
The canonical trial, conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ruled that it had issued “its sentence of first instance” which the archbishop is permitted to appeal against. This includes “privation of office” and “prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam.”
Following news of the verdict, Archbishop Apuron announced he would be appealing the sentence, and said he was "relieved" that the tribunal had "dismissed the majority of accusations against me."
Apuron, 72, has always denied the charges of sexual abuse lodged against him.
The lack of clarity over what the archbishop has been found guilty of was exacerbated by what seems a relatively light sentence. Priests found guilty of child sexual abuse are routinely removed from public ministry or laicised.
Accusations against Apuron started to surface in 2016 when former altar boys came forward to accuse him of abusing or raping them in the 1970s when he was parish priest. His nephew alleges the archbishop raped him in the bathroom of the archdiocese’s chancery in 1990.
The troubled Church in Guam is now facing an avalanche of 154 civil claims alleging sexual abuse and Pope Francis has named Archbishop Michael Byrnes, a former auxiliary bishop in Detroit, to lead the archdiocese.
Apuron was in charge of the only diocese in the predominantly Catholic island since 1986: now, after suffering from ill health, he says he is dying. The outgoing archbishop was sitting in a wheelchair when he greeted the Pope on 7 February at the end of a Wednesday General Audience and in a statement at the time said: “I face the final judgment approaching ever more close, having lost interest in this world.”
The verdict from his trial was expected for months after Archbishop Byrnes revealed last October that one had been reached. The tribunal judging his case had been led by Cardinal Raymond Burke, a respected Rome-based canon lawyer.