- The Vatican upheld Thursday its 2018 conviction of Anthony Apuron on accusations of committing sex abuse during his tenure as archbishop.
- The conviction comes with a sentence of exile from Guam, removal from the office of archbishop and being barred from operating under the insignia of a bishop, but does not defrock Apuron.
- Current Guam Archbishop Michael Byrnes lamented Apuron’s sins Friday and apologized to the victims and their families.
The Catholic archbishop of Guam mourned the “egregious sin” of his predecessor Friday after the Vatican upheld former Archbishop Anthony Apuron’s sex abuse conviction.
Archbishop Michael Byrnes, who succeeded Apuron following his 2018 conviction by a Vatican tribunal, apologized to the families of Apuron’s victims and promised that the church would mete out just punishment against Apuron.
The Vatican struck down Apuron’s attempted appeal and reaffirmed his conviction and original sentence Thursday, which removed him as archbishop, barred him from Guam and forbade him from using the insignia of a bishop for the rest of his life. (RELATED: Pope Francis Names Wilton Gregory As DC Archbishop)
“The church does not rejoice when members of the church plummet from grace and are found guilty of grave wrong. In this case, egregious sin of child abuse. It’s a deep and sorrowful shame,” Byrnes said according to The Associated Press.
“As a church, what we can do in all cases of this kind is to forthrightly acknowledge sin to mete out penance and punishment of the sinner for his own salvation. On our part, we’ll do everything in our power to ensure that this horrible harm inflicted to the innocent is never repeated,” he added. “I extend our deepest apologies to the local men and their families who suffered irreparable harm by Anthony Apuron in the past.”
Byrnes also urged Catholic faithful to pray for Apuron’s repentance.
“I will pray for my brother, Anthony, too, as I do for his victims. With humility, I ask for the faithful to also assist Bishop Apuron in prayer and penance, that he may find grace in repentance and mercy for his soul,” Byrnes said.
Apuron’s clerical conviction came after approximately 200 people in Guam came forward with allegations of clerical sex abuse and cover-up. While the Vatican convicted Apuron on the church’s terms, Apuron cannot be charged with a crime as he committed his alleged abuses between 30 and 40 years ago, past the statute of limitations.
Victims of sexual abuse decried the Vatican’s sentencing of Apuron, as the Holy See chose not to defrock him and remove him from ministry. Though Apuron may not operate with the title and authority of a bishop, he can still operate as a priest. Rev. Robert Gahl, moral theologian at the Pontifical Holy Cross University, said he believes the sentence effectively, if not technically, removes Apuron from ministry.
“It seems de facto he is being suspended from episcopal ministry,” Gahl told AP.
Nevertheless, victims advocates like Marie Collins, abuse survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors, demanded more from Pope Francis in light of his promised “zero tolerance” policy toward abuse.
Archbishop guilty of sexually abusing minors. Not removed from clerical state, not removed from ministry. What more do we need to see to know that the Pope and his curia intend to renege on promises of zero tolerance. https://t.co/cX581BgDgm
— Marie Collins (@marielco) April 4, 2019
Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishop Accountability also decried the sentence as inadequate.
“Why is he still a priest?” she said. “This is a man who inflicted incalculable harm on the faithful of Guam. He sexually assaulted children and enabled many other priests to rape and molest children too.”
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