Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron
(Updated with statement from Archbishop Michael Byrnes)
Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, who has been accused of abusing minors among others, has been found guilty of “certain of the accusations” lodged against him, but the disgraced prelate is appealing the Vatican’s verdict.
A five-judge apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced its verdict in a brief press statement on March 16, imposing a penalty of Apuron’s removal from office and a prohibition from living on the U.S. island territory.
The Vatican tribunal did not say how many charges have been filed against Apuron and did not specify the nature of the offenses for which he was convicted.
In a press statement, the apostolic tribunal said it “has issued its sentence of first instance, finding the accused guilty of certain of the accusations and imposing upon the accused the penalties of privation of office and prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam."
The sentence remains subject to possible appeal. “In the absence of an appeal, the sentence becomes final and effective,” the Vatican said.
Pending appeal, imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution is reached.
"While I am relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict," the archbishop said in a statement released by his attorney, Jacqueline Taitano Terlaje. “God is my witness; I am innocent and I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process.”
“It has been a long and painful period for our Church and our island community in general. This long-awaited announcement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is very much welcomed,” Archbishop Michael Byrnes of the Archdiocese of Agana said in a statement.
“It is a monumental marker in our journey toward healing as one Church, one people in God. I pray that all people would embrace this call for healing,” Byrnes added.
Though the sentence is subject to appeal, Byrnes said, the apostolic tribunal “has clearly and concretely determined a finding of ‘guilty’ regarding ‘certain of the accusations’ against Apuron.
“I extend my prayers as well as gratitude to the courageous individuals and their families who came forward to share their agonizing stories of being abused by then Father Tony Apuron in years past,” Byrnes said.
Those who claimed to have been abused by Apuron were former altar boys, Roy Quintanilla, Walter Denton, Roland Paul Sondia, and the late Joseph “Sonny” Quinata, who was represented by his mother Doris Concepcion.
“I offer prayers and thanks as well to Mark M. Apuron, for his brave decision to come forward regarding his uncle. Regardless of whether there is an appeal or not, our focus shall remain on penance and reparation,” Byrnes said.
Apuron, who was appointed head of the Archdiocese of Agana in 1986, was placed on leave by Pope Francis in June 2016 on the heels of a series of accusations about abuse of young men in the 1960s and 70s. Lawsuits were filed by former altar boys who alleged Apuron molested them when he was a priest at Mount Carmel Church in the 1970s.
Apuron is among the highest-ranking church leaders to have been tried by the Vatican for sexual offenses.
The archbishop issued a statement in January, following the latest accusation of abuse made by public by his nephew Mark Apuron. "As I lay sick after another surgery and I face the final judgment approaching evermore close, having lost interest in this world, God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me, including this last one."