The Vatican has upheld its conviction of ousted Archbishop Anthony Apuron for sexually abusing minors and permanently stripped him of his rank as bishop in a decision that brings closure to the clergy abuse scandal that has rocked the Guam church.
In a statement released Thursday, the Vatican said “the Tribunal of Second Instance upheld the sentence of First Instance finding the Archbishop guilty of delicts against the Sixth Commandment with minors” on Feb. 7.
“This decision represents the definitive conclusion in this case. No further appeals are possible,” the Vatican said.
Apuron was sentenced with removal from office, banishment from Guam and lifetime prohibition from using the bishop insignia.
“We welcome this closure with great relief. We have needed it badly. It has been a long and painful period for our Church and our island community as a whole,” Archbishop Michael Byrnes of Agana said in a statement.
“Our Church on Guam can now continue with certainty, our collective journey toward healing and reconciliation. Most importantly, the victims, survivors and their families who have suffered greatly can have some measure of solace that justice has been rendered in the Church’s Tribunal process,” Byrnes said.
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Apuron, who faced a canonical trial in the Vatican, was convicted on March 16, 2018 by the Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was among the highest-ranking church leaders to have been tried by the Vatican for sexual offenses.
“I am deeply saddened by the decision of the Holy Father to confirm the decision of the court of first instance,” Apuron said in a statement.
The disgraced archbishop maintained his innocence, claiming a “pattern of contradictions evident in the accusations” laid against him.
“This sentence exiles me from my beloved Guam: a penalty analogous to a death sentence for me,” Apuron said. “I lose my homeland, my family, my church, my people, even my language, and I remain alone in complete humiliation, old and in failing health.”
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.
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, and the archbishop’s nephew, Mark M. Apuron.
Apuron is among the several clergy members accused of sexually assaulting minors. More than 200 cases have been filed in court, prompting the Archdiocese of Agana to file for bankruptcy last year.