ROME – A canonical trial found Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agaña, Guam, accused among other things of the sexual abuse of five minors, guilty of some of the charges, and imposed that he leave his position as archbishop and never return to Guam.
Accusations of sexual abuse against Apuron began surfacing in 2014 and in May 2016. Roy T. Quintanilla, a former altar boy, became the first victim to step forward against the archbishop. One month later, Pope Francis placed Apuron on leave while he dealt with the charges and placed Archbishop Savio Hon-Fai, a Vatican official, to lead the archdiocese, who was later substituted by the Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes.
The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made up of five judges including U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, found 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,” said a Vatican statement Friday, March 16.
According to Byrnes, the canonical trial reached a decision in October 2017, and the reasons for the delay in the announcement of the outcome remain unclear.
The press release also said that the “sentence remains subject to possible appeal,” and in its absence the decision remains effective. In the past, Apuron has declared himself innocent of the charges brought against him and called the accusations “malicious lies.”
In an interview last summer with Pacific Daily News, former victims expressed their hope that the Vatican trial would find Apuron guilty, remove him as archbishop, and defrock him.
In January 18, 2018 Apuron released a statement to local media through the email of Ricardo Eusebio, in response to new abuse allegations that had emerged, this time from his nephew Mark Apuron. The statement was released in its entirety by Pacific Daily News.
“I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me, including this last one,” Apuron said in the statement, adding that he had been “sick after another surgery.”
The former archbishop also said he was “saddened” by the timing of the accusation by his nephew, which “seems particularly timed to influence the verdict of the Vatican trial conducted by the Holy See, as a last resort out of fear that I may be exonerated.”
Apuron was seen in his wheelchair in the company of Pope Francis after his weekly general audience on Feb. 7, where according to Italian newspaper La Stampa he was greeted “with affection” and the pope gave him private “words of encouragement.”