VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam, said he asked the Vatican for the removal of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, given his refusal to resign on his own accord.
In a letter, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai said, “Gravely serious allegations against Archbishop Apuron” of sexual abuse mean the situation also “will continue to be dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will hold a canonical trial.”
Pope Francis was “monitoring the proceedings,” he said in the letter read at Sunday Masses in the archdiocese Sept. 18. Archbishop Hon said he was still in Rome “to urge the Holy See to remove Archbishop Apuron as Archbishop of Agana and to appoint a successor.” The archdiocese published the letter on its website Sept. 17.
The request, he said, was supported by the archdiocese’s presbyteral council, which had issued a letter to Archbishop Apuron requesting he resign, followed by a letter to the Holy See requesting his removal given that the archbishop did not step down.
In mid-May, Roy Quintanilla told the media that Archbishop Apuron had sexually abused him 40 years ago when Quintanilla was a 12-year-old altar server at a parish in Agat, Guam, where then-Father Apuron was pastor. The archbishop denied the accusation.
After Quintanilla went public, at least five other people came forward accusing the archbishop of abusing them when they were altar boys.
Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Hon, the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to be apostolic administrator of the archdiocese in June. While Archbishop Apuron still remained the archbishop of Agana, he no longer held any pastoral responsibilities and administrative authority.
In his letter, Archbishop Hon said that “on behalf of the church, I want to apologize personally to the survivors of sexual abuse everywhere who have suffered so much at the hands of the clergy.”
“We cannot undo the appalling betrayal of trust and faith and the horrendous acts” that clergy have committed, the letter said, but “we are committed to helping them heal in body and soul.”
But at the same time, Archbishop Hon urged parishioners to voice opposition to a bill that would lift the statute of limitations on lawsuits by victims who suffered sexual abuse as minors against the perpetrators and the institutions associated with them.
The bill passed unanimously in the state legislature Sept 12 and the governor has until Sept. 22 to act on it or it will automatically become law Sept. 23 without a signature. A number of survivors have voiced their support of the law, which would be retroactive and allow them to file lawsuits for abuse that occurred decades ago.
In his letter — titled “Putting the house in order without burning it down” — Archbishop Hon said he understands one way victims address their pain is to have access to the court system. However, he said, permitting such retroactive lawsuits would expose the archdiocese “to unlimited financial liability.”
Just as many U.S. dioceses declared bankruptcy in the wake of lawsuit settlements, the Archdiocese of Agana would run the same risk, forcing the sale of church properties that house schools and social services. The bill, if passed, he said, would “erase the good work of those in the archdiocese who serve the neediest.”
Archbishop Hon said the archdiocese was creating a fund “to provide survivors with financial compensation for all they have gone through” and was setting up a task force to raise awareness about the need to protect children and to strengthen policies and procedures so that those who abuse children “are brought to account.”
Archbishop Hon had gone to Rome Sept. 2 to help with a seminar for new bishops as part of his duty as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.