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Auxiliary Bishop of Agaña, Guam, 1983-1986; Apostolic administrator of Agaña, 1985-1986; Archbishop of Agaña,1986-2019. Removed April 2019, age 73.
Accused of raping and/or molesting at least seven minors. Found guilty of unspecified canonical crimes and sentenced to removal from office and exile from Guam, according to 3/16/2018 press release by the Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Apuron appealed. In a press release on 4/4/2019, the Vatican announced that the CDF’s Tribunal of Second Instance had upheld the initial verdict, finding Apuron “guilty of delicts against the Sixth Commandment with minors.” Despite the finding, Apuron was neither laicized nor stripped of his title. His penalties are: the loss of his office, permanent prohibition from entering the Agaña archdiocese (which comprises all of Guam), and permanent prohibition from “using the insignia attached to the rank of Bishop.” He remains archbishop emeritus of Agaña and receives a monthly stipend of $1,500 from the church.
An August 2019 investigative report by AP revealed that as archbishop, Apuron had covered up for other abusers, blocked SOL reform legislation, and destroyed all of the archdiocese’s abuse files before leaving the post in 2016.
Background and Chronology
Apuron is a member of Neocatechumenal Way, a controversial church movement. He sparked a public outcry in 2011 when he deeded a $40M+ church property in Yona for indefinite use as a Neocatechumenate seminary and theological institute (see pages 77-80 of September 2016 archdiocesan report).
In October 2014, he dismissed Deacon Steven Martinez from the archdiocesan review board after Martinez accused him of ignoring church sex abuse policy by harboring Rev. John Wadeson, who had been accused twice of child sex abuse in the U.S..
In late November 2014, Guam news media reported that Apuron had met privately at the Vatican with Pope Francis and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (see Vatican bulletin). At around the same time, a man named John Toves publicly accused the archbishop of sexually abusing his cousin when Toves and his cousin attended a high school seminary in the early 1980s. The archdiocesan review board said it would not investigate Toves’ allegation.
In January 2015, the archdiocese was visited by a high-ranking Vatican official who had received letters of complaint about Apuron from Guamanian Catholics.
In August 2015, the Vatican reportedly was notified of Apuron’s alleged rape of a former altar boy, Walter Denton, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Agat in 1977. However, Denton did not go public until June 2016, shortly after public allegations that Apuron had sexually assaulted two other altar boys at the same parish in the 1970s: Roy Quintanilla released a letter accusing Apuron of molesting him at age 12; and Doris Concepcion came forward to say that Apuron had sexually abused her late son, Joseph A. Quinata, when Quinata was an 11-year-old altar boy in the late 1970s.
Apuron denied all the allegations, attributing them to a malicious plot against him.
Apuron was placed on leave by Pope Francis 6/6/2016. The Agana archdiocese was assigned a temporary administrator, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. A week later, another former altar boy at Our Lady of Mount Carmel came forward to accuse Apuron of sexually assaulting him at age 15 in 1977.
On 7/1/2016, four victims filed a lawsuit against Apuron for libel and slander. On 7/27/2016, Hon stated that Apuron’s alleged abuses had been reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Hon also said he had removed from the archdiocesan website all of Apuron’s threats against accusers. By August 2016, at least five men had accused Apuron of abusing them as boys.
On 8/13/2016, a news outlet published an account by a man who says he witnessed child sex abuse by Apuron in 1964, when the man was a 10-year-old altar boy at Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journey Catholic Church in Chalan Pago. He said he witnessed another altar boy, also age 10, being sexually assaulted by the parish priest and by Apuron, then age 19.
In the meantime, Hon revealed that Apuron had disobeyed an order by Pope Francis to terminate use of the Yona property by the Neocatechumenates. On 9/15/2016, Hon released a letter saying he had asked Pope Francis to remove Apuron. On 9/16/2016, Hon released a report on the controversial Neocatechumenate seminary, the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation. On 9/20/2016, an archdiocesan spokesperson said (1, 2) that the Neocatechumenates in Guam had a powerful ally in Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. On 9/30/2016, the archdiocese announced that Apuron would be put on canonical trial for his alleged crimes.
On 10/31/2016, the Vatican announced the appointment of Michael Byrnes, auxiliary bishop of Detroit, as coadjutor archbishop “with special faculties” to the Agaña archdiocese. The Vatican has “just formed all the conditions for the trial,” Hon told reporters in early November.
On 11/9/2016, the archdiocese regained control of the Yona property, when Byrnes cancelled Apuron’s controversial 2011 deeds that had given the property to the Neocatechumenates.
On 1/11/2017, a private investigator hired by the attorney for Apuron accusers found the archbishop living in a private home in Fairfield, California. The home was owned by the vice president of the Bank of Guam’s San Francisco branch.
Canon lawyer Patrick Wall said of confidential church documents obtained by a news outlet that the documents indicate that Apuron’s case was known to the Vatican in 2008, as shown by the case’s protocol number and year.
In October 2017, Archbishop Byrnes said that the Vatican tribunal had reached a conclusion about Apuron.
In January 2018, Apuron’s nephew filed a federal lawsuit against the archdiocese, alleging that Apuron had raped him in 1989 or 1990, when the nephew was age 15 or 16. This was the first allegation that Apuron had perpetrated sexual assault after becoming archbishop. Apuron responded by saying he was innocent of all allegations against him. The archbishop was photographed in an affectionate encounter with Pope Francis in February 2018.
On 3/16/2018, the Apostolic Tribunal for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced that Apuron had been found guilty of “certain of the accusations” he has faced. The announcement did not specify which of his possible canonical crimes earned him the guilty verdict. In addition to child sexual abuse, the archbishop has been accused of enabling child sexual abuse, causing scandal, financial misconduct, disobedience, and doctrinal waywardness.
Apuron filed an appeal. On 4/4/2019, the Vatican announced that on 2/7/2019, the CDF’s Tribunal of Second Instance had upheld the guilty verdict and imposed the following penalties on the archbishop: “the privation of office; the perpetual prohibition from dwelling, even temporarily, in the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Agaña; and the perpetual prohibition from using the insignia attached to the rank of Bishop.” The verdict is final and unappealable. Apuron remains a priest, receives a monthly stipend from the church of $1,500, and retains his title of archbishop emeritus.
An August 2019 investigative report by the Associated Press revealed that Apuron as archbishop “oversaw a culture of impunity where abusers went unpunished.” AP also reported that Apuron had destroyed all abuse files in the archdiocese’s archive, possibly in a bonfire outside the chancery before he left his post.