Catholics criticize Apuron, sect

By Gaynor Dumat-Ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
July 29, 2014

A billboard is displayed in the bed of a pickup truck during a prayer service held on the steps of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña yesterday.

There's a bigger, deeper battle behind the recent controversies involving the local Catholic church, some observers said yesterday.

As dozens of island Catholics gathered yesterday at the steps of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica to support ousted Monsignor James Benavente, and also to pray for healing, observers said the deeper rift stems from a sect within the church whose actions depart from some of the oldest Catholic traditions.

Archbishop Anthony Apuron removed Benavente from being rector of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña over alleged fiscal mismanagement, the archbishop stated yesterday.

"There is a bigger issue at play here: The imposition of the Neocathecumenal Way upon the Catholic Church in Guam," said Charles White, a Guam resident who writes a blog called The Thoughtful Catholic.

"Members of the Neocathecumenal Way practice their faith in a way that largely separates them from their parishes," White wrote in an email.

"For example, they celebrate Mass away from the Church proper every Saturday night, instead of attending normal parish Masses," White stated. "While they insist that these Masses are open to others, in practice, they are not. They are not even published in the parish bulletin."

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter are celebrated apart from the parish, White stated.

The Guam Catholic church's leadership, through Archbishop Anthony Apuron, hasn't responded to phone calls or emailed requests for comment on the Neocatechumenal Way.

Apuron is a member of the Neocathecumenal Way, says Tim Rohr, another outspoken critic of the archbishop who offers daily updates on local church issues on his blog Jungle Watch.

In a letter to the Pacific Daily News, Rohr wrote that the Neocathecumenal Way "pulled (the archbishop's) strings for nearly two decades."

Manila-based priest Father Matthew Blockley, who was a seminarian on Guam, was also critical of the Neocathecumenal Way's ties with the archbishop.

"The problem on Guam is that the archbishop has sold his soul to the (Neocathecumenal Way) and they now control the archbishop of Guam," Blockley wrote in an email.

"The archbishop of Guam, His Excellency Archbishop Apuron, has lost his capacity to govern the archdiocese," Blockley said.

Local priests have complained of favoritism on the part of the archbishop, White wrote.

"Neocathecumenal priests and seminarians are treated much more favorably," White said, based on information from local priests.

Rohr said that under Apuron, Father John Howard Wadeson, also affiliated with the Neocathecumenal Way, was allowed to be a priest in the Archdiocese of Agana.

Amid public concerns, Apuron recently banned Wadeson from being a priest on Guam after public concerns were made about Wadeson's past in the Los Angeles archdiocese.

Before Wadeson became a priest on Guam, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had banned Wadeson because of two child molestation allegations that didn't reach the court.



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