Archbishop Talks Justice in Clergy Sex Abuse Cases; His Sister-in-law Is Illinois AG Pursuing Church Probes
By Haidee V. Eugenio
Pacific Daily News
September 4, 2018
Two weeks before an unprecedented mediation of nearly 200 Guam clergy sex abuse claims, Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes said the community needs meaningful action to bring justice for victims.
"We cannot fully repay what was taken from these brothers and sisters; we can only offer a token of justice through financial remuneration," Byrnes said in a Sept. 3 open letter to the faithful.
Mediation is being pursued to try to settle the sex abuse cases out of court. If mediation fails, the cases could go to trial.
'Justice must be served'
Byrnes said the mediation is a tangible sign that demonstrates that "we know a wrong has been done and there is a debt of justice to be paid."
"We want meaningful action. Justice must be served. And while spiritual efforts are fruitful and effective in the eyes of God, something more is necessary," Byrnes stated.
Ideally, he said, it would be the perpetrators themselves who would be brought to justice.
"Yes, more is needed with respect to investigations, processes and procedures, but we have limited access to that effort," Byrnes said. He said the community can work at "driving out evil by the power of the good," including prayer, confession, study of scripture, and living a life of purpose and meaning.
Pope taking on Apuron's appeal
Pope Francis appointed Byrnes on Oct. 31, 2016 as coadjutor archbishop to replace Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron if Apuron resigns, retires or is removed.
Apuron, who was suspended in June 2016, was found guilty by a Vatican tribunal in a case involving allegations of child sex abuse.
Pope Francis on Aug. 26 told reporters the "evidence is clear" as he stated that he's taking on Apuron's appeal instead of referring it to a council.
Lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants in clergy sex abuse cases are set for a Sept. 17 to 19 mediation, but this may be extended up to the Sept. 21 if needed.
Cover up allegations
Byrnes' open letter also comes on the heels of a new round of allegations involving the Catholic Church's cover up of clergy sex abuses.
Byrnes said while some, even the pope, are alleged to be complicit in covering up the misdeeds of fellow bishops, "meaningful evidence must be brought forward."
Byrnes said he trusts that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be able to bring the pope a proposal for prompt, fair and transparent procedures "for dealing with the sins of the hierarchy."
Illinois AG pursuing church investigation
Pennsylvania's sweeping and landmark investigation into Catholic clergy members' sexual abuse of minors has caused other states such as Missouri to consider investigating the church.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Byrnes' sister-in-law, is also pursuing an investigation similar to Pennsylvania's two-year grand jury effort.
"The Catholic Church has a moral obligation to provide its parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois," Madigan said in an Aug. 23 statement.
Madigan is married to the archbishop's younger brother.
Reporter Haidee Eugenio covers Guam's Catholic church issues, government, business and more. Follow her on Twitter @haidee_eugenio. Follow Pacific Daily News on Facebook/GuamPDN and Instagram @guampdn.