'A fugitive from justice': Concerned Catholics backs move to laicize priest over abuse

By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert
Pacific Daily News
March 2, 2020

In this 2014 file photo, Father Adrian Cristobal gives an opening prayer at All Souls' Day Mass at Guam Memorial Park in Barrigada. Concerned Catholics of Guam backs the Archdiocese of Agana's move to laicize Cristobal.

Concerned Catholics of Guam, which helped lead efforts to expose Guam's clergy sex abuse of minors, backs the Archdiocese of Agana's move to laicize Father Adrian Cristobal over alleged sexual abuse of multiple minors.

"Father Adrian is a fugitive from justice, living outside of Guam, in an unknown location. Obviously, he is afraid to face his accusers for the alleged sexual abuse of children," Concerned Catholics of Guam President David Sablan said.

The archdiocese held an administrative penal process, or investigation, on Cristobal after four men alleged that Cristobal sexually abused them when they were minors. Cristobal also faces four civil lawsuits over sexual abuse of minors, from 1995 to 2013.

Sablan said one of those individuals who alleges to have been sexually abused by Cristobal stated the abuse occurred during 2012-2013.

"This is significant, because the local statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes was removed by law in 2011. It means that (Cristobal) probably will face criminal prosecution of that post-2011 alleged sexual abuse if the court will issue a warrant of arrest," Sablan said.

Vatican appeal

Cristobal appealed with the Vatican the decision of Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes to laicize him. The archdiocese is still awaiting the Vatican's decision on the appeal, and is unable to comment further on the matter while the appeal process is open.

There is no timeline for when the Vatican will decide on the appeal.

Laicizing, or defrocking, a priest means dismissing him from his clerical state.

"Being laicized by Archbishop Byrnes is good for the Archdiocese, so we do not have to be responsible for (Cristobal's) well-being, since he defied orders to return back to Guam by Archbishop Byrnes about two years ago," Sablan said.

Cristobal was off-island on a mission trip in 2018 when the first allegations were made against him. He didn't return to Guam when Byrnes ordered him to do so. Three more abuse claimants came forward after the initial complaint was made.

"In addition to these sexual abuse allegations, he is a disobedient clergyman, defying the order of the Archbishop to return to Guam and face up to these allegations. We do not need such a priest serving our Faithful here in Guam," Sablan said.

Limits imposed

In 2018, Byrnes limited Cristobal's faculties as a priest. He can't celebrate Mass publicly or hear confession, nor is he allowed to wear the usual garb which identifies one as a clergyman, including the white priest’s collar.

Cristobal was a former chancellor for the archdiocese under the leadership of Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, who was stripped of his title and banned from returning to Guam after he was found guilty by a Vatican tribunal of sexually abusing minors.

Concerned Catholics exposed Apuron's transfer of the former Accion Hotel property and his sexual abuse of Agat altar boys when he was still a priest. More men came forward later, including Apuron's own nephew, also alleging rape or molestation when they were still minors.

Cristobal and Apuron are among dozens of Guam priests and others associated with the Catholic Church who are named in nearly 300 clergy sex abuse claims since 2016.


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