Apuron found guilty, says he will appeal

By Haidee V Eugenio, Dana M Williams and Eric J. Lyman
Pacific Daily News
March 16, 2018, updated March 18, 2018

(Photo: Submitted)

A specially appointed Vatican tribunal announced that Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron was “guilty of certain accusations” related to the sexual abuse of minors, stripping the 72-year-old of his office and prohibiting him from returning to the island.

Within hours of Friday’s ruling, Apuron said he would appeal the ruling of the tribunal, which dismissed some of the charges against him.

More: Apuron's rapid rise, swift descent from power

More: Accusers share reactions to Vatican ruling former Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron guilty

“God is my witness; I am innocent and I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process,” Apuron said in a statement released by his lawyer. 

The tribunal’s penalties against Apuron will be suspended until the appeal process is concluded, according to Giorgio Giovanelli, an expert on canonical law with Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes, who runs the archdiocese that was headed by Apuron for 30 years, welcomed the verdict.

"It has been a long and painful period for the church and our island community in general," he said in a news release. "It is a monumental marker in our journey toward healing as one church, one people in God. I pray that all people would embrace this call for healing."

'Guilty of certain accusations'

According to a press release from the Vatican, the tribunal "issued its sentence of first instance, finding the accused guilty of certain of the accusations and imposing upon the accused the penalties of privation of office and prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam."

Although the statement said Apuron's trial involved "accusations of sexual abuse of minors," no details have ever been given about specific charges against Apuron. 

"While I am relieved that the Vatican has dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict," Apuron said in his statement.

News of the appeal angered Doris Concepcion, a former Agat resident who said her son was sexually abused by Apuron in the 1970s. 

She said Apuron "can appeal and deny until his dagan falls off, but the fact of the matter is, the Catholic Church has found him guilty, guilty, guilty. I pity the man. He has lost his way to Jesus, our Lord and Savior.”

Apuron was suspended as archbishop in June 2016 following public allegations that he had sexually abused altar boys when he was the parish priest in Agat in the 1970s.  He denied the accusations at the time and threatened to sue his accusers.

'The Vatican tribunal believed us'

Roland Paul L. Sondia said Apuron molested him when he was a 15-year-old altar boy in 1977. Sondia said the verdict gives him a sense of relief and justice.

“We’ve waited for so long for this day to come,” Sondia said, still at a loss for words late Friday night upon learning of the Apuron verdict. “The Vatican tribunal believed us, believed what was done to us. I’m still trying to take it all in.”

Sondia, now 56, said he was with his wife when he heard the news.

(Story continues below)

Apuron accuser meets with Vatican tribunal
Archbishop Anthony Apuron accuser Roland Sondia prepares
Archbishop Anthony Apuron accuser Roland Sondia prepares to meet behind closed doors with Vatican tribunal members at the Archdiocese of Agana chancery office in Hagatna on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Sondia alleges being sexually assaulted by Archbishop Anthony Apuron in the 1970s when he served as an altar boy with Apuron at a church in Agat.  Rick Cruz/PDN
31 Photos
Apuron accuser meets with Vatican tribunal

“We hugged each other, we were in tears. They’re tears of joy,” said Sondia, who still lives in Agat with his family.

Walter Denton, of Casa Grande, Arizona, told the Vatican in a 2015 letter that he had been raped by Apuron in 1977, when he was 13.

“I have waited for this outcome since the day I was raped by Father Apuron when I was his altar boy,” Denton said late Friday night.

'So glad we stopped being silent'

Roy Quintanilla said he was a 12-year-old altar boy in Agat when he was molested by Apuron about 40 years ago.

“I always believed that the Vatican would find Apuron guilty. How could they not, after our written and personal testimony? This verdict was a long time coming,” said Quintanilla, who now resides in Hawaii.












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