Guam’s Former Archbishop Hiding in the United States

The Vatican announced recently that a canonical trial has commenced concerning Guam’s former Archbishop Apuron and the trial will be lengthy, perhaps spanning several years.

However, that contradicts what media outlets have discovered.  Under the guise of searching for a missing dog, reporters have located Archbishop living in a two-story house in Fairfield, California.  There is video footage circulating on the Internet and this new revelation makes it difficult to square with the Vatican’s assertion that there is indeed a canonical trial involving Archbishop Apuron.  How do I know this?  I was involved in a canonical trial in connection with my representation of a sexual abuse survivor a few years ago.

A canonical trial, like most civil or criminal trials, requires the presence or at least the participation of all parties involved in the case.

The Catholic Church has responded through Apuron’s lawyer concerning his whereabouts, sort of.  This afternoon, Attorney Jacque Terlaje provided a statement to KUAM: “As you are aware, I am legal counsel for Archbishop Anthony Apuron, OFM Cap. D.D. In response to your inquires(sic) regarding his whereabouts, the Archbishop is in a location where he is able to continue working on defending his innocence without distraction.”

What does that statement mean?  It seems to me that if Apuron were innocent of any wrongdoing in the Guam sexual abuse tragedy, he’d be in Rome defending himself.  He certainly wouldn’t be hiding in a previously undisclosed location in California.

For abuse survivors, Archbishop Apuron’s reticence has all the markings of what survivors have come to expect from the Catholic Church-cover-up, obfuscation, and a public relations campaign that is no better than a “don’t confuse me with the facts” campaign.  This only weakens the Church’s position in handling sex abuse cases.  It fans the flames of justice which inch closer and closer to the former Archbishop himself.

Photo Credit via Guam Archdiocese’s Website

Pope Replaces Guam Archbishop

Pope Francis has named a new co-adjutor bishop for the embattled Archdiocese of Guam as Archbishop Anthony Apuron faces a church trial over his role in the sexual abuse of minors on the Pacific island.

Bishop Michael Jude Byrnes, currently an auxiliary bishop in Detroit, is moving to the U.S. territory as a coadjutor bishop. Coadjutors have succession rights when bishops resign, retire or are removed.

Archbishop Anthony Apuron, 70, has been accused of molesting at least five altar boys in the 1960s and ’70s. He has denied the allegations, has not been criminally charged and has refused calls to step down.  However, he is facing a canonical trial in Rome for his role in the Guam sexual abuse scandal.

In announcing the appointment, the Vatican noted that Byrnes would serve as co-adjutor with “special faculties”.  The release didn’t specify what those faculties would include but Vatican experts believe that Byrnes will be given the authority to investigate the sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese and possibly become the permanent archbishop sooner rather than later.

Byrnes was ordained a priest in 1996 and a bishop in 2011.  Prior to his episcopal ordination, he served as Vice Rector of Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary.  During his tenure as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Byrnes suspended a Catholic priest for not reporting an incident of sexual abuse in 2012.  In announcing the suspension, Byrnes wrote a letter to parishioners which noted, “…the archdiocese knows enough to question why Fr. Cooney, having been informed of the alleged conduct, failed in his response to the victim in promptly reporting what he knew to law enforcement authorities and to provide a safe environment for children and young people on parish property.”

The Guam legislature has voted to remove the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases and the Archdiocese may be facing sexual abuse lawsuits as a result of the behavior of priests and the Archbishop.

Archbishop Byrnes

Byrnes is expected to arrive at the end of November. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Guam’s Governor Lifts Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse Cases

Gov. Eddie Calvo has signed into law signed bill 326 into Public Law 33-187, effectively allowing sexual abuse survivors to bring perpetrators and the institutions that protected them to justice.  In signing the legislation, Calvo penned a letter of explanation to the people of Guam.

“I am a practicing but imperfect Catholic; a husband, father, grandfather, brother, and son; a Chamorro man, who believes in second chances, yet has no tolerance for those who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable, the children. Thanks to the trust of our people, I’m also the governor. And on days like this, when my different roles may not join in harmonious conviction, I am resolute about this decision. It comes after days of listening to very different opinions, hearing the cries, considering the consequences, separating one issue from another and then reconciling it all within my conscience. So, today, though I am pleased that our community has confronted what once was unthinkable, I am saddened that even a single injustice had to happen in order to make this law necessary. There are no winners. Justice is the only victory.”

Gov. Calvo got it right.  In spite of fierce pressure from the Catholic Church in Guam, Calvo kept the interests and welfare of abuse victims foremost in his mind.  In signing the bill, Calvo admitted that the retroactivity (survivors can sue their abusers and the institutions that protected them even if the abuse occurred many years ago) section of the bill may face technical and constitutional hurdles.

In lobbying the Governor to veto the bill, the Catholic Church argued that passage of the bill may bankrupt the Archdiocese.  However, Calvo remained resolute and brushed aside the Church’s lobbying efforts.  

Governor Calvo should be praised for his conviction and his courage.  If only some of our own stateside governors would have the same qualities.

Guam Senate Approves Elimination of Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse Cases


Guam’s senators overwhelmingly passed Senate bill 326 with 13 yes votes and two excused absences.  The bill will now go to the Governor’s office for signature.

The senators took up the bill in response to recent sexual abuse allegations against Guam Catholic priests and the local archbishop Anthony Apuron.  Several men have come forward alleging Apuron molested them when they were altar boys at Mt. Carmel Church in Agat where he had served as a priest. These same men testified in support of the bill when it had its public hearing.

Pope Francis placed the archbishop on leave soon after the sexual abuse allegations were made against him.  

Guam Catholics continue to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against Catholic priests serving in Guam.  As in other dioceses, the priests and archbishop who have been accused maintain their innocence.

On September 4th, approximately 80 sexual abuse advocates and survivors gathered in front of Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña to protest the Catholic Church’s handling of the sex abuse crisis in Guam.  Members of the Concerned Catholics of Guam (CCOG), Laity Forward Movement (LFM) and Silent No More joined the gathering.

Lou Klitzke, a member of LFM, told the Post that protester turnout has been steadily increasing over the past few weeks.

“Everybody keeps coming out,” she said. “We have a very dedicated group of people.”

If you or  a loved one has been abused by a Catholic priest in Guam, please contact Saunders & Walker today for a free consultation.