We appreciate the efforts of the apostolic administrator, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, in resolving the issues what have disrupted the local Catholic Church. As we have stated, as a secular newspaper we do not have a position on such internal church matters as church finances, the ownership of church property – including the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yona – the influence of the Neocatechumenal Way or the assignment of priests.
But criminal behavior, particularly when it involves victims, must be investigated and those who are guilty must be prosecuted regardless of their station in the church or any other group or organization. Criminal law is in place for the protection of the members of the community, and criminals cannot be allowed to escape prosecution because they are clergy or hold any other position of influence.
Allegations of abuse
The allegations of child sexual abuse made recently against Archbishop Anthony Apuron by Roy Quintanilla, Doris Concepcion, Walter Denton and Roland Sondia are of a crime that is most heinous. The archbishop has not yet been afforded due process, and due to Guam’s statutes of limitations, it is entirely possible that he will never be charged in a court of law, so his guilt or innocence cannot be determined in that forum.
The alleged victims, though, have apparently devised a strategy that will bring the allegations against Apuron into court by filing a civil case accusing the archbishop of libel and slander for claiming their accusations are malevolent fabrications. In the course of a trial, the veracity of the accusations would have to be addressed. While not as desirable as a criminal trial with the possibility of criminal penalties, there would be some semblance of justice.
Apuron must return
However, Apuron is apparently not on Guam and has not been since he was removed from his duties and Hon was named to replace him. We understand that the church is investigating the accusations against Apuron and determining, for its purposes, what its next step will be. That process is important and must be completed. But it does not take the place of the secular proceedings.
It is unfortunate that the church cannot be relied on to provide justice for abuse victims. It has a history of transferring clergy accused of a crime – particularly child sexual abuse – to shield them from the consequences of their behavior.
If the local church is to regain credibility and if justice is to be served, the church investigation must be completed in a timely manner and regardless of that outcome, Apuron must return to Guam to face the lawsuit against him in a civil court. Pope Francis has indicated that he is determined to confront sexual abuse by clergy, and we hope that is the case. He must not allow Apuron to hide from the accusations against him.