Hans Christian Anderson wrote a famous allegorical tale about a vain emperor who was deceived by two weavers claiming they could weave clothes possessing a magical quality: They became invisible to anyone stupid or unfit for their job. Realizing the obvious benefit this could yield him, the king commissioned these magical clothes to be made. The swindlers pretended to weave using an empty loom while stashing all the fine materials they were given. Everyone, including the emperor himself, acted as if the beautiful robes had indeed been woven, out of fear of appearing to be fools and losing their jobs. The naked emperor paraded through town with his invisible robe until an innocent child bravely pointed out that the emperor was indeed naked, exposing the deceptive spell the swindlers had cast on the people.
This tale seems particularly apropos to the situation of the Catholic Church on Guam. We have a bishop accused of child abuse but still awaiting the opportunity to clear his name. Meanwhile, anything even remotely connected to this bishop, from the Neocatechumenal Way to Kamalen Karitat to the Redemptoris Mater seminary and the San Luis de Vitores Theological Institute, seems to have been already declared guilty by association.
Biased media coverage
This witch hunt is leading our island down a troubling path. A recently passed change in the statute of limitations for sex abuse allegations has led to more than 100 lawsuits against the church demanding financial compensation. Certainly, no one wants to question the validity of each of these claims and be accused of callousness towards the abuse victims — this would mean public and political suicide. Certainly, at least not the Catholic Church, which is rushing to settle these claims with millions in church property ready to be sold. Fueled by biased and often shallow media coverage, a mob mentality has taken over our island, coloring the truth to fit the dubious scenarios promoted by trumpeters who want to be rid of the bishop and any trace of his legacy on Guam, while failing to subject these serious allegations to the equally serious scrutiny they deserve.
What is the truth? The bishop is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. While we await the decision from a Vatican canonical tribunal, we should be a reminded of a few things.
During his time as archbishop, he has fought staunchly against gambling, same-sex marriage, abortion, and other threats to our island’s moral fabric which the church continues to oppose.
Sensing the urgent need to defend this moral fabric here on Guam, Archbishop Apuron has sought ways to implement the New Evangelization proposed by Saint John Paul II. One of the instruments for evangelizing those near and far from the church is the Neocatechumenal Way, a post-baptismal itinerary of faith embraced by the last five popes. The fruits of this itinerary here on Guam have mirrored those seen in countries throughout the world: countless marriages healed and rebuilt, an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the formation of parish-based communities ready to bear witness to the gospel with their lives to those on the margins of society.
The fruits of the Redemptoris Mater seminary and the San Luis de Vitores Theological Institute will not soon be forgotten, both on Guam and across the Pacific: 17 diocesan priests have been ordained, serving today as pastors, parochial vicars, formators and missionary catechists. The institute’s affiliation with the Lateran University has provided premier higher learning for these priests and made Guam a preferential option for priestly formation from dioceses around the Pacific. The institute meant many bishops didn’t have to send their seminarians to St. Patrick’s Seminary in California at a cost of over $40,000 per year, when the total cost for one seminarian was only $10,000 per year in Guam. It is no wonder that 31 bishops in the insular Pacific supported the institute’s erection and have since sent numerous vocations there.
When did this institution, recognized in 2009 by the Guam Legislature for its “continuous contribution towards the improvement and betterment of the quality of life for our island community and its people,” become such an inconvenience for this island? How does closing both the seminary and the institute promote reconciliation in our church? Truly the illusion is that anyone and anything affiliated with Archbishop Apuron (including vocations) is tainted fruit. The key is to maintain this illusion as an established belief, regardless of whether he is found innocent. Who will be the child that breaks this spell?
Dr. R.B. Eusebio is a resident of Sinajana.