Page 7 - Protests continue strong in light of Apuron statement

WEEKLY PROTEST: More than 60 members of the Catholic laity take part in the weekly protest in front of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña yesterday. They are calling for the removal and defrocking of Archbishop Anthony Apuron for a number of grievances that include allegations of sexual abuse of altar boys in the 1970s. Neil Pang/Post News Staff

The past two weeks have seen a number of developments in the ongoing dispute between Archbishop Anthony Apuron and concerned Catholic laity over the Redemptoris Mater Seminary (RMS) property in Yona.

The most recent development is a statement released by Apuron on Thursday, Aug. 25. Jacqueline Terlaje, legal representative of Apuron, issued a statement with the first words from Apuron since his disappearance from public view in June.

In the release, Apuron confirmed statements made by the Archdiocese of Agana and RMS administrators in which ownership of the Yona property was concluded in favor of the archbishop. However, the main concern of the statement seemed to be the allegations that he defied the Pope, as stated in the media following Hon's an Aug. 18 statement from Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agana.

Apuron claimed that the decisions he undertook in regard to the purchase and subsequent management of the former Hotel Accion were done within ecclesiastical law and under the advisement of both the Archdiocesan Finance Council and College of Consulters, contrary to reports from the Concerned Catholics of Guam and other sources. Apuron cited a number of threats, as he perceived them, to the spiritual well-being of Guam Catholics and concluded that he could not "in conscience" lift the deed restriction as requested by Hon.

The combined forces of Catholic activist groups CCOG, the Laity Forward Movement (LFM) and Silent No More continued weekly protests outside the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña.

Their ranks have grown in recent weeks, said LFM spokeswoman Lou Kiltzkie. "There are more and more people coming out every week."

With more than 60 people joining the weekly demonstration, the protests have become a sight to behold as concerned laity march under the blazing sun, many with obvious physical impediments such as wheelchairs, walkers and canes.

New to their ranks and present at yesterday's protest were former Sens. Carmen and Larry Kasperbauer, who are also wife and husband.

Carmen Kasperbauer spoke to The Post about Apuron's refusal to lift the deed restriction.

"He's not acting like a true leader for all Catholics and the children of God," she said. "He's supposed to be leading all of us together, not dividing us. It makes me feel like he's not really doing the work of the Lord."

Carmen Kasperbauer echoed the sentiments of many at the protests, but added that she felt sorry for Apuron. "We have an obligation to pray for his soul."

Regarding the property dispute, Carmen Kasperbauer said, "There will be a big fight before the end. I feel the only way to resolve this is through court and a lot of self-sacrifice among traditional Catholics."

She was referring to the division within the Guam church between "traditional" Catholics and those in the Neocatechumenal Way.

"The Neo is decaying the interior spiritual life of the people," said Carmen Kasperbauer.

She referred to "new modern leadership within the church" that introduced a form of liberalism in direct opposition to beliefs of many traditional Catholics.

Tim Rohr, a former supporter of Archbishop Apuron turned vocal opponent, in his blog "JungleWatch" revealed ideological dissent among the faithful.

Some of the ideological battle certainly factors into the relevance to the RMS property dispute.

"With no benefit to the people of Guam," said David Sablan, president of the Concerned Catholics in a Aug. 22 media conference. The NCW, through the Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores Catholic Theological Institute (BDTI), educates seminarians and then prepares them for the priesthood. Those ordained, however, are not required to minister within the Archdiocese of Agana. Further, contributions from Guam Catholics through the Archdiocese's Annual Appeal (AA) help to fund RMS functions.

Proponents of the seminary such as Apuron, say that RMS serves a crucial role in the mission of the Catholic Church.

"I have strived and I will strive ... to put evangelization at the center of my mission, and for this purpose the most fundamental means are the priests, who can transmit the grace of God," Apuron said.

Others, such as Rev. Pius Sammut, secretary of the seminary, hold that the conflict surrounding the Yona property is founded on malevolent, self-interested forces at work to fill their pockets: "Clearly there are people who would like to cash in the $50 million to $75 million involved. But one cannot but wonder: Why such a deep interest in destroying a seminary and a theological Institute? Someone wants to fill his pocket? Or there are some people who want to build a casino? Imagine that in nearby Saipan the powerful Chinese consortium Imperial Pacific, headed by Mark Brown (former CEO of Trump Casinos and then of Sheldon Casinos) invested $7 billion to develop a casino there!"

Sammut and Apuron offer a narrative of stalwart faith bordering on martyrdom. "One day, when all this has passed, they will rediscover the valor of this archbishop and the historians will add a chapter to the evangelization of this island, an important chapter that will be added to the chapter written by Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores," wrote Sammut.

CCOG and the vocal laity shudder at what they say is a corrosive influence of the NCW intruding upon traditional values, but also call for financial transparency and responsive leadership.

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