While the Archdiocese of Agana faces lawsuits filed on behalf of child sex-abuse victims, some of the vocal members of the island’s Catholic community continue to press for suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron to be removed of his title permanently.
Apuron currently holds no administrative powers or duties in the archdiocese, and was recently found living in Fairfield, California while he’s facing a confidential trial in the Vatican on allegations of child sexual abuse. The Vatican canonical trial is separate from the dozen cases filed against the Archdiocese of Agana in the federal court, and other cases filed in the local courts in Guam.
“Just mentioning his name creates a lot of pain for people,” said David Sablan, president of the nonprofit organization Concerned Catholics Of Guam (CCOG).
Sablan spoke with the Post after completing their 29th week of protesting in front of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña.
According to Lou Klitzkie, of the Laity Forward Movement, these groups of protesters hope to raise attention to the issues of the Catholic faithful who have felt wronged, that their issues were not being properly addressed.
As of last week Friday, 12 cases so far have been filed in the District Court of Guam. While these cases are similar to the suits brought previously before local courts, they now demand a minimum of $5 million each in damages.
"I can say that we'd be happy to settle, but then again, that's a legal negotiation," Coadjutor Archbishop of Agana Michael Jude Byrnes said last week. Byrnes, who holds the sole administrative and leadership duties of the archdiocese, was appointed by Pope Francis at the start of November last year.
“My interest is my clients,” said attorney David Lujan who represents the plaintiffs in the suit. Lujan acknowledged that his clients are open to settlement discussions. “If it’s meaningful, we will engage in it,” Lujan told the Post. He opined that the Catholic Church's interest in a possible settlement is its first acknowledgement of guilt.
“I do hope he does pursue settlements out of court; however, I want to see all of the details of why and what (Apuron) did. Instead of going to court and battling it out there, we don’t need all these attorneys doing all of this for us, but so be it,” Sablan said of Byrnes inclination to settle.
Considering bankruptcy protection
Byrnes acknowledged the lawsuits would take a financial toll on the archdiocese and that the church is considering all options, including bankruptcy protection. "Yes, if they're successful, it'll hurt ... financially," Byrnes said.
“I think he should pursue it, but he should probably talk to the victims one-on-one as a father would to a son,” Sablan said. “I think he should reach out to all these people and have a one-on-one discussion with them and heal their hurt.”
“What CCOG wants is justice for these victims,” Sablan said. “They should be given the opportunity to have that wound healed by the leader of our church.”
Lujan’s investigators contacted Apuron on the morning of Jan. 11. “Apuron is the elusive one, but elusiveness is only as good as the opponent’s willingness to spend money,” Lujan said. “We spent thousands of dollars to track him down.”
While he faces multiple lawsuits here at home, Apuron has settled in the states as Lujan’s office confirmed the former church leader has a valid California driver’s license and is listed as a registered voter in Solano County, California. “It shows that he doesn’t care,” Sablan said.” He’s abandoned his responsibilities here, which is what we are asking for now – to remove him from the seat of the Archbishop of Agana. He’s not our shepherd anymore.”
“They still say his name during the Eucharistic Mass, his pictures are still on the walls of all offices of the schools and the parishes,” Sablan said. “We want a complete de-Apuron-nization.”