Canon lawyer: Evidence likely sufficient for Vatican to decide on Apuron
Walter Denton, right, tries to comfort Doris Concepcion, mother of Joseph Quinata, as she recalls the last words from ...more
Haidee V Eugenio | email@example.com:25 p.m. ChT April 23, 2017
Minnesota-based canon lawyer and former priest Patrick J. Wall said there appears to be more than sufficient evidence for a Vatican tribunal to come to a decision on Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron’s canonical penal trial, after two accusers provided testimony in March.
“In short, the Roman Pontiff can step in and make a decision since he is the supervisor of Apuron,” said Wall, who since 2002 has advocated for hundreds of clergy abuse survivors.
Pope Francis suspended Apuron in June 2016, weeks after former altar boys came forward and publicly accused the archbishop of raping and sexually abusing them as children in Agat in the 1970s.
“If Rome is going to act, they generally do so prior to July 31, when most Romans go on summer vacanza, until mid-September,” said Wall, co-author of “Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes,” a leading book on the 2,000-year history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Walter Denton, who accused Apuron of raping him when he was 13 in 1977, said when he testified on March 17 before a Vatican tribunal, he was told that the tribunal hopes to complete the Apuron canonical trial by early summer.
Doris Concepcion, mother of a deceased altar boy, also provided testimony to the tribunal, Denton said. Concepcion had said her son Joseph "Sonny" A. Quinata, told her just before he died in 2005 that Apuron molested him in the late 1970s.
David Sablan, president of Concerned Catholics of Guam, said the group hopes the Vatican will decide to remove Apuron as Guam’s archbishop, and defrock or laicize him for sexually abusing children and for all the other matters that Concerned Catholics helped raise, including church mismanagement. He said he believes Denton and Concepcion provided strong testimony against Apuron.
Archbishop Anthony Apuron
Wall said there are still dozens of questions or issues that are still secret, including the exact nature of the investigation into Apuron.
These, he said, include whether it was about his alleged sexual abuse of minors on Guam, his alleged failure to report priests under his charge who sexually abused minors, his alleged mismanagement of the Archdiocese of Agana, including but not limited to a multi-million seminary property, or his alleged failure to reign in the members of the Neocatechumenal Way.
“Depending on the charges, the next questions are whether the all-male panel of clerics deems the testimony beyond moral certitude,” Wall said.
Again, depending on the charges, the penalties or penalty imposed by Rome could be a wide range of remedies.
“Everything from dismissal from the clerical state, dismissal from the Capuchin Order or a life of prayer and penance, or being reassigned as an auxiliary bishop somewhere,” he said.
As an example, in the 1990s, when Bishop Lawrence Welsh of Spokane, Washington was in trouble, Rome removed him and made him as auxiliary bishop of Saint Paul Minneapolis for the rest of his life, Wall said.
Wall said he challenges those who say the Roman canonical system is the only means of justice for Apuron.
“In fact, the only reason the pope ordered the inquiry of Apuron is because the civil judicial system in Guam exposed Apuron. Rome is simply trying to get out in front of public scandal, doing damage control with the canonical system that previously failed to act and was following the old Roman method of letting sleeping dogs lie,” he said.
He said in regards to a diocese or religious order offering to help survivors, experience has taught him they do so only to avoid further public scandal. He said, in the end, they generally end up filing for bankruptcy.
Wall is a lead researcher for Jeff Anderson & Associates, a Minnesota-based law firm representing victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The Archdiocese of Agana, now facing 54 clergy sex abuse lawsuits in either federal or local court, initiated Hope and Healing Guam, which is funded by the archdiocese, but run independently to provide professional counseling, spiritual healing, compensation and justice for clergy abuse victims.
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