The canonical trial against Apuron began in October 2016, with Cardinal Burke appointed by Pope Francis as the trial's presiding judge. Byrnes told reporters that the Vatican reached a decision on the case in October 2017, though no information regarding its outcome had yet been released.
Sources question why the CDF delayed finalizing sentences apparently completed in mid-2017. The archbishop is reported to have been notified of the court's decision only recently, and it was not made publicly known until today.
One source close to the Archdiocese of Agana in Guam questioned whether Archbishop Byrnes pushed the Vatican to release the sentence in order to resolve public concern about the matter in Guam.
However, the source questioned whether Byrnes has been appropriately advised on the matter. "Most of the people who were opposed to [Apuron] in terms of governance" have become advisers to Byrnes, the source said.
"The curial advice Byrnes is receiving is institutionally and personally opposed to Apuron."
In the early hours of March 17 on Guam, Apuron released a statement through his attorney.
"I have been informed of the conclusion of the first instance canonical trial against me. While I am relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict. God is my witness; I am innocent and I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process," the statement read.
"Today, my prayers are with the Church in Guam, which has been suffering greatly. I pray that Santa Marian Kamalen may intercede for the healing of our island," Apuron continued.
Until appeals are resolved, "the imposed penalties are suspended until the final resolution" of the trial, according to the CDF.
A source told CNA that the credibility of the witnesses will be a major factor of the appeal. Questions have been raised regarding connections between the witnesses, attorneys, and real estate developers on Guam.
The prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, will determine whether or not to accept the appeal, and then be responsible for appointing judges to consider it.
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The most recent allegation against Apuron was made Jan. 10 by the archbishop's nephew, Mark Apuron. He filed a lawsuit Jan. 10 claiming that his uncle raped him in a Church bathroom in 1989 or 1990. This was the fifth lawsuit to accuse the archbishop of sexual abuse of minors during his time as a pastor and bishop.
The archbishop denied the allegations in a statement Jan. 18, writing, "God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me, including this last one," according to Guam Pacific Daily News.
In addition to this claim, Apuron also faced four other accusations from former altar boys, who charged the archbishop with abuse in the 1970s when he served as a parish priest in Agat.
The first allegations against the archbishop were made public in May 2016. Mark's attorney, David Lujan, said that his client was too ashamed and embarrassed to tell his family about the alleged abuse until recently.
Archbishop Byrnes, who is empowered by the Vatican to oversee the Archdiocese of Agana but has not yet formally succeeded Apuron, has since implemented new child protection policies in the archdiocese, including a safe environment program that Byrnes said will "help to instigate a change of culture in our Archdiocese."
Byrnes adopted in February 2017 the US bishops' conference's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its essential norms on dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.