Sources also noted that the archbishop has seemingly maintained his ecclesiastical faculties, and though restricted from residence in Guam, is apparently able to exercise ministry as a priest.
A source close to the case told CNA that the penalty is "a complete contradiction" to the sentence.
The source said that if the archbishop is guilty of sexual abuse against minors, "justice would demand the strongest possible penalty," adding "this punishment maintains the status quo."
One expert suggested to the CNA that the five-judge panel may have been divided on the archbishop's guilt, which could explain the disparity between a guilty verdict and an unusually light sanction.
One source questioned whether pressure to quickly resolve the matter might have influenced the sentence.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura, is the case's only judge to be publicly identified.
"It is difficult to explain how such a serious-minded and competent canonist would put his name to something like this," a source close to the case said of Burke, noting questions raised about the sentence and delays in the case's adjudication.
Apuron was relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority by Pope Francis in 2016, in the wake of the allegations, and was effectively replaced by Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, formerly of Detroit.
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.
(Story continues below)
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"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.