Guam archbishop denies allegations of rape, sexual abuse

Guam's Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica
Guam's Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica

.- An embattled archbishop in Guam has denied an allegation that he raped his nephew nearly 20 years ago, when his accuser was a teen.

Mark Apuron, nephew of Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron, filed a lawsuit Jan. 10, claiming that his uncle raped him in a Church bathroom in 1989 or 1990. This is the fifth lawsuit to accuse the archbishop of sexual abuse of minors during his time as a pastor and bishop.
 
“God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me, including this last one,” wrote Archbishop Apuron in a Jan. 18 statement, according to Guam Pacific Daily News.

“All of these allegations have been mentored and promoted by the same source and this one seems particularly timed to influence the verdict of the Vatican trial conducted by the Holy See, as a last resort out of fear that I may be exonerated,” he continued.

In addition to this claim, Apuron faces 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.

Pope Francis relieved Apuron of his pastoral and administrative authority in 2016 and he was replaced by Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, formerly of Detroit. In October of that year, Apuron’s canonical trial at the Vatican began, which could dismiss him from the clerical state. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a canon lawyer, was appointed by Pope Francis as the trial’s presiding judge.

Byrnes has told reporters that the Vatican reached a decision in the case in October 2017, though no information regarding the trial’s outcome has been released.  

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.

Apuron, who is currently recovering from a surgery, wrote that he hopes the truth will come out and that he will continue to pray for his accusers.

"As the Church in Guam is being destroyed by people who have only their power agenda at heart, may God have mercy on us all and save His Church from the powers of darkness," Apuron wrote. "I pray that the truth may prevail; I pray for my accusers: fill them with what they desire; as for me, when I awake, I will be satisfied with Your face, oh Lord (Ps. 17,15)".

The Archdiocese of Agaña is currently a defendant in 96 sexual abuse lawsuits, involving Apuron, 13 priests, a Catholic schoolteacher, a Catholic school janitor, and a Boy Scout leader. Most of the lawsuits were filed after 2016, when Guam’s territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse.

Tags: Sexual Abuse, Catholic News, Guam, Archdiocese of Agana, Archbishop Michael Byrnes, Archbishop Anthony Apuron