Emeritus Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agaña said Thursday that despite the failure of his appeal and the confirmation of a conviction against him, he is innocent of sexual abuse against minors.
“I am deeply saddened by the decision of the Holy Father to confirm the decision of the court of first instance,” Apuron said in an April 4 statement on the announcement of his sentencing.
“I believe that the fact and evidence presented demonstrated my total innocence,” he said, noting that he had expected his appeal to be successful.
The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Apuron, 73, guilty of some of several abuse-related charges in March 2018. He immediately appealed the decision. The Vatican court upheld the original decision Feb. 7, and the final sentencing was announced April 4 by the CDF.
Apuron was sentenced to privation of the office of Archbishop of Agaña; forbidden from using the insignia attached to the rank of bishop, such as the mitre and ring; and forbidden from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese.
He was not removed from ministry or from the clerical state, nor has he been assigned to live in prayer and penance.
Speaking to CNA last year, a source close to the case noted a contradiction between the penalty and the sentence of sexual abuse against minors – a grave delict which usually carries the penalty of removal from the clerical state.
Apuron called the sentence, which prevents him from living in Guam, a penalty “analogous to a death sentence,” adding: “I lose my homeland, my family, my church, my people, even my language, and I remain alone in complete humiliation, old and in failing health.”
Pope Francis personally oversaw the archbishop’s appeal. Apuron wrote that the pope’s decision concludes his own “search for justice in the canonical forum.”
“I owe His Holiness my obedience as a bishop, priest and son of the Church. I totally submit to the judgment of the Holy Father as I thank him for allowing me to continue serving as a priest and archbishop without insignia,” he stated.
“Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime that cries to heaven for vengeance. The desperate need for justice and compassion for the survivors is fundamental,” he said. “So too is the urgent need to fight this evil always and everywhere through a transparent and courageous search for the truth.”
According to the archbishop, the pontifical secret prevents him from “litigating my good name in public,” but “many individuals” have come forward privately and publicly in his defense “despite threats and the climate of fear in my beloved home of Guam.”
The archbishop claimed that this climate of fear and its publicity in the local media hampered the work of the Vatican court in its conviction and “testifies to the presence of a pressure group that plotted to destroy me, and which has made itself clearly known even to authorities in Rome.”
He also said there are people who have revealed to him they were asked to make false allegations against him in return for money.
Apuron said, despite this, he still hopes to one day clear his name through new witnesses, and that he is praying for his accusers and those who have worked against him. He said: “We will each meet before that final tribunal where the full truth will be laid bare before the Supreme Judge.”
“I offer this suffering for the Holy Father,” he stated. “May the Lord guide him at this difficult time at the helm of the Church; I offer my suffering to my accusers and to those who have plotted for my removal: may the Lord fill them with everything they want and pray – Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”