02/19/17

US groups question Vatican’s judge choice in Apuron trial

Members of the Catholic community stage a peaceful protest outside the Archdiocese of Agana chancery office in Hagatna on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. The protest was held in conjunction with a meeting between Roland Sondia and Vatican tribunal members at the chancery. Sondia previously announce that he was allegedly sexually assaulted by Archbishop Anthony Apuron in the 1970s when he served as an altar boy at an Agat church.

By Haidee V Eugenio

Two U.S.-based groups dealing with the Catholic clergy sex abuse cases worldwide are not happy with the Vatican’s choice on who will preside over Guam Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron’s canonical penal trial.

The Vatican sent Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and other members of a tribunal to Guam to hear from witnesses in the trial of Apuron, who is accused of raping and sexually abusing altar boys in the 1970s. The Archdiocese of Agana, in a statement released late Saturday, said a team of four canon lawyers and another official from Rome worked here Feb. 16-17 and left the morning of Feb. 18.

“From what we know of Burke’s record on abuse, he is an odd and unpromising choice for such a sensitive task,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.orga Massachusetts-based information resource that gathers documents and data about the clergy sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

Doyle said Burke has a “troubling record” in dealing with clergy abuse cases.

“He has consistently defended accused clergy and played hardball with victims,” Doyle told Pacific Daily News.

Burke, in an Associated Press report, said he aims to wrap up the Apuron investigation by the summer. The report also said Burke denied he had been sent to Guam as “punishment,” telling Italy’s Mediaset it was normal for cardinals to take on extra jobs in their areas of expertise.

Burke is a top canon lawyer who has clashed repeatedly with Pope Francis.

The Illinois-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the Vatican’s choice has a “sketchy history when it comes to dealing with the abuse crisis.”

“(Burke) was a very controversial figure in St. Louis and the Vatican for his hard-line conservative views. He was sidelined by Pope Francis for openly criticizing the Pope,” Joelle Casteix, SNAP’s volunteer western regional director, said.

‘Canonical penal trial’

The Archdiocese of Agana, in a statement released Saturday night, said that before the team left, “They conveyed their appreciation to all individuals whom they interviewed during their work here and encouraged all of Guam’s faithful to remain grounded in Christ,” the archdiocese wrote.

Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes was appointed by Pope Francis late last year to replace Apuron if necessary,  In the same Archdiocese statement, Byrnes said he is “pleased that the Vatican is advancing this process.”

“The Archdiocese commends all witnesses who have stepped forward to tell their stories. We will continue to redouble our efforts to combat, root out and address sex abuse in the Archdiocese. We pray for a speedy and just result,” the statement said. It added that preventative measures, including formation of a task force to protect future possible victims are in place. A parish-level team from St. Francis presented the first of what will be a series of training programs followed by other Guam parishes.

Apuron is being investigated not only because of alleged sexual abuse of minors, but also other criminal activities and the investigation may have started in 2008, said Attorney David Lujan, who represents at least 18 former altar boys allegedly sexually abused by Catholic clergy on Guam and the number could double in the weeks ahead.

Lujan pointed to the length of time, nine years, before the Vatican has come out here to talk to witnesses as part of their investigation of Apuron.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, in 2016, made several statements pointing to the Vatican’s concerns about Apuron long before former altar boys publicly accused Apuron of rape and sexual abuse.

Hon said these include deeding a Yona seminary property to a group without due process in conformity with Catholic church law, disobeying the Holy See’s instructions to rescind and annual that deed restriction, failure to talk to his own priests, favoritism towards one group, inability to involve more people in decision-making for the archdiocese, and failure to ensure constant communication with the Holy See through Archbishop Martin Krebs, among other things.

Apuron has denied the sexual abuse claims.

‘Not a good choice for Guam’

The Vatican officials working on the Apuron canonical penal trial are a concern for international organizations working on the church crisis worldwide, as well as the attorney for the clergy abuse survivors on Guam.

SNAP’s Casteix said in her personal view, Burke was deputized because of the belief that he might appeal to Catholics on Guam who felt alienated by the Neocatechumenal Way.

“Unfortunately, Burke also has a sketchy history when it comes to dealing with the abuse crisis in St. Louis: blaming gay clergy and and allegedly engaging in culpable negligence,” Casteix said.

Apuron is one of 84 bishops worldwide who have been accused publicly of sexual wrongdoing, based on data that BishopAccountability.org has compiled.

Doyle said nothing in Burke’s record suggests he is a good choice to head Apuron’s tribunal.

“He does not seem capable of the extreme severity toward offending clergy that Pope Francis called for last week,” Doyle said.

In 1990, for example, Burke as a young canon lawyer defended before the Signatura an accused Pittsburgh priest that then-bishop Donald Wuerl was seeking to remove from the priesthood, Doyle said.

“When Burke won his case, Wuerl himself flew to Rome to argue for the priest’s removal and ultimately prevailed,” Doyle added.

Doyle said that on the other hand, there’s little known about Burke’s involvement since 2008 when he left the U.S. to serve as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

“Despite his disagreement with Pope Francis on many other topics, let’s hope Burke aligns with him on this most crucial issue facing the Church. In the tribunal in Guam, Burke must heed the Pope’s pledges of zero tolerance and accountability for bishops,” said Doyle. “Sadly, early indicators suggest otherwise.”

Doyle said Burke already has warned at least one Apuron victim that his testimony will be sealed under the pontifical secret, “and that does not bode well.”

“Without transparency, there cannot be accountability,” Doyle added.

Lujan was not shy to share his mistrust of the Rev. James Conn, who serves as prosecutor in the Apuron canonical trial.

The Vatican tribunal heard from some witnesses last week, but didn’t directly hear from one of Apuron’s alleged sexual abuse victims, Roland Sondia. Sondia declined to give testimony without Lujan’s presence and said he would provide written testimony later. Among those deposed was Deacon Steve Martinez, the former sexual abuse response coordinator whom Apuron fired for reportedly raising concerns about the archdiocese’s mishandling of sex abuse allegations for several years.

 Complete Article HERE!

02/18/17

Ex-altar boy refuses to testify

A former altar boy who accused Guam’s longtime archbishop of sexually abusing him refused Thursday to testify before a Vatican court headed by American Cardinal Raymond Burke on the grounds that he couldn’t have his lawyer present.

Roland Sondia met with Burke and other Vatican officials who traveled to the Pacific island U.S. territory to take testimony for the trial of Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron, attorney David Lujan said.

Lujan said the proceedings were “worse” than he had expected because he wasn’t allowed to be present to advise his client, who was to have been “questioned by the prosecutor, who is a priest, and Archbishop Apuron’s lawyer, who is a priest, and a presider who is Cardinal Burke, and a notary who is also a priest.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke

“We felt it wasn’t in my client’s best interest to be in that position,” he said. He said Sondia may submit a written declaration instead.

Apuron is facing multiple allegations of sex abuse of altar boys in the 1970s. Sondia, now an adult, has publicly accused Apuron of molesting him when he was 15. Apuron has denied the claims and has not been criminally charged.

Lujan said another witness — the mother of a deceased altar boy who also accused Apuron — would also refuse to testify.

Archbishop Anthony Apuron

It wasn’t clear how the lack of testimony would affect the church trial. The alleged victims have sued Apuron, the archdiocese and other individual priests in U.S. courts, which could explain their reluctance to testify in a separate legal procedure. Those lawsuits were made possible after the Guam legislature last year passed a law that lifts the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse.

The Vatican confirmed Thursday that Burke in October had been named presiding judge in the Vatican trial — an unusual revelation given that even the existence of such church trials is usually kept confidential. The Apuron case, though, has played out under heavy public scrutiny in Guam.

Burke’s role raised eyebrows in Rome because he has recently been involved in some high-profile clashes with Pope Francis.

Burke, a top canon lawyer, had headed the Vatican’s high court until 2014, when Francis removed him and named him patron of the Knights of Malta religious order. Francis recently sidelined Burke from that position after Burke was involved in the problematic ouster of a senior knight.

Burke’s defense of church doctrine has made him a hero to conservative and traditionalist Catholics upset with Francis’ mercy-over-morals priorities. He is one of four cardinals who asked Francis to clarify his controversial opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Survivors of clerical abuse, though, have long criticized Burke’s record as an archbishop in the U.S. in handling cases of abusive priests. Burke has said every act of abuse by clergy is a “grave evil.” But he has also blamed gay clergy for the sex abuse crisis, saying priests “who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity” were the ones who molested children.

Complete Article HERE!

02/8/17

Child sex abuse royal commission: Archbishop says he has ‘no right’ to ask priests about sexual activity

Archbishop Coleridge says he cannot expect priests to answer questions about their sexual activity.

By Michelle Brown and Paige Cockburn

One of Australia’s most senior Catholics, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, says he does not know how many priests break their vows of celibacy, and does not think it is appropriate to question them.

Appearing at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Archbishop Coleridge said he had never had a sense of “being shackled” by his vow of celibacy but could not speak about the experiences of others.

Commissioner Peter McLellan intervened when Archbishop Coleridge said he could not say whether at any one time 50 per cent of clergy might be breaking their vows.

“It might be said Archbishop that given that you’re the leader of one of the most significant diocese in Australia that these are questions you should know about?” Commissioner McLellan said.

The Archbishop responded by explaining he could not possibly know the sexual behaviour of clergy who he works with and has no right to ask.

“I have no right to go to a priest who is not an employee of mine and say ‘excuse me, are you in a sexual relationship?'” he said.

“I have no right to ask those questions, or if I do, to expect an answer.”

Archbishop Coleridge also defended celibacy and said he did not think it was a causative factor to the abuse but the “question whether it was a major aggravating factor is on the table”.

He also said it was possible to live without sexual activity as “it’s not like sleep or food” and it did not necessarily lead to loneliness and isolation.

Commissioner McLellan said it needed to be determined whether a person was functioning effectively as previous abusive priests had been “people who in many cases are not functioning well”.

“When you find a problem with the way someone is functioning, the question maybe should be asked: ‘What is their personal life really all about?'”

Archbishop Coleridge said that was a question for someone providing professional supervision to ask rather than a Bishop to which Commissioner McLellan responded: “Well, again, those outside the church might say that reflects a management failure in the church’s structure.”

The Archbishop later said he believed Catholic bishops would probably tell police if a priest confessed to a sexual crime against children today.

“I tend to think that other bishops these days — in the light of what we are learning — would say to the priest ‘what you have confessed you understand is criminal behaviour and therefore the civil authorities must be notified’.”

Female leadership ‘needed in the church’

The Archbishop also said there was a need for more women to be making executive decisions at the top of the Catholic Church in Australia.

“If the Catholic Church says it cannot ordain women we are correspondingly obliged to explore ways in which women can exercise genuine responsibility in the decision-making processes at the highest level,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Catholics for Renewal president Mr Peter Johnstone said he believed one could argue women would have spoken up about allegations of abuse earlier.

“When you exclude the people who have had experience in bringing up children…you are not going to get it right,” he said.

Today is day three of a three-week public hearing which will focus on the extent of child sexual abuse over almost seven decades and what church leaders are doing to protect children.

Last week, Archbishop Coleridge emailed a video message to tens of thousands of Catholic school parents expressing his concern about the impact of the statistics relating to reported abuse within the church.

“My sincere hope is that all the blood, sweat and tears will produce justice and healing and ensure that the future is much safer for the young than the past has been,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

02/7/17

Catholic church doesn’t understand toll of child sexual abuse, says US priest

Father Thomas Doyle tells royal commission the church does not want to understand just how profound the impact of abuse is on survivors

Father Thomas Doyle

By

One of the first American priests to have broken ranks on child abuse said the Catholic church still fails to comprehend the depth of spiritual damage done to victims.

Father Thomas Doyle, then a canonical lawyer at the Vatican’s Washington embassy, was tasked with investigating child abuse cases in the US in the mid-1980s, preparing a 40-page report for the nuncio, or papal ambassador, which he said was handed to the pope.

Doyle’s warnings about the abuse went unheeded and he said he was pushed out of his position with the embassy in 1986.

He has spent the time since helping survivors, speaking to thousands of individuals abused by Catholic clergy.

Doyle, giving evidence to the child abuse royal commission in Sydney on Tuesday, spoke of a life-changing moment in his early years of examining abuse claims, when he met a 10-year-old survivor face to face.

“When I looked into his face, I still see it, it was empty,” Doyle said. “And that moment changed my life. The parents were simple, good, decent people who could not comprehend why they were being treated the way they were by the church.

“They couldn’t understand why this man had been shifted from one place to another, to another. I had no answers.”

Doyle is one of many experts called this week to give insights into the church and the causes of the crisis to Australia’s royal commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse.

The royal commission is in its final three weeks of examining the Catholic church and, on Monday, heard damning statistics showing that 7% of priests abused children between 1950 and 2010.

In one Catholic order, St John of God Brothers, 40% of clergy were alleged perpetrators, while one in five Marist and Christian brothers were the subject of allegations.

Doyle said the church’s approach to the issue still failed to comprehend the damage done to survivors and those around them.

“One of the massive holes in the Roman Catholic church’s approach to this issue, still today, is a failure to completely comprehend the depth of the spiritual damage that is done to the victims, to their families, especially their parents, to their friends and to the community itself,” Doyle said.

Doyle said the church did not want to understand just how profound the impact of abuse was on survivors.

“Because if we learnt how bad this really is, it’s not going to make us look good in the long run,” he said. “We’d rather look the other way.”

The institutional structure of the church, as the official entity for Catholics to achieve salvation, had become sacrosanct, Doyle said.

He said the protection of the “institutional church” had become “of all-encompassing importance” to the Catholic hierarchy.

Doyle said that had contributed to efforts to cover up crimes and silence victims.

“The protection of this entity is of all-encompassing importance and that means the bishops themselves must be protected at all costs, and must be protected from embarrassment, from being lowered in the esteem of the community,” Doyle said. “Because if these things happen, the church will be seriously tainted.”

Doyle also spoke of a US priest, who had been accused of abusing five daughters from the same family. Doyle said the priest was to be sent to Holland, because there was no extradition treaty in place. That was designed to allow him to avoid court, Doyle said.

The privileged status of priests in the community, he said, put them “on a pedestal” and in positions of power and trust. He said that could be used to control and scare victims. In the eyes of children, the priest represented god.

“Many victims that I have talked to are completely confused through all of this because they’re taught that anything sexual is a mortal sin,” he said.

The training of clergy, particularly in celibacy, prevented them from maturing emotionally, sexually and psychologically, he said.

He likened priests to a highly educated groups of 14-year-olds. The few priests who stood with survivors and victims were sidelined, silenced, or punished by the church, he said.

“Because they have gone public with an issue that the system would still prefer to keep unknown and buried in secrecy,” he said.

He praised the work of the commission, saying it would have a profound impact, including on the Vatican.

“What you are doing is unique in the world, it is historic, it is going to make a mammoth difference in the long run,” he said. “You’ve taken something on that is mind-boggling.”

The prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described the abuse uncovered in the royal commission as a “national shame” in parliament on Tuesday. He said it could never be allowed to happen again, in any context.

“This is not just a history lesson, this is not just a sad tale from times past, this is a reminder to all of us today, in every part of the nation, to protect the vulnerable in our care, the children in our care, in whatever context,” Turnbull said.

The royal commission continues on Tuesday.

Complete Article HERE!

01/29/17

Vatican confirms Apuron trial; canon lawyers say trial could last for years

“Defrock Apuron” and “Apuron Out” signs are scattered throughout a picket line at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña on Jan. 29, 2017.

By Haidee V Eugenio

The Vatican has confirmed Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron’s canonical trial is ongoing, and some leading canon law experts said it could last for years.

Vatican policy dictates that only Rome can investigate bishops and archbishops who are accused of sexual abuse.

Besides undergoing a canonical trial in Rome, Apuron is also facing lawsuits filed in the Superior Court of Guam for allegedly raping and sexually abusing altar boys in the 1970s.

“This is new ground, as no bishop I am aware of, who sexually abused children, has ever finished a canonical trial,” Attorney Patrick J. Wall, a world-renowned expert on canonical trials and the Catholic clergy abuse crisis, said.

Wall is a former priest and Benedictine monk. He left the Catholic ministry after he felt he was used to help cover up other clergymen’s sex abuses. He has since been advocating for hundreds of clergy abuse survivors.

“Archbishop [Jozef] Wesolowski, Papal Nuncio to Haiti, died prior to the completion of his canonical trial in Rome,” said Wall, author of “Sex, Priests and Secret Codes,” a leading book on the 2,000-year history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Apuron, who has been Guam’s archbishop for nearly 31 years, turns 72 on Nov. 1. Under church law, bishops are required to resign at 75.

Attorney Jennifer Haselberger, also a leading canon lawyer based in Minnesota, said Apuron always has the right to request retirement or to tender his resignation before the conclusion of his canonical trial. She said the same is true of accused priests.

“However, if he believes himself innocent, he is unlikely to do so,” Haselberger said. “Moreover, with either of those resolutions, he would simply become emeritus archbishop, meaning that he retains all the privileges of an archbishop, and your diocese is still responsible for his financial support.”

On Oct. 31, 2016, Pope Francis named Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes, of Detroit, Michigan, to succeed Apuron should Apuron retire, resign or is removed.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai said as early as 2015, the Vatican was already searching for an Apuron successor.

Hon, who temporarily led the Catholic Church on Guam when Pope Francis placed Apuron on leave on June 6, 2016,, said the early search was made because of concerns about Apuron’s leadership, allegations of sex abuse against him and his health problems.

Apuron is the first bishop who has served on Guam to undergo a canonical trial.

‘Unique’

Attorney Michael Pfau, a leading Washington State-based lawyer who has represented hundreds of clergy abuse survivors in multiple states, said the Guam situation is “unique” because its own archbishop is the one accused of abuse.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes joins Defrock Apuron’ protests

“Most cases involve a bishop accused of covering up the abuse of his priests,” said Pfau, who also handled cases involving abuse by the bishop’s close advisers.

Pfau has been working with the Guam-based law office of Dooley Roberts Fowler & Visosky LLP on clergy abuse cases.

The Holy See Press Office at the Vatican confirmed that Apuron’s canonical trial is ongoing. However, the office said it cannot release other information until after the trial is over, and referred further questions about the trial to the local archdiocese, the Archdiocese of Agana.

Byrnes, the first church official to state, in November, that Apuron’s canonical trial had started, just recently returned to Guam. The archdiocese said Byrnes arrived on Jan. 23.

“A canonical trial can certainly last for years,” Haselberger said. “Unlike with the civil courts, the judges and other officials will likely have other jobs, possibly in other parts of the world. So, the times in which they can assemble to proceed may be limited and cause delay.”

Haselberger previously served as chancellor for canonical affairs at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, but resigned in April 2013 in protest of the archdiocese’s handling of accusations of clergy sexual abuse.

In 2013, Haselberger established Canonical Consultation and Services LLC. She has served on independent review boards and is a noted speaker on issues relating to canon law and the Catholic Church.

Trial process

Wall provided a general outline of the canonical trial process, which begins with the complaint filed by the prosecutor or what the Catholic Church calls the Promoter of Justice, at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

The Promoter of Justice is the Rev. Robert Geisinger, an American Jesuit from Chicago, Illinois, said Wall. Geisinger’s office, when contacted about the Apuron trial, declined to comment.

Apuron’s advocate will likely be a priest, and must be a canon lawyer, Wall said. Since 1991, Wall has consulted on more than 1,000 abuse cases and has been helping lawyers pick apart defenses that dioceses from around the nation have mounted.

Byrnes said in November that the initial phase of the canonical trial started and the tribunal had been established.

Wall said this means Apuron has the written charge from the Promoter of Justice. The Archdiocese of Agana so far has not released information about the specific charges Apuron is facing, other than saying they involve sexual abuse allegations.

“This is important, and can impact the possible outcomes. You may be aware of accusations, but that does not mean that those accusations are part of the trial. Getting clarity on what accusations he is facing would be most helpful,” Haselberger said.

The discovery phase of the canonical trial is where both sides will depose witnesses and interview experts, and this could take months, Wall said.

Outcomes

The discovery phase is followed by the trial and determination by a panel of three clerical judges, with penalties up to and including dismissal from the clerical state, Wall said.

“If a lower penalty such as ‘prayer and penance’ is imposed, then the Pope will need to assign him (Apuron) to a monastery or some other appropriate location,” he added.

Haselberger said there are ways for canonical trials to end without the verdict of the turnus, or the judges appointed to decide the case.

A verdict could be issued by extrajudicial decree, usually done when the penalty is only for a few years rather than perpetual, she said.

Or if guilt is evident, she added, the court could recommend that dismissal be issued by the Holy Father without prolonging trial.

“The latter circumstance does not admit of an appeal. The others do, during which the suspension of the sentence is held in abeyance. However, any precautionary penalties, those that the archbishop is under now, such as being absent from the diocese, would continue,” Haselberger said.

The Concerned Catholics of Guam and the Laity Forward Movement continue to advocate for Apuron to be defrocked or removed from clerical ministry.

“We worry that there may be some compromise or settlement solution being worked out with Apuron. We implore the Vatican officials not to let him get away without being seriously disciplined, and not rewarded,” said David Sablan, president of the Concerned Catholics of Guam.

Sablan said the only thing that should be worked out “is for Apuron to be removed from service to our archdiocese and laicized for the shame he has caused our Church.”

“He has lost the trust of the people of Guam who had always looked up to him for moral and spiritual guidance, only to now know it was all a ruse to forward his own personal agenda and to help his Neocatechumenal [Way] friends who are complicit in causing this division and mistrust within our church,” Sablan added.

Complete Article HERE!