Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a church law expert and former head of the Vatican’s highest court, arrived in Guam Feb. 15 as the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana.
The Vatican press office confirmed a “tribunal of the first instance”
was constituted by the Vatican Oct. 5 and its presiding judge is
Four other judges, all of whom are bishops, also were
appointed, the press office said.
“When an action is in a ‘first instance’ court, that indicates that
it is in the initial trial phase,” according to the website of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles accusations of
clerical sexual abuse.
Three men have publicly accused Apuron of sexually abusing them when
they were altar boys in the 1970s.
The mother of a fourth man, now
deceased, also accused the archbishop of abusing her son.
Apuron has refused to resign, but in late October, Pope Francis named
former Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes as coadjutor
archbishop of Agana and gave him full authority to lead the archdiocese.
Roland Sondia, who works for Pacific Daily News and is one
of Apuron’s accusers, told the newspaper that he had received a letter
from Burke requesting his presence at the Agana archdiocesan chancery
Feb. 16 “for the purpose of giving said testimony.”
At a news briefing Feb. 10, according to Pacific Daily News,
Byrnes announced the archdiocese would adopt the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young
Accusations of clerical sexual abuse involving minors
automatically would be reported to civil authorities, he said.
Also at the briefing, the archbishop confirmed that Vatican
investigators would visit Guam, but he provided no further information.