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Catholic archdiocese in Guam stopping monthly payments to former archbishop

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Agaña announced Tuesday it will no longer give a monthly honorarium to its emeritus Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

Archbishop Apuron, 74, was found guilty of some of several abuse-related charges by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2018.

The archdiocese announced June 30 that “the decision by Archbishop Michael Byrnes will become effective Wednesday, July 1.”

Archbishop Byrnes is on an extended leave from Guam, having had hip surgery earlier this month.

In April 2019, Archbishop Apuron’s sentencing was announced by the CDF. He 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 was he assigned to live in prayer and penance.

The archdiocese noted in its statement that it “has still remitted a monthly honorarium of $1,500 to former Archbishop Apuron, even during this time of bankruptcy.”

The statement included quotes from a letter sent to Archbishop Apuron last week by Fr. Ron Richards, episcopal vicar of the archdiocese.

Fr. Richards said that the payment “has been been, to say the least, very difficult for the victim survivors of sexual abuse to comprehend. The victim survivors see this honorarium, to a credibly accused violator of delicts against the Sixth Commandment, as contrary to justice and a continuation of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the clergy.”

The priest added that “Archbishop Byrnes has heard from more of the victim survivors. Recognizing the pain these survivors have experienced from the sexual abuse in the past, he sees the continuation of remitting this honorarium as a further deepening of the wounds they are trying to heal from.”

The Agaña archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2019, in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. Guam’s territorial legislature had eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse in 2016.

Earlier this year the Diocese of Buffalo, which has also filed for bankruptcy amid sex abuse lawsuits, similarly announced that a number of priests “with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse” would no longer receive financial assistance or health benefits, though pension plans would not be affected.

Greg Tucker, the Buffalo diocese’s interim communications director,  told CNA in May that “the diocese recognizes that there are certain canonical obligations to ensure that these individuals are not left destitute and is addressing this.”

Canon 402 of the Code of Canon Law says that “the conference of bishops must take care that suitable and decent support is provided for a retired bishop, with attention given to the primary obligation which binds the diocese he has served,” while canon 707 notes that a retired religious bishop is to be supported by his former diocese “unless his own institute wishes to provide such support; otherwise the Apostolic See is to provide in another manner.”

Archbishop Apuron had been found guilty by the CDF in March 2018, and the decision was upheld on appeal in February 2019.

The Vatican first opened its investigation in 2015 after a victim reported his alleged abuse to the apostolic nuncio for the Pacific.

Archbishop Apuron, is a native of Guam. He took solemn vows as a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1968, and was ordained a priest in 1972. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Agaña in 1983, its apostolic administrator in 1985, and its archbishop in 1986.