It’s time for the people of Guam to lower their expectations of the canonical church trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron.
Make no mistake: there will be extreme secrecy cloaked under the “pontifical secret” and sovereign immunity. And while the procedure is called a canonical “trial,” it is nothing like any criminal trial you have experienced or seen on television.
1. There will be no jury impaneled to publicly decide innocence or guilt.
2. There will be no judge in a black robe responsible to the People conducting a fair and impartial trial.
3. Secrecy is king. There will be no public hearing. The process began in secret, will be conducted in secret, decided in secret and the findings will be kept in secret Vatican archives.
4. The outcome will only be known when the Holy See serves its decision on Anthony Apuron through the Papal Nuncio of the country and bishop where Apuron is domiciled.
5. The procedure is based on the Code of Canon law and SST (Sacramentum Santitatis Tutela) promulgated in 2001.
6. No matter the outcome, this is a test for Pope Francis and his commitment to discipline Bishops in the protection of minors.
7. Apuron will not be present in Rome for any of it.
What to expect
Pope Francis is the only church official who can bring an action against Apuron.
Whenever the Pope becomes aware of a Bishop who has sexually abused children, he appoints investigators—known as auditors—to gather the facts and circumstances around the matter. A likely candidate is Revered James Conn S.J., J.D., J.C.D.
The Pope then reviews the matter and decides whether to commence a Judicial or Administrative action.
If the Pope takes Administrative Action, then the Pope may instruct the Congregation for Bishops to order Apuron to a life of prayer and penance in a Capuchin monastery far from Guam. This does two things: reduces scandal, and allows Apuron to continue as a bishop, priest and Capuchin.
If Pope takes Judicial Action, then the Pope may instruct the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Mueller as Prefect to proceed following SST. Mueller will then appoint Chicago Jesuit, Reverend Robert Geisinger S.J., J.C.D. as promoter of justice to instruct the matter.
Archbishop Apuron will be informed in writing of the charges and advised to retain a Canonist—a canon lawyer who will defend him and submit paperwork on his behalf to the Vatican.
The Promoter of Justice or his delegate will build on the Auditors’ investigation and delve deeper into the facts and circumstances, including taking depositions and gathering documents from Guam.
Archbishop Apuron will then review the written Acts (the entire file) of the case.
Then comes the decision: whether the Pope, through the CDF, will allow Apuron to remain a Bishop, Priest and/or Capuchin.
Pope Francis could laicize Apuron, removing him as a Bishop and Priest while allowing him to remain a non-priest Capuchin Friar (a “Brother”), able to live anywhere in the world and work for the order. Or the Pope could remove Apuron completely and demote him to be a lay person.
No matter the decision—it will be rendered in secret, likely signed by Cardinal Muller as Prefect and served on Apuron through the Papal Nuncio and the local Bishop wherever Apuron is living. If Apuron stays in Fairfield, CA, that bishop is Jaime Soto of Sacramento.
Singer/songwriter Tim Minchin’s song “Come Home Cardinal Pell” is a must listen.
You can watch the video and listen to the song here.
One of the first lessons in the monastery is: “The Habit does not make the monk.”
Why? People are easily distracted by holy garbs, nice shoes, tailored clothes, and expensive cars. White collar criminals who use their position of trust to commit crimes against children depend on this. They need children and the public to be easily distracted.
Do not be distracted by a monk’s habit, a doctor’s white coat, or a judge’s black robe. By putting on a habit, one is not instantly infused with wisdom and understanding. Rather, it comes from years of listening to people, prayer, reflection and learning to recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Why do I bring this up?
Recently, my eyes have been opened to other versions of the white collar crime I know as “solicitation in the confessional.” Crimens Sollicitationis—simply put—is the confessor’s abuse of power over the penitent.
Apparently, this kind of crime is not limited to Catholicism.
Very recently, a Rabbi was discovered to have been using the Mikvah—the ritual bath—to film the unsuspecting faithful. In the age of the internet and file sharing, one has to be concerned for those unknowingly filmed.
Even more recent is a reminder from Hollywood: actors can and do use their star power and the burning desire of unsuspecting minors for stardom to access, groom, sexually abuse and coerce them into silence.
We must remain vigilant and put children first. The habit does not make the monk.
The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in Ireland is a grand example of what needs to be done to put kids first.
One of the lessons the commission learned when they investigated the Irish Christian Brothers is that all roads lead to Rome AND all files on child sexual abuse are transported to Rome. Here is a section of the report and what the archivist found while reviewing the Roman archives of the Irish Christian Brothers:
Consistent with the American experience of Civil and Criminal Court litigation is the finding that the leadership of the Church is lethargic in producing or even making known the location of their files and knowledge of childhood sexual abuse. (emphasis mine)
6.168 The Rome Files make it impossible to contend that the issue of abuse and, in particular, sexual abuse of boys was not an urgent and continuing concern to the Congregation. In circumstances where the issue of abuse in institutions had been the object of so much media attention from 1995 onwards, it is surprising that these files were only discovered to the Committee in 2004.
Rome Files and documentary evidence
6.159In the Emergence hearings in July 2004, Br Gibson described how files, which came to be known as ‘The Rome Files’, came to the attention of the Leadership Team in Ireland.
6.160In 2003, the Leadership Team took the decision to employ an archivist to look at all the documents in the possession of the Congregation. This archivist was asked to go to Rome to look at the files there that related to the Irish Communities for any references to abuse. He explained that, in the early 1960s, a decision was taken to move the Congregation’s headquarters from Dublin to Rome. The management team brought with them the relevant archives for their own work, and left in Ireland the files and records that dealt with the Christian Brothers in Ireland.
6.161Br Gibson explained:
However, when our archivist went to Rome, she came across their minute books of their Council decisions, the General Council decisions. In those, she came across details of allegations of abuse in the institutions in Ireland that did not exist in our files … Yes, all of these dealt with incidents of child abuse in our institutions between, say, 1930 and when they closed.
6.162Br Gibson outlined the number of allegations recorded in respect of residential schools:
… we came across details of incidents of abuse in our institutions in Ireland. We came across eleven incidents of child abuse in Artane, ten in our day schools, three in Letterfrack, two in Tralee, two in the OBI,20 and two in Glin. Now, what we came across was that there had been information given to the Leadership Team at the time when they occurred. These allegations had been investigated. The investigation included getting the boys to write out what had happened to them and the boys had done that in some cases – well, in one case at the moment we have one incident of that. Then they had at the end of what they called a trial, they had a decision made, and the decision was either to give a Canonical Warning to the person, they were dismissed from the Congregation or they were rejected for the application for vows that year. Now, we wouldn’t have the details of all the allegations, but a lot of material has emerged there which we didn’t know about …
It shows that there were individual cases of abuse. It wasn’t, in a sense, systematic or widespread, but over 30 years in Artane there were eleven cases that had been discovered at the time they had occurred.
6.163Br Gibson went on to state that, in 1990, the Leadership Team in Ireland was not aware of the existence of these files at all. He asserted that it was only when he saw these files that he understood the comments that he saw in the Constitutions and Acts of the Congregation emphasizing that a Brother should never be alone with a child. He said:
That makes sense in the light of this discovery of complaints where children were abused in the institutions.
6.164He confirmed that there was no mention of the children in these records:
The focus was on the culpability of the person who did it and I am not sure how much was done for the children who suffered.
6.165The Rome Files were made available to the Committee after the Emergence hearings had been completed. They contained details of applications for dispensations or disciplinary hearings in respect of more than 130 Brothers. At least 40 of these cases referred specifically to improper conduct with boys. In the majority of cases, the actual crime being investigated was not detailed, and phrases such as ‘evidenced unsuitable moral character’ or ‘grave misconduct’ or ‘caused scandal’ were used when recommending a dispensation.
6.166The Rome Files were by no means exhaustive. Brothers who left the Congregation before any allegations came to the attention of the authorities would not appear in the Rome Files.
6.167In addition, the Brothers who left following allegations of abuse did not appear in these files. For example, Mr. Brander21 a former Christian Brother, did not feature although he received a Canonical Warning for sexually abusing boys in 1953 and was ultimately dispensed from his vows in the late 1950s.
6.168The Rome Files make it impossible to contend that the issue of abuse and, in particular, sexual abuse of boys was not an urgent and continuing concern to the Congregation. In circumstances where the issue of abuse in institutions had been the object of so much media attention from 1995 onwards, it is surprising that these files were only discovered to the Committee in 2004.
6.169The scale of the problem as revealed in these documents was very serious. When other features of abuse are taken into account, there is reason to believe that the amount of such abuse was substantially greater than is disclosed in these records. First, there was the recidivistic nature of child abuse; secondly, children were frightened and reluctant to speak about it; and thirdly, many adults experienced difficulty in dealing with it.
6.170In light of the investigations that had taken place in other jurisdictions and the evidence contained in their own archives, together with the complaints received, the Leadership Team in this country could be in no doubt that sexual abuse of children in their care had occurred at an unacceptably high level in their institutions.
6.171In the circumstances, although it was legitimate to protest about exaggerated allegations and false claims, which were undoubtedly made in some instances, it was also the case that an attitude of skepticism and distrust of all complaints was unwarranted and unjustified.
Pope Francis missed an opportunity to not repeat his predecessors’ failures on the crimes of clerical sexual abuse of minors.
Last month the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child sharply denounced the Vatican’s failure since 2001 to report data to the United Nations on sexual abuse by priests.
“The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests…”
“The Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”
In response to this harsh critique, the Holy See thought it prudent to correct the UN’s “lack of understanding,” justify its policies, claim the Vatican is “a reality different” than other countries, and complain of moral intervention into “doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church.” This response only served to underscore the Committee’s findings on the Holy See’s conduct- the Vatican places its reputation over concerns for survivors of sexual abuse by priests.
Today Pope Francis again dodged, weaved and wobbled on criticisms of the Vatican’s handling of child sexual abuse and went so far as to defend the Church’s record. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the Holy Father spoke in defense of the Vatican’s actions in dealing with child sexual abuse, saying “no one has done more” to address the issue. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility… Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”
La Chiesa cattolica è forse l’unica istituzione pubblica ad essersi mossa con trasparenza e responsabilità. Nessun altro ha fatto di più. Eppure la Chiesa è la sola ad essere attaccata
The Pope is simply practicing revisionist history. Penn State faced its own Marcial Maciel Degollado or Father Donald McGuire S.J. In Gerry Sandusky, Penn State as an institution faced serious consequences for their conduct. To date, the Holy See has not fired anyone, refuses extradition of a Papal Nuncio wanted for child sexual abuse in the Dominican Republic and is on the verge of canonizing John Paul II who allowed Maciel to go unpunished during his reign.
If the Holy See is going to claim moral authority it will be held to a higher standard, if not by the objective measures of the UN Committee, then indeed by public opinion. In turn, if the Holy See fails miserably to address the documented crisis of clerical sexual abuse of minors, fails to follow the rule of law and continues to put children at risk, the Holy See has earned every bit of criticism. Some simply call that justice.