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.