Canonical Trial Into Guam Archbishop Apuron Nearing Next Phase

Discovery period wrapping up; process could be completed by summer

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 9, 2017) – Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and the Vatican tribunal is wrapping up the discovery phase and is entering another phase in the groundbreaking canonical trial of Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron.

John Toves, the first to publicly accuse Apuron in 2014 of sexual abuse of a minor, testified before the Vatican tribunal at the archbishop’s residence in San Francisco on Monday (Tuesday, Guam time), about Apuron’s alleged sexual abuse of Toves’ cousin while the cousin was an altar boy at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña.

Toves said the Rev. Justin M. Wachs, who serves as the Vatican court reporter for the Apuron trial, told Toves he’s the last accuser to present testimony.

“He did inform me that I’d be the last one to testify in person. I want to underscore the fact that I respect the process,” Toves said. “It’s a shame that Apuron had not allowed me to see him. He could have told me I was right or I was wrong, years ago.”

Toves’ cousin hasn't come forward, but Toves said he hopes the Vatican will find Apuron guilty and defrock him.

“With me being the last to testify, they’d be able to prepare for the proceedings for judgment according to their procedures. That’s what I was told,” Toves said Tuesday by phone. “I do hope Apuron will never return to the island and that the church continues its healing. I also want to state how brave the other victims are because I can’t imagine what they had been put through.”

The discovery phase of the canonical trial is where both sides depose witnesses and interview experts. The process took months.

Toves said there were only five people in the room when he testified, and only Burke asked questions. He said if the other canon lawyers had questions, they would write them down on a piece of paper and hand it to Burke.

The Vatican tribunal traveled to Guam, Hawaii, California and Arizona to receive live testimony from witnesses, including former altar boy Walter Denton, who accused Apuron of raping him at a church rectory when he was 13 in 1977. Former altar boys Roy Quintanilla and Roland Sondia also testified Apuron sexually abused them also in the 1970s in Agat. 

Doris Concepcion, the mother of a deceased former altar boy, Joseph “Sonny” Quinata, also testified in person. Concepcion’s other son, John Michael "Champ" Quinata, sent written testimony alleging his deceased brother was raped by Apuron when his brother was 9 years old in Agat.

Denton, Sondia and Quintanilla said they were told the trial could be completed by early summer.

Ramon De Plata, a former Chalan Pago altar boy, on Tuesday sent written testimony to the Vatican tribunal, according to Concerned Catholics of Guam President David Sablan, who helped De Plata with the submission process.

De Plata, in public statements and in a lawsuit filed, alleged that when he was about 10 years old, he saw Antonio Cruz, a now deceased priest, and Apuron, who then was a seminarian, simultaneously sexually abusing an altar boy on the same bed in 1964.

“Mr. De Plata’s written testimony will certainly add to the character of Archbishop Apuron, his mental well-being and his tendency for such heinous, sexual dalliances,” Sablan said.

Sablan said De Plata volunteered to submit written testimony and sought Concerned Catholics' help. Sablan said Concerned Catholics contacted Wachs, and Wachs told them how to go about submitting the testimony.

Canon law expert and former priest Patrick Wall earlier said the canonical trial discovery phase is followed by the trial and determination by a panel of clerical judges, with penalties up to and including dismissal from the clerical state.

Pope Francis placed Apuron on leave on June 6 after former altar boys publicly accused Apuron of molesting or raping them when he was parish priest in Agat, in the 1970s. 

Pacific Daily News
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