How does a canonical trial work?
By Krystal Paco, February 08, 2017, Kuam
Archbishop Anthony Apuron is reportedly being tried in the Vatican for allegations of child sex abuse, but he was spotted in Fairfield, California just last month. What's the deal? One expert gives us a better understanding of protocol in Rome.
What can we expect from the ongoing canonical trial in Rome for Archbishop Apuron? Nothing.
"All of this, of course, is done in secret. This is not like any trial you've seen on TV or you've ever experienced. There is no hearing. There is no public airing of this. Everything is done in secret," explained Patrick J. Wall. Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Wall is an advocate, former priest, and canonist intimately familiar with cases of child sex abuse in the church. After all, he's spent years filling-in for accused pedophile priests.
In his most recent blog post, Not-So-Great Expectations for the Canonical Trial of Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron OFM Cap, he breaks down the canonical trial process step-by-step. Once a priest stands accused, investigators or auditors are appointed to gather the facts, which are then presented to Pope Francis, who will decide on administrative or judicial action. Administrative action may result in Apuron being ordered to a life of prayer and penance in a Capuchin monastery far from Guam where he would continue as a bishop, priest, and Capuchin.
As for judicial action, he'd be subject to further investigation and present his defense through his canon lawyer and a decision rendered in secret. Wall continued, "And the third option of course is the nuclear one where he is completely removed as a bishop, removed as a priest, we would call laicization and removed from his Capuchin Franciscan order. So completely taken down and stripped of everything."
Concerned Catholics of Guam president Dave Sablan is praying for the latter. In fact, they're calling it a "De-Apuronization", as he said, "What that means is that we want everything related to archbishop Anthony Apuron removed from the archdiocese - his pictures on the walls of all the school offices, in the chancery, in the parish halls. We want all this pictures removed. We want the KOLG radio station to stop playing all of his songs and his music. It just brings a very sour taste in people's minds and hearts.
"We hope that when all of the evidence is presented, it will show that he really did commit all these egregious acts."
Wall also said, "If that is what happens, it would be a huge historical moment both for the international church and for Guam."
Sablan says the CCOG and the Laity Forward Movement will continue their weekly pickets with signs that demand Apuron be defrocked as Archbishop. Hopefully, the Vatican is listening. "I believe they're listening because this is an injured church and they have an obligation to heal this church," he shared.
The canonical process has no time limit. When Pope Francis renders his decision, it will all be in secret and served on Apuron through the Papal Nuncio and the local bishop where Apuron is living - in this case, Fairfield, where KUAM has confirmed Apuron is registered to vote.