As Vatican tribunal hears archbishop’s accuser, Catholics show support

Roland Sondia of Agat wipes tears during a press conference at which he publicly accused Archbishop Anthony Apuron of sexual abuse in the 1970s. Sondia took his allegations public at a press conference outside the Cathedral Pastoral Center in Hagåtña on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. Sondia says he was molested by then-Father Apuron when he was 15-years-old and serving as an altar boy at the Catholic church in Agat.

HAGATNA, Guam — Vatican representatives on Thursday morning are scheduled to receive testimony from a former altar boy allegedly sexually assaulted by Archbishop Anthony Apuron in the 1970s. Groups of Catholics plan to be there to show their support for Roland Sondia and other clergy sex abuse survivors.

Sondia is currently an employee of the Pacific Daily News.

“We are seeking justice for Mr. Sondia, other clergy abuse victims and the whole of Guam. We would like to show the Vatican our mistrust of Apuron, and we hope the Vatican will speed up the trial and defrock Apuron,” David Sablan, president of Concerned Catholics of Guam, said Wednesday.

Apuron is undergoing a canonical trial, a process which started after former altar boys, including Sondia, came forward last spring to accuse Apuron of raping or sexually abusing them when he was parish priest in Agat.

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Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, in a one-page Feb. 3 decree, requested Sondia’s presence at the Archdiocesan Chancery “for the purpose of giving said testimony.”.

Burke fulfills the “office of judge,” on behalf of the Rev. Gerhard Ludwig Muller, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has oversight over canonical trials of bishops. Vatican policy dictates that only the Vatican can investigate bishops and archbishops who are accused of sexual abuse.

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Burke is a prominent canon lawyer, a leader of the Catholic Church’s conservative wing, and former cardinal prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura or the Vatican’s supreme court.

A promoter of justice, the Vatican’s equivalent of a prosecutor, and procurator-advocate, who serves as counsel for Apuron in the canonical trial, were also summoned Thursday morning “so that they may assist at the reception of the testimony in question.”.

“It is probable that the church knew or may have known as early as 2008 of other problems about Apuron, beyond financial management, other violations of canon law and sexual abuse, but it took so long for them to be dealt with. It seems everything is coming to a head,” Sablan said.

Apuron last year was accused of rape or sexual abuse by Sondia, Roy Quintanilla, Walter Denton and Doris Concepcion, the mother of deceased altar boy “Sonny” Quinata. At the time, his leadership decisions already had been questioned by local Catholics, including giving a seminary control over church property valued at about $40 million, according to news files.

In 2014, another former altar boy publicly accused Apuron of molesting the man’s cousin, but the cousin didn’t come out publicly.

Lou Klitzkie, president of Laity Forward Movement, called on community members to join them in showing their support to Sondia and other clergy abuse victims by gathering outside the Chancery in time for the 10 a.M. Closed-door hearing.

“We will be there to show our support for Mr. Sondia and other clergy abuse survivors. We will carry our signs ‘Defrock Apuron’, ‘Apuron Out’ and ‘I Love My Catholic Church’ so that the Vatican officials see for themselves our sentiments,” said Klitzkie, whose group has been holding peaceful pickets in front of the cathedral-basilica every Sunday at 9 a.M. With the same messages.

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Besides undergoing a canonical trial, Apuron is also facing civil suits.

At least 17 clergy sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed against a handful of Catholic clergy, including Apuron, and the Archdiocese of Agana. The plaintiffs are former altar boys, all represented by Attorney David Lujan of the law firm Lujan and Wolff. Each lawsuit demands a jury trial and minimum $5 million in damages.

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