Pacific Daily News
A group of Catholics is raising concerns about a recent decision to send a priest to Canada to study canon law. The priest defied an archbishop’s decision to reassign him to Umatac and has been accused of a string of alleged misconduct throughout the years. Canon law governs the Catholic Church.
The Concerned Catholics of Guam Inc. said Father Adrian Cristobal is “one of the most despicable clerics” in the Archdiocese of Agana for his conduct.
A few days before he was to leave Guam, Cristobal said that his being sent to study canon law is “nothing out of the ordinary.” The Concerned Catholics disagrees.
“Father Adrian Cristobal should be disciplined, not rewarded, for lies he has perpetrated that has harmed the Church on Guam. He is one of the priests at the center of this division within our Church,” Concerned Catholics president David Sablan said in a Jan. 10 letter to the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council.
The council, which is comprised of 11 priests and other clergy, serves as an advisory group to Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes.
The archdiocese announced that Byrnes decided to send Cristobal to study canon law in Ottawa, Canada.
Sablan told Pacific Daily News Wednesday that for a priest on Guam to study canon law in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada is suspect.
“Why study there of all places? Why not in the U.S.? There is a Redemptoris Mater Seminary near Toronto, Ontario, just south of Ottawa,” Sablan said. On Guam, many Catholics do not agree with the ways of the Neocatechumenal Way, which has controlled the formation of priests at the multimillion Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yona. The Archdiocese of Agana acknowledged last year the issues associated with the Neocatechumenal Way on Guam and the Yona seminary’s control and ownership.
In September, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai reassigned priests to new villages and positions, including Cristobal, who was reassigned as pastor of San Dionisio Church in Umatac after years of being pastor of San Vicente Ferrer Catholic Church in Barrigada.
Cristobal, in an Oct. 4 letter to parishioners, said his canonical rights were violated because he was not afforded the right to due process before he was reassigned to another village. The changes were supposed to take effect Sept. 30 but he did not move to his new parish assignment.
The Concerned Catholics, in its 10-page letter to the Council, said sending Cristobal to Canada, in the face of his insubordination after Hon’s assigning him to Umatac seemed not only to condone Cristobal’s misdeeds, but reward him at churchgoers’ expense.
Cristobal, according to Concerned Catholics, cited the need to research canon law to contest his new assignment.
“Hence, two months later, he is being sent to study canon law, the better to contest his assignment. How absurd is this? This is a slap in the face of the people of Umatac, who at this point, probably don’t want Cristobal for their pastor anyway, as he seems to view them to be below his station,” Sablan told the Council.
The Concerned Catholics posed four questions to the Council, including the justification for a decision to send Cristobal to study canon law, the process in which Cristobal and other priests went through before he was selected to study canon law, how Cristobal was admitted to the university so quickly, and whether the Council truly believes Cristobal is deserving of this opportunity over all his fellow priests.
The group said during Archbishop Anthony Apuron’s reign, priests were not given the opportunity to pursue higher education no matter how faithful and meritorious these priests were. The also said sending Cristobal to study canon law is a slap in the face of Guam’s faithful Catholics.
“Proceeding on the basis that Archbishop Byrnes acted out of nescience rather than malice, we are wondering if the Presbyteral Council provided him with advice on this matter? Archbishop Byrnes should have been advised not to make this blunder of rewarding one of the most despicable clerics in the Archdiocese for his misconducts,” Sablan said.
Concerned Catholics gave the Council a long list of Cristobal’s alleged lies sent to the media, many of them on behalf of Apuron.
Apuron is now facing a canonical trial at the Vatican, church officials said, after he was accused of sexually abusing altar boys in Agat in the 1970s. Concerned Catholics, along with the Laity Forward Movement, has been calling for Apuron to be defrocked for his alleged sex abuse of children, ill-treatment of priests and parishes and his ties to the Neocatechumenal Way, among other things.
The Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council has yet to respond to requests for comment on the Concerned Catholics letter as of press time.
No. 1: Fall of Archbishop Anthony Apuron
Guam’s Catholic community was rocked by a series of sex abuse allegations, questions about control of the Yona seminary and public protests against church leadership during 2016. While discontent in the church had been brewing for several years, Archbishop Anthony Apuron remained in control of the archdiocese until former altar boys stepped forward and publicly accused him of sexual abuse.
In early May of 2016, full-page ads sponsored by Concerned Catholics of Guam appeared in local newspapers, urging anyone who had been sexually abused by clergy to come forward. The ads listed specific dates and churches, which corresponded with Apuron’s service locations.
In May, former altar boy Roy Quintanilla stood in front of the chancery office and said he was 12 in 1976 when Apuron molested him during a sleepover at the rectory in Agat. At the time, Apuron was parish priest at Mount Carmel Church. After Quintanilla’s story hit the news, Arizona resident Doris Concepcion read about the accusation. For 11 years she had been haunted by what her son, former altar boy Joseph A. Quinata, told her as he was being wheeled into a surgery he wouldn’t survive.
“There was Roy, and it’s like, I have to do something. I have to step up and let them know what’s going on here,” Concepcion said. She said in 2005, in the last conversation they ever had, her son told her he was molested by Apuron.
Apuron responded to the allegations by declaring the Concerned Catholics of Guam a prohibited society, banning the faithful from associating with the group and threatening lawsuits against his accusers. A day later, the Vatican announced Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai would be the temporary administrator of the archdiocese. Apuron sent a video from Rome, posted on the archdiocese website, praising Hon’s arrival.
Hours later, another Arizona resident, former altar boy Walter Denton, appeared at a press conference in front of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña. He said Apuron raped him when he was an altar boy. The following week, former altar boy Roland Sondia appeared at a similar press conference. He described being selected from a group of altar boys during a sleepover and being molested by Apuron.
Meanwhile, lawmakers were considering a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against perpetrators of sexual assault against children. In the following weeks, people came forward to tell how they witnessed abuse or were abused themselves. Among the accused was retired priest Louis Brouillard, who later admitted to abusing altar boys on Guam. Senators approved the legislation and the governor signed it into law, within a few months more than a dozen lawsuits had been filed against the archdiocese.
The church’s problems extended beyond the sex abuse allegations. In 2011, Apuron had signed a deed restriction allowing a valuable piece of property in Yona to be held indefinitely by the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. This was done over the objections of the archdiocese finance counsel, a group Apuron later dissolved. Hon said the pope ordered Apuron to rescind the deed restriction more than once, but Apuron refused.
Even as Apuron is facing a canonical trial in Rome, he still has loyal followers on the island. Many were, like Apuron, followers of the Neocatechumenal Way, an organization within the Catholic church that had been at odds with traditional Catholics on the island.
The discord led to Samoan students being withdrawn from the seminary, and the Carmelite nuns left the island.
Eventually, many of Apuron’s actions were rescinded, including the seminary deed restriction. Popular priests he’d removed were reinstated. In November, Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes was named as Apuron’s successor, and he called on the community to begin healing.