A Vatican tribunal has confirmed the child abuse conviction of former Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron. He was accused of molesting altar boys in the 1970s, but the Vatican has not released the exact details of his crimes.
The Vatican on Thursday said it had upheld the child abuse conviction of former Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron and formally removed him from office.
The canonical trial appeal confirmed 73-year-old Apuron's guilt for "delicts against the sixth commandment with minors" and sentence of removal from office, as well as a ban on living in the US Pacific territory, a statement said.
The ruling handed down on February 7 confirmed a judgment from March 2018. Apuron has denied the charges and says he is a victim of slander.
Read more: Sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church
The Vatican has not yet made public the exact details of the accusations against Apuron. He had been accused of molesting altar boys when he was a parish priest during the 1970s. The Holy See said Apuron had been found guilty of some of the accusations against him.
The allegations against Apuron first emerged in 2016 when one of the victims, a former altar boy, came forward when he was in his 50s and other victims followed.
Criminal charges not possible
Despite the ruling, Apuron cannot be criminally charged because the offenses took place as long as 30-40 years ago, meaning the statute of limitations has expired. Apuron had held the position of archbishop on the island since 1986.
Apuron was not expelled from the priesthood and retains the title of bishop, but he can no longer use the bishop's insignia — the crozier, pectoral cross and miter.
The Vatican also said the judgment can no longer be appealed.
Dozens of cases involving other priests on Guam have since been revealed, and the archdiocese was facing over $100 million in civil lawsuits when it filed for bankruptcy protection in January.
A 'measure of solace'
In a statement, Apuron said he was "deeply saddened" by the decision, adding "I believe that the facts and evidence presented demonstrated my total innocence."
His replacement, Archbishop Michael Byrnes, a former assistant bishop of Detroit, hailed the verdict as needed closure to a "long and painful period for our church."
"The victims, survivors and their families who have suffered greatly can have some measure of solace that justice has been rendered in the church's tribunal process," Michael Byrnes said in a statement.
Guam's population of about 170,000 is predominantly Catholic.
The Catholic Church has faced allegations of child sexual abuse in much of the world, with abuse scandals emerging in countries including Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States and Poland.
The Church has had to pay billions of dollars in damages to victims, and some churches have had to close.
The Vatican has been embroiled in the scandals with the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, who was sentenced to six years in jail for abusing two boys in his native Australia.
He had served as the Vatican treasurer and a member of the pope's innermost council of cardinals until his conviction last year.
law/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)