Saturday, July 27, 2013


On her K57 radio show (Tuesday, July 23), host, Patti Arroyo, suggested a possible ulterior motive for the firing of Fr. Gofigan from his Dededo parish post and his otherwise rather clearly implied direction to go find another diocese.

In her interview with Fr. Gofigan - and independent of any comment made by him - Arroyo suggested that the action taken against Fr. Paul was not about the status of the registered sex-offender but about the desire of the Archbishop to implement the Neo-Catechumenal Way into Guam's largest parish, a move Gofigan is said to have resisted.

While Arroyo did not mention Fr. Gofigan's resistance to the establishment of the NCW in his parish, it has been commonly known for awhile that he did not favor it. It is also commonly known that the Archbishop is not only a strong advocate of "the Way", but is a practicing member, "walking" as it is called.

A few days later, on her Friday show, which she co-hosts with Ray Gibson and Travis Coffman, Arroyo was much more adamant about the whole episode being about Fr. Gofigan's resistance to the NCW. (A recording of the show is not currently available.)

Coffman had brought up the news that SNAP (Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests), a national organization which had come to Guam a few years ago, had come out in support of the Archbishop's actions against Fr. Gofigan. The conversation then gravitated towards the subject of clerical sexual abuse in general. Arroyo then asserted that the whole thing had nothing to do with the sex-offender but was "all about the Neo-Catechumenal Way."

At that point I called in, not to discuss the NCW, but to clarify the crime for which the registered sex-offender was convicted: the rape of an adult. This clarification is critical to maintain because of the hot issue of sexual molestation of minors by clergy.  For whereas the general public may be more forgiving of a man who committed a rape 32 years ago, the public is not as likely to be as forgiving of a man who sexually molested a minor no matter how many years ago - as recent events have shown.

(Why the issue of child molestation continues to crop up in this affair is something I'll comment on separately.)

I also commented on the show that while a registry exists for sex-offenders, there is no such registry for convicted murderers or any other category of criminal who - given the reason behind a sex-offender registry - could be considered every bit as much a threat to parishioners or the general public, if not more. In effect, had Fr. Gofigan had hired a paroled murderer, it appears there may have never been a problem.

At that point, Arroyo again asserted that the whole issue was about the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and "didn't I agree?" I answered that she appeared to know more about that than I did. However, she continued to press me for my awareness about the division in the Archdiocese over the NCW.

I replied that I was very aware of the division. (I had addressed the division in 2008 when I became aware of a protest* mounted in front of the Cathedral during its 50th anniversary. See Honest Thoughts on the Neo-Catechumenal Way - a post which continues to get a high amount of traffic.)

However, I did not agree or disagree with Arroyo's assertion. The short of it is this:

It is well known that the Archbishop has been heavily advocating "the Way" in this Archdiocese for the better part of a decade. Equally well known is the resistance of some pastors to the NCW which allegedly includes Fr. Gofigan, who, until now, pastored the largest parish on the island.

Also, coming to light is a disagreement over the formation of seminarians who do not want to be formed within the context of the NCW. Guam's seminary (Redemptoris Mater) is known to be the seat of the NCW on Guam and it is easy to assume that any seminarian passing through it will be formed in the manner of NCW traditions and ends. I don't know this for sure, but as stated, it is easy to assume this and most due.

It has come to light that Fr. Gofigan, in responding to the desire of certain young men desiring priesthood but who do not want to be formed within the NCW, had been seeking alternatives for their formation. This was thought to be in opposition to the will of the Archbishop who apparently is desirous of having all local seminarians be formed for the priesthood at Redemptoris Mater.

A recent event involving a seminarian who objected to NCW formation and Fr. Gofigan's reported support of the seminarian seems to have fueled the fire that also led to the revoking of Fr. Gofigan's position as Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese along with the demand for his resignation as pastor. News travels fast on Guam and this may have been why Arroyo, apparently independent of any comment made by Fr. Gofigan, zeroed in on the NCW.

In any event, these divisions do exist and are getting exponentially worse. Many supporters of the NCW simply align any and all resistance to "the Way" with disobedience to the Archbishop. Opponents of "the Way" claim the Archbishop is not just a supporter of "the Way", but is "one of them", and thus no longer represents all Catholics on Guam.

The Archbishop is in fact "one of them": a member of one of the communities. And while whether or not he still represents all Catholics on Guam can be argued, the perception by many is that he does not because he is "in it."

Nothing stated here is new of course. This has been the talk for almost a decade. Many in the NCW simply count the opposition as necessary persecutions for the eventual "triumph" of the NCW. And the opponents feel they are being persecuted because they do not wish their parish to be broken into communities and forced into practices they reject.

The word "triumph" is not used loosely. In a conversation with a very knowledgeable priest within the NCW, I was informed that it is the belief within the NCW that traditional parish-based Catholicism is "broken" and that the small community model of the NCW is the future of the Catholic Church universally. While we all can profess the same Faith, the contention appears to be over whether which model will triumph.

Personally, I don't completely disagree with this priest's analysis. The parish model is very broken as evidenced by the mass exodus by Catholics from Catholicism altogether. However, I would contend that the parish model broke itself when the parish became about the parish and not about what the parish is supposed to be about. (I won't go further here on that point.) The small community model may be part of the answer, or it may be the answer itself. However, if that is to be the case then evangelism not ostracism is what is needed.

This leads to the final point on this post. As we know, Fr. Gofigan was not just relieved of his duties, he was, in effect, banished from Guam. The fact that the Archbishop added "if it is your wish" does not soften that fact. It is the equivalent of me telling my son that where he'll sleep and eat from now on is "open to discussion" and if he doesn't like it he can get the hell out.

A priest, especially an incardinated one, is the spiritual son of his bishop in a much more significant and material way than average lay persons are the spiritual sons and daughters of their priests and bishops. However, Fr. Paul's banishment goes beyond just the spiritual. He also placed his material well-being in the hands of his bishop upon his ordination. His ability to work, live and eat depends greatly upon his status as a practicing priest within a diocese, serving at the will of a bishop.

Unlike a son who I may have banished from my home, Fr. Gofigan can't just go find another place to live and pick up a job somewhere to make ends meet. Though technically he could, Fr. Gofigan is a priest and is a priest forever, yet has no ability to function fully as a priest apart from the "permission" of a bishop.

I also brought this up on Arroyo's show on Friday. For whereas the people of Guam may well have deferred to the Archbishop's decision to remove Gofigan from his posts regardless of the circumstances, the community of Guam, if it is as family-centered as we are told it is, will not take well to the spiritual, material, and geographical banishment of a son by his father, especially when there is no possibility of the son, however prodigal he may or may not be, to return to the father.

I will also state, at least in some defense of the Archbishop, that while he did in fact sign the letter to Fr. Gofigan, it was most likely composed by others, and it wouldn't be the first time a bishop, or even a Pope, authorized an action for which the repercussions had not been fully thought out.

Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, it is a matter of great regret for every Catholic that this could not have been handled more as a private family matter between a father and his son. However, it is now too late for that, and all of us Catholics will be getting lessons in canon law and the process of hierarchical recourse.

*The protest was mounted in response to an ultimatum given to three parish priests to comply with the Archbishop's wishes to cooperate with the Neo-Catechumenal Way or leave the diocese.


  1. As a Santa Barbara parishioner, I am worried that the Archbishop's actions are really a means to ensure that the Neo are brought into our parish. For many years, we have resisted their attempts to infiltrate SB. Some members in the Neo communities have told SB parishioners that they've been "gunning" for us since we are the biggest parish on island. If it is God's will that this be done, WHY are human actions being orchestrated to make it happen? Is it truly God's will then?

    It's interesting to note that the priest who has replaced Fr. Paul as Vocational Director is a Neo priest. Thus, he is charged with those seeking to enter the priesthood. What better way to steer those who are discerning? Why should these young men be forced into a faith formation (Neo) that may not be what they desire or are called to do?

    When the dust has settled, and if Fr. Paul is permanently replaced as our pastor by a Neo priest, the Archbishop's true motives will be crystal clear.

    As Pope Francis so clearly stated during World Youth Day, the Catholic church is OPEN TO ALL. Unlike the Neo, you do NOT have to be catechized into the Way to be welcomed.

  2. We Should Seek Another Archbishop We Dont Need Someone Who Think's Everything And Everyone is Wrong Because of The Paths They Have Chosen I Think The Reason For Many Catholics Seeking Other Religion Is Due To The Handling Of The Catholic Churches And The Archbishop Seems To Me That The Archbishop Is Well Aware Someone Like Fr Paul Gofigan Will Take His Job

    1. To be a bishop is not simply a job that you can just apply for or to get elected. The appointment of bishops in the Catholic Church is a complicated process. Outgoing bishops, neighbouring bishops, the faithful, the apostolic nuncio, various members of the Roman Curia, and the Holy Father all have a role in the selection.

  3. About the Neocatechumenal Way

  4. Just a comment on the "brokenness" of the current parish model. The reason that I see for this problem is the lackluster homilies that are being given, watered down truth, because we don't want to offend anyone.
    Also while the Eucharist IS the source and summit of our faith, it is not enough to just attend mass on Sunday.
    These lay ecclesiastical communities (and no matter what anyone says the NCW is one of them) are supposed to support and augment what we receive in the Eucharist not form a separate, exclusive community. I believe that Mother church understands the NCW to be a way to bring back the lost sheep, so how come they are shopping in the church?
    Just a thought...

  5. I have been rereading this article and subsequent comments. Having known father Paul for the better of 35 years, I know he is a profoundly honest and dedicated person, who chose to become a priest on Guam after a long hiatus on the mainland, in order to serve his people and make a difference in their lives. While he is too prudish to put forward his own achievements prior to dedicating his life to the priesthood, father Gofigan has had a storied academic and professional experience that surely has prepared him better than most for the challenges lying ahead. I cherish the long and fruitful talks we have had in the past on the complexity of ethics in the workplace and the different cases we had been exposed to. I am sure nobody at the chancery has this level of courage, knowledge or political acumen. Judging by the ill written and timed communications from the Archbishop, it would appear that they are well over their head.
    On the front of the NCW it is interesting to note that their appearance on Guam and the subsequent heavy handed push by their backers on the island coincide with their "manu militari" expulsions both from Korea and Japan by the local Archbishops of these countries. Soon after these events they "retreated" to Guam where they found unconditional support from Archbishop Anthony Apuron. This is also when a series of strange transactions started occurring with entities close to the Archdiocese and/or the Archbishop that have raise questions and the interest of several groups outside the island, both within the Church, and outside of it.
    It would appear that Father Paul poorly executed expulsion from his parish and the attempts to silence him have had the opposite effect.
    The arrogance and self gratification of the staff at the Chancery have turned this otherwise non-event (per-se) into a political and administrative fiasco for the Archbishop, but also by extension (in view of their close proximity at every level) for the NCW.
    Rome is now in the middle of this fray, and whole sections of the wall of silence built by the Archbishop and his minions are crumbling under the battering rams of the multiple revelations that have come as a result of this affair. Mrs Arroyo understood well, and was able to lift part of the curtain that subsequently led to the widening of the debate started here and in the parishes. This story is now followed with passion by Catholics here on Guam and in the Marianas, but also in the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. People are aware of it in the USA with dozens of priest following daily, three former Archbishops (one being father Paul's former mentor) and at least one Cardinal. I know first hand that this story is also followed in France, Spain and Belgium as well as in Italy. I have been contacted by two Priors from Catalunya for more details. Persons of great renown at the Catholic University in Louvain are also eager for details.
    The Catholic faithful on Guam should take heart in knowing that they are not alone, that this is shining light where there was only darkness, and that despite the injustices, the truth will prevail, thanks to their courage and their prayers.
    We also owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr Rohr and his family for his dedication to the truth and to a more just and fair Church that will serve and not be served.

    1. Copied our comment as a post. Thank you for sharing it.