July 30, 2014
Dear Mr Rohr,
My attention was recently piqued by separate verifiable sources about the Archbishop's public allegation of an improper relationship between Fr Matthew Blockley and I while I was in Manila these past months. It is true I separated from the US Air Force due to my mother's condition. I wanted to spend time with her, and Archbishop Apuron granted the leave. During this time I was commuting between Naga City and Manila, and Fr Blockley was gracious enough to offer lodging while in Manila. Upon hearing this allegation, I was bemused, befuddled and flummoxed by the questionable comedic intent and resolved to ignore it despite some urging from others to demand an apology from the perpetrator.
Archbishop Apuron knew of my friendship with Fr Blockley since 1991 when Seminarian Blockley first set foot on the island. As a young priest then I have come to treasure this friendship as warm camaraderie with a brother about to get ordained himself. He has seen me as a mentor, and had asked me to vest him at his diaconate in Rome and his priesthood in Chalan Kanoa. There was nothing improper at all, and our families are very close as a result of this friendship. Talk about a bridge that spanned the Pacific and Europe! Now both families are distressed by a careless remark.
I do not expect an apology forthcoming, nor must I demand any apology. Genuine remorse for besmirching a person's treasured reputation comes in due time after parties have had ample time to reflect on one's actions, intentional or not. I believe that the truth always finds its rightful place - front and center - whether human comprehension comes to terms with it or not. We want sooner rather than later, but life does not always work that way. By the same token, one cannot demand respect, one earns it.
This allegation is unnecesary distraction from real matters affecting the Archdiocese of Agana. I come back to this my home Archdiocese still full of hope that all the pains, hurts, insults, allegations and damages will be transformed into a stronger Church, especially when change is empowered from the grassroots level. Please be assured that the majority of my brother priests, deacons and religious sisters are fervently staying within our lane to bring about a satisfactory resolution. We are also hurting, and desire passionately like you to bring about a solution that maintains respect for the dignity of every individual. Yet our hands are tied when our efforts are not reciprocated. In the end, it is our dignity that we all will present to the Almighty Father. Devoid of basic decency we remain naked and ugly, unfazed and unmoved by the gracious offer of mercy that a loving God offers.
I am with you in prayer despite uncharitable remarks like this. This allegation is merely a muted whisper to me, compared to my deployment experiences in Iraq and Kuwait as a chaplain. There I have held the hands of our boys who have turned into men overnight. In the silence of o'dark thirty hours I have listened to their pain in words so vulnerable my heart broke multiple times. They shared from the marrow of their bones that which they are unable to express in the bravado of the morning light and in the company of their comrades. I have often arrived in my tent office converted into a morgue full of body bags and told, "Sorry, Father, but we have no more place to put our fallen patriots." We have repatriated these heroes in countless solemnly moving ceremonies. I have prayed with commanders for the strength to lead in spite of their personal struggles. I have sat with medics too sleepy after 36 hours tending to the wounded yet have to sit through staff reporting. I have been ask to check for external injuries, tagged and collected personal belongings and washed blood off the floors in the emergency rooms. I have fielded calls from widows and mothers, asking if their husband or son received the viaticum before expiring. I have shared coffee with security forces patrolling the wire perimeter fence at night. I have comforted a troop fresh out of tech school whose hands and both feet were amputated due to an RPG, and prayed with transcom whose whole convoy was ambushed transporting jet fuel. I can go on and on.
No, Tim, this allegation has no bearing on me at all. These brave men and women have tranformed me into a real man who does not hide behind the fluff of his own press. Their strength and bravery have become my staff and guide, along with the constant cross of Christ in my heart. Boys that hide beneath the comfort of their desks, the embroidery of their dresses and the height of their hats or the glitter of their rings, or the initials after their names do not faze me at all. I can honestly say that the real friends who surround me are ready to defend me to my dying breath. My friends are not opportunists who will scatter like roaches when light is shone on them. My friends do not look out for number one, or ask themselves, "what's in it for me." I say to those who will stain my reputation, bring it on...just refrain from quoting Canon Law simply as a feeble attempt to "widen your phylacteries." On our last class in seminary Canon Law, my professor who is now bishop of San Jose, Ca. said, "After all is said and done, what really matters is the law of the heart." I have taken that most important lesson to heart even now. There is a saying in Spanish, "Da me con quien andas y te dire' quien eres". Tell me who you your friends are, and I will tell you who you are. Tell me also what you have done for the least of our brothers and sisters, and we can at least be on a level playing field. Until then, don't even...
Fr Efren Adversario
In Arduis Fideli