"Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious." - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, 1972
THE recently organized Concerned Catholics of Guam group plans to circulate a petition to collect names and signatures of people who support the organization’s mission and objectives. The group aims to collect 2,000 signatures by Jan. 3, 2015, one day before three high-level Church leaders from the Vatican are expected to visit Guam.
The petition is the latest development amid several connected controversies surrounding the local archdiocese.
The group posted a blank printable petition sheet and their objectives online. They aim to target local parishioners ages 16 and older for support.
In a short announcement posted on its website, the organization said it has “stepped forward to offer assistance in resolving the divisive misunderstandings that currently plague our Catholic parish communities” and invited the community to endorse their cause.
The group listed 15 objectives it plans to tackle. The issues are related to the clergy, laity, parish affairs and the archdiocesan affairs. Seven of the 15 objectives focus on more involvement, strengthening Catholic traditions and amending the archdiocese’s current policies.
The organization is calling for financial transparency, a change in the policy for handling sex abuse complaints, representation for the church’s real property and for an evaluation of the archdiocese’s management, along with other objectives.
The new group organized independently from the archdiocese but consists of active parishioners from around the island. On Dec. 9, President Greg Perez, Vice President Dave Sablan, Secretary Vangie Lujan and members Gil Shinohara and Tommy Tanaka announced their formal organization and intent to investigate the church. Ultimately, the group said, it wants to resolve the divide among Guam Catholics.
Another member, Deacon Steve Martinez, faces censure from Archbishop Anthony Apuron for his participation in the group. Martinez is listed as treasurer of the organization and has said he would prefer not to cut ties with the group. He is also a deacon of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña.
Perez and Martinez told the Variety that the group asked the archbishop for a meeting after it announced its organization but the archbishop has yet to indicate whether he will meet with the group. Martinez said that two weeks ago, they emailed a letter to Apuron requesting a meeting but only received a reply from spokesman Rev. Adrian Cristobal acknowledging receipt of the email.
Apuron has kept silent about the group since their organization. Apuron’s spokesman said the archbishop did not place a canonical censure on Martinez and opted not to further comment on the matter. Martinez, however, said he is facing a censure and that Apuron has charged him with violating Canon law. Martinez said under the religious vow of obedience he took at the start of his deaconship, he is not able to disclose what sections of Canon law Apuron said he violated.
Since he cannot share the charges even with a Canon lawyer, he said he feels stripped of his ability to have adequate representation.