Many have expressed the sentiment contained in the following comment:
What can we do? What can we do? In fact, these are questions I have been hearing for more than two decades. Archbishop Apuron has always appeared to be untouchable, even by Rome.
He has proven to be very effective in getting rid of the opposition, even (I believe) getting the former nuncio (Archbishop Balvo) kicked out of the Pacific after Balvo told him in a March 7, 2012 letter that he as bishop "is not free to do as he pleases."
Within the year, and two years shy of completing his second term as Apostolic Delegate to the Pacific, Balvo was suddenly transferred to Kenya, and Archbishop Apuron was said to have been laughing about Balvo being exiled to "deepest, darkest, Africa."
Obviously Archbishop Apuron does not have such influence in Rome, but Kiko Arugello does - as evidenced by the amazing amount of things he has been able to get away with including telling Pope Benedict to his face that he had no intention of conforming his communion rite to the liturgical books as ordered in December of 2005.
Catholic Bishops already wield an extraordinary amount of power over people's lives, certainly by virtue of their apostolic commission, but also by virtue of a weak governmental structure which makes every bishop in the world, more than 5000, accountable to only one boss, the pope, who obviously cannot keep up personally with each and every bishop.
Roman Congregations and nunciatures help to oversee some of this, but ultimately the pope depends on the bishops themselves to be the guardians of the church, not the diplomats.
Archbishop Apuron is further protected from scrutiny by distance and geographic isolation and by the fact that Guam is an island with no simple access to a neighboring diocese for those wishing to flee. He is also protected by the unique hybrid of episcopal conference affiliations which makes us part of the U.S. conference when he wants to be and part of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific when he doesn't.
In short, there is almost ZERO accountability, and a careful study of the aforementioned letter from Archbishop Balvo will show that Archbishop Apuron has had little regard even for Rome.
That said, what do we do?
Well, we have already done much. People talk about "coming together" all the time, but on this blog, we have. Of course we had some help from the archbishop himself by his own going to the media and by his very public dressing down of Fr. Paul and Msgr. James.
Had Archbishop Apuron handled his differences with these men quietly and professionally then there probably never would have been a JungleWatch and eventually an apostolic visit. But he did not.
There is no doubt that the public outrage over the mistreatment of these two priests, regardless of the charges against them, had almost everything to do with the eventual occasion of the apostolic visit. The Fr. Paul and Msgr. James episodes caught the attention of the press and the press caught the attention of the nuncio and the nuncio caught the attention of Rome.
Of course, I humbly take the blame for keeping all of it "in the news" even when it wasn't. But it wasn't just me, as anyone can see, this blog is more comment-driven than driven by my posts. In just about 18 months, I have published 21,317 comments with another 1,316 left unpublished. And of course that counter ticked up to nearly two million pretty fast.
We can be quite sure that Kiko, who always has eyes and ears in the deepest recesses of the Vatican walls, was already aware of what was coming, and probably told Archbishop Apuron to get himself a personal appointment with the pope and be sure to bring chocolates.
We can assume this because Archbishop Apuron met with Pope Francis on November 21, 2014 and despite all the feel good stuff put out about the visit by the chancery, it appears there was some pretty bad crap going on too.
As we have already noted, a Vatican news agency reported that the visit included an inquiry into the Wadeson affair, and our friend Frenchie, whose intel we have learned to trust, told us that the visit "did not go well for Apuron." Thank you, Frenchie, and yes he really is from France.
We "know it did not go well for Apuron", because on December 11, 2014, only a few days after his return to Guam, Archbishop Apuron received a notice from Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect for the Congregation which oversees this diocese, stating:
"the Roman Pontiff considers it opportune that this Missionary Dicastery makes a Pastoral Visit to the local Church in Guam with the hope of fostering reconciliation and mutual understanding in the Archdiocese."
(Note that it says "in the Archdiocese" NOT between the Vatican and the Archdiocese as it had been spun.)
In light of Archbishop Apuron's photo-op with the Roman Pontiff, published only a few days previously, it appears that it may have been at the meeting with Apuron that the Pope decided "it opportune" to make a Pastoral Visit. I'm just guessing, but maybe the pope, in addition to being humble, is also "wise as a serpent".
We saw how the chancery tried to spin it, telling us everything from it being a visit to explore the possibility of hosting a papal visit to a congratulatory visit in which the Roman visitors wanted to see for themselves the amazing accomplishments of Archbishop Apuron. "We are very happy, very happy", said the Chancellor, "very happy."
However, as if we did not already know, Tony Diaz gives away the real reason for the visit in this Sunday's U Matuna in his lead story:
"Speaking words of peace and reconciliation for a church divided by tension, intense conflict and controversy..."
Yes, we know that this is a church divided by tension, intense conflict and controversy, so why was the chancery spinning it as a congratulatory visit? Well we know why. (Sadly, Mr. Diaz' Rodney King impression - "can't we all just get along" - is part of the problem.)
In hindsight, we can see that Archbishop Apuron's November 21, 2014 visit wasn't just a drop by. It is obvious that Kiko Arguello had learned of the investigation into our diocese by Cardinal Filoni's Congregation - probably from Filoni himself - and told Apuron to get himself to Rome and "pronto"!
But that advice may have turned out to be Kiko's fatal error.
More on how we can get the property back in a bit.