By coincidence (?), an email from the website Canon Law Made Easy (to which I subscribe) showed up in my inbox this morning.
The email links to an article about the infamous "Bishop of Bling" episode: a German bishop recently removed by Pope Francis for what was thought to be "excessive spending" (though there may have been other reasons.)
In discussing the Bling episode, the article continues to a topic that is very relevant to the Archdiocese of Agana and specifically the actions of Archbishop Apuron and the RMS property scam.
Below are some relevant excerpts from the article with my comments in red. Also emphases and highlights are mine.
"...canon 1277 lists some cases where the bishop’s okay is not enough. For those financial actions which are of major importance, the bishop is required by law to consult the diocesan finance committee and the college of consultors. And for acts of extraordinary administration, the bishop actually needs their consent."
"...what constitutes “major importance”?
"...canon 1277 observes that Episcopal Conferences are to determine what will constitute extraordinary administration in their respective territories."
In our case, the Episcopal Conference is CEPAC (Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici)
"Expenditures requiring consent can of course be blocked, leaving a bishop who’s eager to make a large purchase legally out of luck. In short, for extremely large purchases, a bishop cannot act entirely on his own—if he does, he is violating the law."
The article is referencing only "expenditures" because it is addressing the German case which involved extraordinarily large expenditures. However, as we shall see, the same restrictions are in place for what Canon Law calls the "alienation of goods."
"...if a diocesan bishop unilaterally spends a sum of diocesan money so high that he was required by law to run it by his finance council and college of consultors first, he shouldn’t be surprised if Rome calls him to account for this. Since the numerical amounts involved aren’t a matter of subjective opinion, there isn’t necessarily a lot of room for him to argue."
At the time the Yona property was alienated (November 2011), the bishop was "required by law" to seek the consent of his consent of his finance council and college of consultors for any transaction involving over One Million dollars. The Yona property is thought to be valued between 40 and 75 million.
Here is the relevant canon regarding the alienation of property:
Can. 1292 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 638, §3, when the value of the goods whose alienation is proposed falls within the minimum and maximum amounts to be defined by the conference of bishops for its own region, the competent authority is determined by the statutes of juridic persons if they are not subject to the diocesan bishop; otherwise, the competent authority is the diocesan bishop with the consent of the finance council, the college of consultors, and those concerned. The diocesan bishop himself also needs their consent to alienate the goods of the diocese.
§2. The permission of the Holy See is also required for the valid alienation of goods whose value exceeds the maximum amount, goods given to the Church by vow, or goods precious for artistic or historical reasons.
"Bishops have a lot of power in their dioceses—and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But when it comes to spending diocesan funds, there are some strict legal limitations on their buying-power. Canon law provides diocesan bishops with plenty of leeway when it comes to their purchasing decisions, but nonetheless there are clear boundaries which they cannot cross without the advance consultation and/or approval of others. If they do, they may be forcibly reminded that they are ultimately under the supreme authority of another Bishop, here in Rome."
As per the recent Opinion of Counsel obtained by the CCOG, according to Guam law, Archbishop Apuron in fact alienated the Yona property from the Archdiocese of Agana and granted it completely free to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary which is under the control of its own board and a board of guarantors. It can no longer considered to be part of the patrimony of the Archdiocese of Agana even if Apuron says he controls it (which he doesn't).
Also, not only did Apuron NOT get the required consent of his finance council, the same finance council - as well as his own legal counsel - thoroughly warned him of the consequences of deeding the property to RMS and advised him not to do it. Yet, Apuron did it anyway.
It must be remembered that while in the Bishop of Bling case it was the Pope who removed the bishop, it was the PEOPLE who first made the problem known and demanded action. We can do the same. And the CCOG will soon be releasing its plans to do just that.