While it has and may still be argued that Msgr. James was the de facto pastor of the Agana Cathedral Parish and thus entitled to canonical rights, having never formally been given that title, his official position remained rector, and thus was subject to a reassignment by the Ordinary at any time.
However, Msgr. James was NOT reassigned. He was removed. And he was removed by Decree.
A Decree of Removal is an extremely serious matter, and Canon Law prescribes it only as a "last resort in a series of attempts to correct a perceived problem." A Decree of Removal effectively declares that "the presence of a particular pastor (or rector in the case of Msgr. James) seriously harms the spiritual or temporal welfare of the parish..." (Canon 1740).
When, on July 25, 2014, the Feast of St. James, Apuron decreed the removal of Msgr. James, Apuron publicly declared Msgr. James harmful to "the spiritual and/or temporal welfare" of the Cathedral parish of Agana.
That Decree, that judgement on the head of Msgr. James, still stands. The appointment of Fr. Paul by Hon to Msgr. James' former position, emphasizes the validity of Apuron's decree: that Msgr. James is a source of serious harm to the parish of Agana.
We have always maintained that Msgr. James was removed unjustly. Everything that Apuron accused him of was immediately and authoritatively refuted by reputable men who thoroughly documented their positions. Documentation which Apuron chose to ignore and apparently Hon has as well.
And though Hon admitted on July 27 that Msgr. James was unjustly treated, his appointment of a new rector to the Cathedral. without reconciling the outstanding issue of the removal of Msgr. James, is a seal on Apuron's decision of July 25, 2014, declaring Msgr. James a source of "serious harm," effectively negating any lip service about "mistreatment."
Given this huge cloud of injustice which still hangs over the removal of Msgr. James from the Cathedral, Fr. Paul's acceptance of Hon's appointment, is a blatant collaboration and an affirmation of that original injustice.
It is also horribly ironic since Fr. Paul himself was unjustly removed in the same manner, and through his canon lawyer, originally and rightfully demanded his full and clear restoration to the position from which he was wrongly removed.
The right thing to do
If I was Fr. Paul, I would have thanked Hon for the appointment and then declined acceptance until the matter with Msgr. James was reconciled. What a wonderful statement that would have been. Sadly, today's ceremony installing Fr. Paul in Msgr. James stead, complicates and further clouds the original injustice, and leaves the unjust decrees of removal of both priests, in place.
But now we must address what Msgr. James must do as well.
If the issues surrounding the removal of Msgr. James have already been given due process and the accusations against Msgr. James were found to be valid, then Msgr. James has a duty to at least meet privately with trusted members of the laity and advise us so that we can drop the demand to restore him. And, if this was the case, then Fr. Paul would certainly have the "all clear" to accept the new position.
However, we have received no such word from Msgr. James, so we must assume that his Decree of Removal remains an obstinate injustice and a major obstacle to the much touted goal of reconciliation and unity. In fact, if the rumors are true, Msgr. James will be assigned the position of pastor to one of Guam's largest parishes. This means that Msgr. James cannot be considered a "source of serious harm." Yet, Hon has let the unjust Decree of Removal stand.
What a mess.
All of this smells of back room deal making, or the "clericalism" that someone mentioned recently in a comment. It's not that the laity want or need to be consulted about any of these appointments, it's that the laity are due an explanation. The official removals of both priests were public acts. Those acts had a public meaning. They were official declarations. They declared that these priests were unfit to serve. Those acts, those decrees, STILL STAND. And so we're left wondering WTH?
It could be as simple as Hon doesn't know what the heck he's doing, and minus a decent canonist, is stumbling and bumbling all over the place. Or it could be something else. And maybe, nobody wants to go THERE.