Card. Burke sent to island of Guam, 12,155 km from Rome
Cardinal Burke, the former prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See's highest court, has been sent to the island of Guam to act as the presiding judge of a trial of Archbishop Apuron. Archbishop Anthony Apuron was removed from office in June 2016 following allegations of child sexual abuse. Guam is a U.S. island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific, with a population of 165,124.
The Holy See announced Cardinal Burke's appointment as judge overseeing a "tribunal of the first instance" on the day His Eminence arrived on Guam, Wednesday February. 15. A report in the Guam Daily Post indicates that Cardinal Burke has been working in his role as judge since at least February 3rd 2017.
The Guam Daily Post reports:
A tribunal from the Vatican, which will be led by a cardinal, is scheduled to hold a secret hearing on Guam this week to speak to at least one of the victims accusing Archbishop Anthony Apuron of sexual abuse.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a canon lawyer and former head of the Vatican’s supreme court, signed a decree on Feb. 3, 2017, requesting that one of Apuron’s accusers, Roland Sondia, appear personally before Burke later this week on Guam.
The cardinal wrote the decree “in fulfilling the office of judge.”
Sondia was being summoned “for the purpose of giving testimony” in the Apuron case, according to the decree.
A Vatican equivalent of prosecutor and an advocate for the accused will also hear the accuser’s testimony, according to the decree.
The Vatican case concerning Apuron had a protocol number that may indicate the case involving Apuron was opened in 2008, although it was unclear if the sex-abuse allegations were filed with the Vatican that early. The case is before a Vatican office that deals with “faith and morals.”
Burke further wrote that he will be talking to some of Apuron’s accusers after he was delegated by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who leads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The head of the congregation is the Pope’s designee, and the congregation’s role is “to promote and safeguard doctrine regarding faith and morals throughout the Catholic world,” according to Vatican.va.
A second document dated Feb. 6, 2017, called Sondia to a hearing before a “tribunal” that will hear his testimony in a “confidential” process and “under pontifical secret.”
The call for Sondia to appear at this hearing was sent after “as this tribunal has been informed of your readiness in the above-titled case regarding accusations against His Excellency, the Most Reverend Anthony Sablan Apuron.” The “citation” for Sondia to appear before the tribunal on Guam referred to the same case protocol number from 2008.
Is it usual for the Holy See to appoint a retired Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura to act as a judge in a trial of the first instance on a remote island in the pacific ocean? Granted the case is very serious, involving as it does allegations of child sexual abuse against an archbishop.
Guam is 12,155 km from Rome.