Bishop’s basics are good for Guam

Nicholas G. Hahn III, The Detroit News

Some Catholics may think their church’s sex abuse crisis has subsided since the Boston Globe’s sensational 2002 reports.

They would be wrong.

Many of the allegations typically reach rectories of local parishes. Rarely do victims accuse archbishops of sexual abuse.

When altar boys in the Archdiocese of Agaña, Guam named Archbishop Anthony Apuron as their abuser during the 1960s and 1970s, the Vatican sent a temporary apostolic administrator to the Pacific island archdiocese.

Apuron has denied the allegations and, despite calls for him to be removed, refuses to retire five years ahead of schedule.

But Pope Francis won’t wait for an official investigation to conclude. Detroit’s own auxiliary Bishop Michael Byrnes was recently tapped as the archdiocese’s coadjutor bishop, and will take over all administrative and pastoral duties.

“There are a lot of challenges and troubles,” Byrnes recently told me, “but it’s not like they’re unfamiliar to Detroit.”

The Detroit native assigned to the Northeast Region of the Archdiocese of Detroit, which includes Macomb and St. Clair counties, says he has removed priests here due to credible allegations. “I’ve led town hall meetings where people are very upset. Patience and forthrightness is essential.”

Still, Byrnes insists “we can’t rush to judgment and condemnation.”

When the former vice rector of Sacred Heart Seminary recently met Francis after receiving news of his new gig, Byrnes said the conversation was meaningful.

“He’s a soccer fan, so I said: ‘When the team isn’t working well, what do you do? Go back to basics — go back to Jesus.’ He nodded and said ‘punto!’ Exactly right.”

That tact could prove successful in Guam, where its spiritual leader is frequently drawn into public controversies.

“We should uphold principles derived from the Gospel,” Byrnes said. “I’ve encountered the Saul Alinsky approach in the political sphere, and I’m not a fan.”

Seeing as how Alinsky dedicated his most famous book to Lucifer, Byrnes’s basics are probably good for Guam’s faithful.

Twitter: @NGHahn3