Guam – The controversy continues to boil at the Archdiocese of Agana as dozens of supporters, including island dignitaries, gathered in prayer for the latest crisis to hit the Catholic church, the termination of Monsignor James Benavente as rector of the Cathedral.
Monsignor James’ removal comes just days after Father John Wadeson was removed for a sex scandal dating back to the 1970s. But the Archdiocese denies any claims that the two events are in any way related.
Little is known about why Monsignor James Benavente was fired from the church as rector of the Cathedral de Basilica. Neither the Archdiocese nor Monsignor James have revealed the reasons. The news became public when Monsignor James informed his fellow brothers and sisters of his removal.
Tim Rohr is a close catholic observer who maintains a blog about the Catholic community on Guam. He tells PNC what he’s learned of Monsignor James’ removal.
“He’s accusing not just Monsignor James, but Monsignor James, Richard Untalan, Joe Rivera and Sister Steven Torres, who were the four members of the archdiocesan finance council that the archbishop terminated after they refused to permit the conveyance of the title of the old Accion hotel property to a separate corporation away from the archdiocese. And so the archbishop is accusing Monsignor James and those other three of trying to sell that property without the archbishop’s permission,” explains Rohr.
However, this afternoon, Archbishop Anthony Apuron released a statement on the finances of the Archdiocese of Agana. There is no mention of Monsignor James’ removal, however it states in part, “I have decided that a change in administration in these two entities, the Agana Cathedral-Basilica and The Catholic Cemeteries of Guam is necessary and urgent to re-establish proper accounting practices and to complete the financial review, financial report and the audit.”
Archbishop Apuron says the accounting firm Deloitte and Touche conducted a review of the Church’s finances and found “inappropriate” accounting practices.
Meanwhile, Rohr says that Monsignor James has still not been provided with a list of charges against him explaining why he was fired.
“I think anybody watching this can relate with when you’re accused. You at least deserve to know what you’re accused of and Archbishop Apuron won’t even do that, won’t even give Monsignor James a list of the charges. The question is why? I believe is because all those charges are false,” he argues.
In fact, Rohr believes Monsignor James was just collateral damage for the removal of Father John Howard Wadeson last week. Father Wadeson was fired after an old sex scandal surfaced dating back to the 1970s when he was serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It was Rohr who brought Wadeson’s tainted past to light on his blog about two weeks ago.
“The attack on Monsignor James is in complete retaliation for the national embarrassment that Archbishop Apuron brought upon himself, because as the AP story showed, Archbishop Apuron was advised by the lawyers of the Los Angeles Archdiocese in about Father Wadeson. “Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. The fact is the archbishop did not address it and knew since 2011,” points out Rohr.
As the controversy continues, a prayer service was held in front of the Agana Cathedral this afternoon. Family Spokesperson for Monsignor James, Gabby Bamba, told PNC yesterday that the prayer was organized to pray for the entire church. Before the prayer service began some protest signs were displayed on the roadside by the Church.
Father Adrian Cristobal denied claims that Monsignor James’ removal had anything to do with Father Wadeson’s removal. He noted that the Archdiocese has been reviewing its finances for some time now.