Guam - The Archdiocese of Agana maintains that an investigation by Church officials showed that a convicted sex offender continued to work as a volunteer at Dededo's Santa Barbara Church, even after the Archbishop ordered Father Paul Gofigan to fire him.
A news release from the Archdiocese Monday night, defends the decision to replace Father Paul as Pastor of the Church and insists that the safety of children is foremost.
Archdiocese Archbishop Anthony is off-island and the release was issued by Vicar General Monsignor David Quitugua on behalf of the Archdiocese following the public disclosure of a July 16th letter from the Archbishop to Father Gofigan demanding his resignation, and Father Gofigan's July 20th letter to parishioners refusing to resign.
In his letter to parishioners issued last Saturday, Father Paul said that instead of complying with the Archbishop's demand for his resignation he has decided instead to seek a canonical hearing so he can "defend himself and save my vocation as a priest." Father Paul insisted in his letter to parishioners that he had complied with the Archbishop's 2011 order that he fire a registered sex offender.
But in his release Monday night, the Archbishop However, our investigation has revealed that the person continued to have an active presence at the parish as a volunteer. The person had keys to the facilities and had an active role on church grounds in different ways.
The Archdiocese also disputes Father Gofigan's assertion that no one from the Archdiocese contacted him before the decision was reached to relieve him as Pastor of Santa Barbara. The Archdiocese maintains in its statement that Archbishop Apuron "DID in fact speak directly to Father Paul" last Tuesday when he asked for Father Paul's resignation.
The statement from the Archdiocese explains that "Father Paul was asked to resign because he disobeyed a directive from the Archbishop ... he was asked to terminate ... an employee publically known to have a sex offense on his record."
And while expressing regret at having to demand Father Paul's resignation, the ARchdiocese statement emphasisizes that "..in light of the painful lessons the Church and all of society have had to endure in recent years – and still endures – we must abide by standards that will safeguard all children in our care."Archbishop Apuron has appointed Father Dan Bien, Parochial Administrator of Santa Barbara Church in Dededo as the replacement for Father Paul. Father Paul is still a priest with the Archdiocese of Agana "at this time", states the release.
READ the release from the Archdiocese below:
Archdiocese Statement Regarding Father Paul Gofigan
Effective July 17, 2013 His Excellency Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron appointed Father Dan Bien, Parochial Administrator of Santa Barbara Church in Dededo.
Father Dan replaces Father Paul Gofigan as the Parochial Administrator. Father Paul is still a priest and at this time, a priest with the Archdiocese of Agana.
However, in light of specific assertions made by Father Paul in a letter he widely disseminated publicly July 20, the Archdiocese is compelled to respond to set the record straight. Here are the facts:
I. INVESTIGATION & COMMUNICATION:
Father Paul stated in his letter he was asked to resign despite following the Archbishop’s directive. He wrote, “… this entire issue could have been cleared up if they had simply spoken with me, and done a basic investigation…”
The Archbishop DID in fact speak directly to Father Paul. He and the Vicar General, Msgr. David C. Quitugua, spoke to Father Paul in a meeting July 16 as he was informed of the decision.
There WAS an investigation on the matter. Father Paul was informed of this in that same meeting and in the letter he received July 16. He was given an opportunity to respond.
II. SAFETY OF CHILDREN FOREMOST:
Father Paul was asked to resign because he disobeyed a directive from the Archbishop. In 2011, he was asked to terminate employment of an employee publically known to have a sex offense on his record.
Father Paul asserts in his letter that he did terminate the employee. However, our investigation has revealed that the person continued to have an active presence at the parish as a volunteer. The person had keys to the facilities and had an active role on church grounds in different ways.
It should be understood by everyone that the Church has the utmost compassion for all people, even those who have fallen and may have committed crimes in the past. We are all sinners; the Church is comprised of sinners. We welcome and do not bar anyone from our Masses.
It pains the Archbishop and the Church to have to take this action against a brother priest. Father Paul is and has long been a very good, faithful priest in the Church on Guam.
However, especially in light of the painful lessons the Church and all of society have had to endure in recent years – and still endures – we must abide by standards that will safeguard all children in our care. As Jesus teaches us, the youngest are among the must vulnerable among us and great care must be given to safeguard them.
A school full of children is in very close proximity to the parish. Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) students, Confirmation students and other youth groups are part of the parish.
As the Archbishop clearly stated in his letter and was communicated to Father Paul, this is a serious matter which prompted him to act decisively. It was done with much prayer, with a review of the facts and with the ultimate consideration being the safety of our children.