IN A matter of five days, Deacon Steve Martinez was censured by Archbishop Anthony Apuron, stripped of his faculties as a deacon and then reinstated, but left with a warning to cut ties with the Concerned Catholics of Guam, all without Apuron and Martinez meeting in person.
Martinez said he still has not had a face-to-face meeting with Apuron to discuss the issues, despite twice requesting a meeting in writing. As a deacon, Martinez said he is under a vow of obedience, which he said he takes very seriously. “But that vow is not all-encompassing,” he said. Martinez said if he were requested to do something illegal or immoral, it should not fall under the umbrella of his vow of obedience.
He has not, Martinez stressed, been asked to do something illegal or immoral. But the deacon does have questions about the section of canon law Apuron said he violated. These questions remain unanswered. In two letters dated Dec. 17 and 22, Martinez said Apuron charged him with “a few” violations, which the deacon said he would like a canon lawyer to look over.
Under his vow of obedience, however, Martinez is not able to disclose those charges to a canon lawyer, the media or any person. Martinez said this makes it difficult for him to determine if what he is accused of is actually a violation.
“I’m not able to defend or prepare myself,” he said. “It’s a grave injustice to demand not to release the (contents of) the letters.”
The deacon said he’s written to Apuron, asking to rescind this “gag order” so a lawyer could review the charges. Apuron has not responded to the request, Martinez said.
Martinez said he is facing another censure. He could lose his faculties as a deacon at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña. Martinez has until Jan. 19 to dissociate himself from the Concerned Catholics of Guam.
Martinez is the treasurer of the Concerned Catholics, a newly formed organization that plans to audit the archdiocese’s finances and investigate the local church. Ultimately, the group said, it wants to restore the church as it now stands somewhat divided. Local controversies surrounding Apuron’s removal of priests and church finances prompted the group to organize.
Apuron requested Martinez cut ties with the Concerned Catholics. Martinez, however, said he would like to remain part of the group. The deacon said he’d also like to see the Concerned Catholics group meet with Apuron.
“As a leader, I expect him to keep dialogue open,” the deacon said. “It’s the Christian way.”
Martinez said he would also like to meet with visiting Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Rev. Tadeusz Nowak and Archbishop Martin Krebs when they visit next month and ask them about Apuron’s letter. If he is told to abide by Apuron’s letters by the visiting church members, Martinez said he will abide.
“My father always said … speak the truth and don’t worry about it and that’s something that I have always tried to live by,” Martinez said.