VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis appointed a Detroit auxiliary bishop to a Guam archdiocese whose leader is under a Vatican investigation for the alleged sexual abuse of minors.
Coadjutor Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes, 58, also was given “special faculties” or authority in the Archdiocese of Agana, according to a Vatican press release Oct. 31.
The appointment came several weeks after the apostolic administrator of the Agana Archdiocese requested the Vatican remove the current leader, Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, and name a successor. A coadjutor archbishop — as opposed to an auxiliary bishop — immediately succeeds an archbishop who retires or dies.
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, apostolic administrator of the Agana Archdiocese, said in mid-September that he had asked the Vatican to remove Archbishop Apuron, given his refusal to resign on his own accord.
“Gravely serious allegations” of sexual abuse have been made against Archbishop Apuron, Archbishop Hon had said, adding that the situation was still being “dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will hold a canonical trial.”
In mid-May, Roy Quintanilla told the media that Archbishop Apuron had sexually abused him 40 years ago when Quintanilla was a 12-year-old altar server at a parish in Agat, Guam, where then-Father Apuron was pastor. The archbishop denied the accusation.
After Quintanilla went public, at least five other people came forward accusing the archbishop of abusing them when they were altar boys.
While the apostolic administrator ran the archdiocese, Archbishop Apuron still remained the archbishop of Agana, even though he no longer held any pastoral responsibilities and administrative authority.
Archbishop Byrnes was born in Detroit on Aug. 23, 1958. After earning a degree in microbiology in 1979, he worked as a laboratory assistant for the biological chemistry department in the University of Michigan Medical School and served as a part-time campus minister. He later worked as campus minister for the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University and became active in the charismatic renewal movement.
He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1996 after earning a master’s degree, specializing in sacred Scripture. He later earned a degree in sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University in 2003.
He has served as a parish priest for many years and a faculty member of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He was named the seminary’s vice rector in 2004 and also was dean of formation there.
He was ordained a bishop in 2011 and assisted Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in pastoral oversight of the northeast region of the archdiocese, according to a biography on the archdiocesan website. He also led efforts in the archdiocese related to evangelization.