Guam Catholic Church offers to pay up to US$34million to sex abuse victims

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Guam’s Catholic Church has come up with a revised proposed payment of US$27.96 million to US$34.38 million to those who claimed they were raped or sexually molested by priests and other members of the clergy when they were minors, dating back to the 1950s.

That’s more than US$100,000 per clergy sex abuse survivor if the award is based on equal amounts, although the process is far from over.

Clergy sex abuse survivors and other claimants would need to vote to either accept or reject the plan from the Archdiocese of Agana.

The bankruptcy court’s confirmation of the plan is also needed. Once the plan is confirmed after a hearing, payments may begin about three months later.

The proposed compensation to abuse survivors is part of the Archdiocese of Agana’s First Amended Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Plan of reorganisation filed Thursday with the District Court of Guam.

The plan is meant to resolve the archdiocese’s bankruptcy, while also ensuring that its Catholic parishes, schools and programs remain open.

There are some 270 clergy sex abuse claims.

Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes, and archdiocese attorneys Bruce Anderson, Ford Elsaesser and John Terlaje, submitted the proposed reorganisation plan a few days before District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood’s deadline of 29 November

The revised restitution amount offered to abuse claimants is higher by US$6 million to US$13 million than the archdiocese’s initial US$21 million offer in January 2020.

At the time the US$21 million was offered, based on court filings, clergy sex abuse survivors’ attorneys said the plan was unreasonable and had little hope of being accepted.

Since seeking bankruptcy protection in January 2019, this is the second public disclosure of the amount the archdiocese plans to pay sex abuse claimants.

Most of the proposed pay-outs will come from the archdiocese’s cash and real estate properties that will be transferred to a trust for the abuse survivors, and the rest will come from the archdiocese’s two insurers, as well as contributions from Guam’s Catholic parishes and schools.

Here’s the archdiocese’s proposal to abuse survivors:

• US$14.082 million to US$20.505 million to come from cash and real properties transferred to the trust.

• US$878,250 from Catholic parishes and schools’ contributions.

• US$13 million from the National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Continental Insurance Co.

The total amount to be placed in the survivors’ trust is US$27,960,250 to US$34,383,645, according to documents filed in court.

Of the total amount, $800,000 is set aside for unknown claimants, including those who filed after the deadline to file claims.

As of Friday, Concerned Catholics of Guam President David Sablan said the group had yet to see or read the archdiocese’s plan. The grassroots group of Catholics has been instrumental in exposing clergy sex abuses, which led to the Vatican’s investigation of then Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, who was stripped of his title and power.

The archdiocese previously sold the former Accion Hotel property, once its seminary in Yona, for some US$7.03 million in net proceeds, and only US$1.5 million of that is left.

That US$1.5 million will go toward the plan, along with the sale of “additional real property, including the Chancery,” the archdiocese said in its latest round of court filings. It expects US$5 million from these sales.

The archdiocese also plans to transfer certain real property of the archdiocese, parishes and schools to the trust that will be created for the survivors. At present, it’s estimated at more than US$9 million to US$15.5 million, to be transferred to the trust.

Guam’s Catholic parishes also propose to assist by contributing additional cash to fund the reorganization plan. While the amount may be supplemented, the present rough contribution from parishes is US$878,250.

The proceeds of the two settlements with insurers are also a source of the funds: US$1 million from Continental Insurance, and $12 million from National Union.

The archdiocese recommends that claimants vote to accept the plan, it stated in court filings.

Since 2016, there have been nearly 300 individuals who claimed they were victims of clergy sex abuse on Guam.

SOURCE: THE GUAM DAILY POST/PACNEWS