Some $30 Million in Assets, Still Undisclosed Insurance Funds, 190 Scholarships, 50 Burial Grounds to Settle Guam Clergy Abuse Claims | News

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Guam clergy sex assault survivors could be entitled to a minimum of about $30 million in Catholic church assets, in addition to an as-yet-undisclosed insurance payout, as well as 190 bond bonds. scholarships, 50 burial plots and protocols to help prevent future abuse.

All of this was presented on Friday morning during a hearing on the state of bankruptcy of the three-year-old Archdiocese of Agana.

The archdiocese and its creditors, mostly abuse survivors, have a May 20 deadline to file a joint plan to bail the archdiocese out of bankruptcy and pay the nearly 300 abuse plaintiffs.

At that time, the total settlement amount and terms would be known.

The final amount, including as yet undisclosed insurance payments, will be significantly more than the estimated $30 million in cash and archdiocesan property, said archdiocesan attorney Ford Elsaesser.

Elsaesser said the archdiocese hopes contributions will be in the trust and payments to survivors can begin within three to three and a half months after the joint plan is approved, which he hopes will be approved.

While that may sound overly optimistic, he said, survivors should be able to receive their payment well before the end of the year.

Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes, in a statement after the status hearing, said the Archdiocese is “very happy and grateful for the incredible progress.”

“Most importantly, we are happy for the victim-survivors that they can move closer to this important measure of justice and compensation. We thank all of our parishes, schools, Catholic cemeteries and others who have contributed and made profound sacrifices to reach today’s milestone,” the Archbishop said.

Elsaesser and Official Unsecured Creditors’ Committee attorney Edwin Caldie jointly announced during the hearing before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood the parties’ tentative agreement.

Lawyers said there were approximately $21 million in archdiocesan assets and $9.1 million in cash which includes remaining proceeds from the sale of certain properties, including the former Accion Hotel which has then transformed into a seminary in Yona.

Elsaesser said a substantial portion of that estimated $21 million already came from properties the archdiocese has always wanted to liquidate for the survivors’ trust, as well as additional assets that schools and Catholic parishes have recently agreed to release. also put in the trust.

However, that $21 million is “not set in stone” as it depends on the market value of the real estate at the time it is actually sold.

Bursaries, funeral concessions, protocols

Part of the proposed deal is a total of 190 Catholic scholarship vouchers for the next 10 years that families of survivors could use.

“These are scholarships for attendance at the five elementary schools and two secondary schools in the Archdiocese for the next 10 years,” Elsaesser said.

Of the total number, 150 will be for primary or K-8 scholarship vouchers and 40 high school scholarship vouchers.

It was the proposal of the creditors’ committee that received a favorable response from the management of Catholic schools, Elsaesser said.

Catholic cemeteries also contribute to the trust of survivors.

“Cemeteries are contributing 50 burial plots free of charge, and that would also go to the survivors’ trust,” the archdiocesan attorney said.

Leo Tudela, 78, representing survivors of abuse on the creditors’ committee, shared at the hearing a set of proposed protocols to help prevent future clergy sexual abuse of children.

Tudela, who has always been in court hearings, was around 13 or 14 when a Capuchin friar and later a priest, Louis Brouillard, sexually assaulted him.

Elsaesser said there would be a group of four people — two survivors including Tudela and two from the archdiocese — who would work together to develop these protocols to prevent further abuse.

“There are already substantial protocols in place in the archdiocese, but it’s about reaching an agreement for all, for all future protocols to come for bankruptcy,” Elsaesser said.

When asked if the $30 million in cash and archdiocesan assets could eventually lead to higher tuition in Catholic schools, Elsaesser doesn’t think that will happen.

Properties that are contributed are not used, so operationally it should not impact day-to-day operations, he said.

These school properties include vacant land adjacent to schools.

“It’s a very difficult financial situation going forward, but I don’t think there’s a reason for the general operation to change in schools or parishes,” Elsaesser said.

Previous amounts

The amounts presented in court Friday, excluding insurance payments, are up from what the archdiocese presented in 2020 and 2021.

In January 2020, the Archdiocese presented a $21 million plan to pay victims of abuse, including insurance money.

He revised his plan in November 2021, increasing the proposed payment to between $27.96 million and $34.88 million, again including insurance money.

Shortly thereafter, the Official Unsecured Creditors Committee filed its own payment plan claiming at least $100 million and real estate assets.

The archdiocese and the creditors’ committee resumed mediation talks before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris of Honolulu, who is mediating, after a key trial in February.

Tydingco-Gatewood ruled that school and parish assets could be used to pay survivors of abuse.

Survivors said Guam priests and other clergy assaulted or raped them. The assaults date back to the 1950s, and most of the accused priests are already dead.

The archdiocese’s bankruptcy case has so far cost $7.58 million in legal and other professional fees, and the full cost is to be paid by the archdiocese, based on a review by the Guam Daily Post of court filings.

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