Guam Catholic Church Considers Selling Property To Finance Sex Abuse Settlements

Diocese releases list of 41 'non-essential properties' it could liquidate

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 13, 2017) – The Guam Catholic church's financial arm on Thursday released a list of 41 non-essential properties that could be sold to help settle more than 90 Guam clergy sexual abuse cases.

The most valuable of the assets are the former Accion Hotel, which now houses the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yona, the chancery complex where the archbishop lives, and the former Thomas Aquinas High School in Ordot, the Archdiocesan Finance Council said.

The seminary in Yona has been run by the Neocatechumenal Way. Richard Untalan, president of the council, said matters related to the seminary are being handled by the Seminary Review Committee. He said the property is available as part of the settlement process, but the property has not been appraised for quite a while.

The Archdiocese of Agana is facing 91 childhood sexual abuse cases in local or federal court.

The archdiocese, through its Hope and Healing initiative, is trying to settle the sexual abuse cases out of court. Parties have yet to decide which retired California judge will handle the mediation, said attorney David Lujan, counsel for most plaintiffs, on Tuesday.

The church initiated the Hope and Healing program, which is acting independently to provide professional counseling, treatment, spiritual healing and compensation to clergy sex abuse victims.

Hope and Healing has $1 million in seed money, which the church is working to increase by liquidating assets, among other things.

Untalan said thousands of hours were spent researching, verifying and compiling a list of the archdiocese's essential and non-essential properties.

Essential properties include church and school buildings and their surrounding grounds. The church listed 45 essential properties that also include those leased by private and government entities, which help fund the operations of the archdiocese and the chancery.

"Everything else falls under non-essential," Untalan said. "They're on the block. In other words, they are available for whatever is necessary to do for the settlement process that is currently going on now."

There is no estimate available as to the value of the essential and non-essential assets at this time, Untalan said. He said the identification of assets between essential and non-essential was done in consultation between Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes, the Archdiocesan Finance Council and the College of Consultors.

Untalan said the release of the list of non-essential and essential church properties is a part of the archdiocese's push for transparency and accountability, emphasized by Byrnes, to help restore people's faith in the Catholic church and restore the church's credibility.

Thursday's briefing by the council also included a presentation by two other members, Joe Rivera and Chris Felix. They are on the council's Assets and Real Property Committee.

Untalan, Rivera and Felix said anyone interested in any of the non-essential church property, located around Guam, can contact the Chancery. 

Felix said the list started with about 300 church properties. After research and a consultation process, the council was able to identify which ones still belong to the archdiocese, which have encumbrances or are no longer owned by the church.

Felix said there was at least one property deeded to Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron by a family member. That property wasn't included in the list of church properties.

Apuron was accused of sexually abusing minors and is undergoing a Vatican canonical trial. He's denied the charges against him. Pope Francis suspended Apuron on June 6, 2016, after former altar boys publicly accused him of sexual abuse or rape.

“This is where we are today," Untalan said. "This is going to go a long way toward hopefully settling what is really been a painful experience so far for this archdiocese and for our new archbishop, but it’s a struggle and a pain that we're all going through and we’re all going to cope with and we’re going to come out at least with some kind of hope and healing that's going to prevail and unify this archdiocese again.”

Pacific Daily News
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