District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled on Saturday that funds from the Archdiocese of Agaña’s Catholic parishes and schools could be used to help pay survivors of sexual abuse.
In January 2019, the Archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy to allow it to restructure its finances to pay the plaintiffs in about 202 clergy sex abuse claims.
The church listed $22.96 million in assets, with $45.66 million in liabilities, according to PDN news files.
Attorney Edwin Caldie, who represented some of the survivors and other creditors, said that the parties currently are trying to agree on a settlement between what the claimants are asking and what the church can pay without losing its entire community.
“It’s complicated. The church chose to file for bankruptcy and so the bankruptcy code, all of the laws, federal laws, relating to bankruptcy, they’ll guide and they’ll help us figure out what that is,” Caldie said.
Additionally, because the claims against the church are higher than it can pay, those involved have to figure out how to balance what the church can pay through bankruptcy, while ensuring as much as possible is paid to all victims.
According to Caldie, both the Archdiocese and the committee of survivors have proposed plans for reorganization.
Although Caldie believes that the committee’s plan is feasible, the church disagrees.
“That’s going to be the starting point for our discussions now, with our mediator, to see if we can figure out common ground to settle.”
Although the ruling wasn’t in the Archdiocese’s favor, Archbishop of Agaña Michael J. Byrnes said they will work with the creditor’s committee to compensate victims and survivors while still supporting their ministries, schools and parishes.
“We were all inspired by the extraordinary courage of Mr. (Leo) Tudela and his heartfelt call for everyone to work together for the good of those who have suffered excruciatingly from clergy sexual abuse in our Church, “ Byrnes said in a news release. “On behalf of the entire Catholic Church on Guam, I sincerely apologize for the grave harm members of the Church inflicted on you in past years. I pray for each of you every day. Our entire Archdiocese prays for you at all our Masses.”
Leo Tedula, now 78, was among 5 survivors to publicly accuse the Guam clergy of sexual assault back in May 2016.
He told senators in 2016 that he was sexually abused on three separate occasions by three people, including a priest, Father Louis Brouillard, connected to the Archdiocese of Agaña when he came to Guam in 1956, according to PDN files.
Tudela was among four people who testified at an August 2016 legislative public hearing on Sen. Frank Blas Jr.’s measure that eventually became the public law that lifted the time restriction on lawsuits for victims of child abuse.
At the time, criminal prosecution was impossible in most cases because of the statutes of limitations that were in effect.
The deadline to prosecute offenders expired decades prior, but Guam law has since changed to eliminate time limits on prosecuting future offenders.
Contact reporter Julianne Hernandez at [email protected] or 671-488-1439.