Guam Catholic church ‘non-essential assets ‘on the block’ to pay multi-million potential sex abuse s
Over many years, the Diocese of Agana has accumulated a huge portfolio of various real estate assets, but until quite recently, the diocese had little idea of what it actually owned.
With an eye to what has occurred in the U.S. mainland where other church entities have faced and settled similar cases and ongoing settlement negotiations for the Guam cases, Diocesan finance officials have been attempting to come up with a thorough picture of church holdings and have released a partial list of properties considered non-essential to church operations. These properties then could be liquidated to pay settlement costs.
“The former Accion Hotel, the [Redemptoris Mater Seminary] in Yona is one, the Chancery complex is number two. They’re on the block. In other words, they are available for whatever is necessary to do for the settlement process that is going on now,” said Diocesan Finance Committee President Richard Untalan.
Essential properties would be limited to church buildings and surrounding grounds, schools and surrounding grounds and the Catholic Social Services headquarters and surrounding grounds. There are also four leasehold properties that provide revenue the church considers essential to the continued operation of the chancery and the archdiocese.
“We have these outstanding sexual abuse lawsuits, that are going to run into the millions probably, Untalan said. “We don’t know. It’s up to what’s going on in the settlement negotiations. Right now, there’re 85 sexual abuse cases.”
Those negotiations are going on with Attorney David Lujan and other attorneys for plaintiffs. “We put this together as a show of accountability and transparency. We’re not hiding anything,” Untalan said.
Diocesan Finance Committee members Jose Rivera, Richard Untalan, Chris Felix
The church assets were originally found in two bulging folders, but thousands of hours of work were required to confirm that titles were clear and that the church actually owned the properties, according to Finance Committee member Chris Felix, who is also a Guam realtor. Felix said there are likely another 30 or 40 non-essential properties.
The value of the properties is unknown and they’re not being liquidated, though Felix said offers for them would be considered.
Untalan said that the disorder and confusion about what property the church owns is another legacy of departed Archbishop Anthony Apuron. “[It’s] part of the mess that Archbishop Byrnes referred to,” Untalan said.