Archbishop Michael Byrnes on clergy sexual abuse mediation
A Message to the People of Christ
The peace of Our Lord be with you.
Our Archdiocese of Agaña recently concluded participation in a series of meetings that is vitally important to the wellness of our Church, but more importantly, to the well-being and peace of men and women whom the Church severely harmed in the past.
Legal counsel of our archdiocese and other defendants such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Capuchins and Sisters of Mercy participated in mediation with legal counsel of the close to 200 plaintiffs concerning sexual abuse cases involving our Church from Monday-Friday, Sept. 17-21. It was a lengthy and intense process. However, our archdiocese has welcomed it.
As a faith people striving to correct the grave wrongs of the past, we do not have the power to change history. As much as we want, we cannot undo the sins and crimes that were perpetrated by much too many clergymen and laypersons upon innocent children who relied on the Church for faith and guidance.
We cannot change history. However, we must accept and own that it is part of our history. We bear responsibility. We are culpable.
We cannot rewrite history and the despicable things that occurred in the past. However, we can ensure that the rest of the history of the Catholic Church on Guam from this point on, is one that unequivocally replaces the evil of child abuse, deception and complicity that existed in the past, with one that fills all aspects of our Church with the true Light of Christ, especially in regards to the way we treat our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
In the mediation series, the archdiocese and all parties involved, negotiated earnestly and in good faith during the private and highly confidential process that placed the welfare of victims abuse victims and survivors as our top priority. The archdiocese sought to reach an agreement on compensation amounts for each of the plaintiffs.
Although we have fallen short of reaching global settlement after a fruitful week of negotiation, the archdiocese remains engaged in this process. The archdiocese characterizes this round of mediation as anything but a failure. Nothing good and worthwhile – certainly a goal to achieve peace and resolution – can occur without the affected individuals or groups first coming together to talk. That our Church on Guam is committed to sitting down with legal counsel of the plaintiffs, or in some cases the actual victims themselves, is already a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Guided by the Courts and highly experienced mediators, we plan on participating in more talks with the legal counsel of all plaintiffs in the near future. We shall update our faithful and the community in general when such mediation will be scheduled, of course in coordination with the justice system.
I ask all Catholics on Guam then, to open your hearts and minds to this position, resolve and commitment that we the archdiocese has sincerely adopted. That is, to fully and steadfastly uphold our obligation to do right by all who have suffered abuse by clergy or lay persons in our Catholic Church on Guam. To provide rightful and proper resolution and compensation to these men and women and do all in our power to ensure that no other persons suffer the same harm that was inflicted on the victims of the past.
This commitment means that we the Church, continues to welcome means such as mediation in order to reach settlement, financial compensation and resolution with and for the victims and survivors of child abuse in our archdiocese.
Together, as one body in Christ, we shall right the wrongs of the past and rebuild trust in our Church. Ephesians 4:2-4 reminds us how we are to do so: “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
Finally, I thank all parties who participated in the mediation process, as well as the victims the individuals they represent. I pledge the archdiocese’s commitment in this process of healing and resolution.
Sincerely in Christ,
/s/Archbishop Michael ByrnesArchdiocese of Agaña