Racing against time, church expediting new settlement offer for abuse survivors
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Racing against time, Archbishop Michael Byrnes vowed Friday to expedite the revision of a compensation plan for clergy abuse survivors, following a court decision that paved the way for the claimants’ access to parishes and school assets.
“Knowing that funds further diminish with each passing day, Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood of the District Court of Guam has set an aggressive timeline for our archdiocese to develop its new proposal,” Byrnes said.
The church has until March 25 deadline to come up with a new settlement offer.
“Our archdiocese is working expeditiously to create a revised proposal of compensation for the 280-plus victims of sexual abuse who have filed lawsuits against the archdiocese,” Byrnes said
Tydingco-Gatewood on Friday ruled in favor of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which was tasked with designating ‘non-essential’ assets of the archdiocese for possible payments to sex abuse claimants.
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“Recognizing that the victim-survivors of clergy abuse have suffered deeply for far too long, and after several failed attempts to reach a settlement in the past three years, both sides have agreed to work together in a renewed spirit focused on achieving reparation and compensation to the victims. However, we must move very rapidly,” he added.
The archbishop said the church lawyer John Terlaje has been meeting with parishes and schools to discuss what each entity is able to further contribute to the fund. Terlaje will be assisted by Father Romeo Convocar effective in May, Byrnes said.
Byrnes noted that the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy during a “period of atonement” as it seeks to repair “the grave harm our archdiocese inflicted upon numerous children in the past.
“ Too many of our priests and some laypersons perpetrated these heinous crimes of sexual abuse on innocent youth, who had placed their utmost trust in them,” Byrnes said.
“This is not a revelation,” the archbishop said.
He noted that for nearly a decade now, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against churches all over the world.
“However, knowing something and accepting something are not the same thing,” Byrnes said.
“As we take our next steps amid this penitential season of Lent, I again implore all Catholics on Guam to wholeheartedly accept the truth of our sins and the collective responsibility that we a11 must bring peace and healing to those who have suffered sexual abuse in our archdiocese,” he added.