Guam church could sell property to settle clergy sex abuse cases

Hagåtña, Guam — The Guam Catholic church's financial arm on Thursday said up to 41 properties on the island potentially could be sold to help settle 91 clergy sexual abuse lawsuits filed in local or federal court.

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 a former high school, the Archdiocesan Finance Council said. No estimate of the value of any of the properties was immediately available..

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 of the plaintiffs, on Tuesday.

Five of the cases, alleging abuses by priests and others and seeking a total of $40 million, were filed Thursday.

The church initiated Hope and Healing, 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.

Richard Untalan, president of the finance council, 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. It also includes properties 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."

Council member Chris Felix said the list was whittled from about 300 church properties. 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.

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 (has) 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.”