The sexual abuse of our children by members of our Catholic clergy is the worst violation of trust, when supposedly holy men take advantage of our young for their own pleasure. This is truly sad and our prayers continually go out for the victims and their families. Suspended Archbishop Apuron's administration of our archdiocese was a "disaster."
As a result, many in the community have lost trust and confidence in the leadership of our church, and it is still at a very low point. People are still hesitant to contribute to the support of the Chancery and anything they are doing, until they are sure that our money is being put to good use for the well-being and future of our church.
So now comes this announcement from the Chancery officials, that effective July 1, and monthly thereafter (no end date stated), all 14 Catholic schools in Guam were directed to pay $12 per student to cover the annual debt service and old accounts payable owed by two Catholic schools.
Additionally, the kids are being assessed another $25 per student to fund an office in the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Agana, established to support the schools with a "system of administrative, accounting and human resource support for our schools." (Protocol No. 2017-316, issued by Fr. Jeff San Nicolas, Delegate General to Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes.)
On the surface, this may seem to be a prudent assessment of students in schools still operating, to cover debts of two other Catholic schools: One that closed and whose debt balance of $2.4 million plus payables of about $60,000 was assumed by the archdiocese; and the other that fell behind in paying its past-due accounts totaling approximately $180,000. There are grumblings and mumblings festering now in the community as a result of this assessment, at a time when trust and confidence in the church leadership is still at an all-time low.
This is another type of abuse of our children and I urge Coadjutor Archbishop Byrnes to stop the assessments on the schools. Parents are paying for a good Catholic education, and that is where their money should be spent. The wrongs and debts of the past must be assumed by all of us in the archdiocese, not our schoolchildren. Parents have a choice to send their children to our public schools, which are free, but an education founded in our Catholic faith is what's more important to them. So why add this burden on them?
What are our schoolchildren getting in return? Do we really need a superintendent of Catholic schools – what do the staff in that office actually do for the schools? Are the schools getting a larger library, more chemistry equipment, newer desks and chairs or more efficient air-conditioners? The debts are those of two schools within the "one single Catholic school system," but we don't pass it off to the other students in the other Catholic schools. It is unfair and it is not right.
The debts should be assumed by the Archdiocese of Agana, who then should find other ways and means to retire it.
How about charging the Neocatechumenal Way (NCW) rent for the use of the building – formerly the Redemptoris Mater Seminary – in Yona? There are more than 30 people in residence there from all over the world. There are seminarians there from other countries all wanting to be ordained as presbyters for the Neocatechumenal Way. Additionally, there are priests staying there who are NCW presbyters, not doing anything for our archdiocese, yet we probably are paying their monthly stipends as required by church law. And there are people from other countries living there rent-free. There is a term we use to define such individuals: freeloaders.
The Yona property is up for sale. However, there are people staying there for free, who are not attached to our archdiocese. So until that property is sold to cover claims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy – including Apuron – this is one way to work toward retiring the debts.
How about having our priests and deacons teach courses in these schools, and part of their salaries will go toward helping retire the debts? How about salary cuts for staff at the Chancery? How about getting Apuron, Msgr. David C. Quitugua, and Fr. Adrian Cristobal to pay up for all the problems they caused our archdiocese when they were in charge of the Chancery? Good leaders sacrifice for their congregation.
It seems so easy to just charge the schoolchildren, because parents will be there to support them. But this may be the proverbial "straw that breaks the camel's back" and, instead, enrollment in the schools will drop.
David J. Sablan, president
Concerned Catholics of Guam Inc.