The Archdiocese of Agana announced yesterday it has started a child sex abuse compensation fund for victims.
Archbishop Michael Byrnes said the fund holds a minimum of $1 million in liquidated assets, in hopes this would help ease the suffering of child sex abuse by the clergy.
“The goal is to help them find peace,” Byrnes said. “Money alone won’t heal, but it can aid the healing process.”
“It’s our obligation to bring our community back together.”
According to Archdiocesan Finance Council President Richard Untalan, the money won’t be available to claimants until after the group has identified a third-party entity to administer the fund.
Untalan said the group has searched as far as Hawaii and “elsewhere.”
“Preferably, we’d be looking for a retired judge, or someone with experience in handling related cases.”
Untalan said the fund would generate its own cash and pay for its own expenses, while accruing interest.
So far, the archdiocese identified about $132 million in net book assets that could be tapped for the fund, if the need arises.
The archdiocese’s assets include churches, land and schools.
Untalan said the archdiocese also receives about $500,000 in rental income each year.
“At this point, everything is on the chopping block.”
At least some of the fund’s current $1 million balance comes from liquidated stocks in Bank of Guam.
Compensation process still unclear
Meanwhile, the legal process for compensating victims, which would be determined by the selected administrator, is still unclear.
Untalan said the archdiocese wishes for the fund to run independent of the church itself, and would have no say in the compensation process, in order to preserve the fund’s integrity.
Attorney David Lujan is representing nearly two dozen people alleging clerical sex abuse decades ago when the victims were altar boys.
Another case filed Tuesday named the Boy Scouts of America and the Archdiocese of Agana as among the defendants in a lawsuit filed by a former altar boy and former scout. The Guam law firm Dooley Roberts Fowler & Visosky LLP, and Michael Pfau of the mainland law firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, filed Tuesday's lawsuit.
Untalan said the archdiocese hopes “we can settle every case.”