Church, abuse survivors report 'considerable progress'

FORMER HOTEL: The former Accion Hotel, which later became the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, is shown in July 2019. The archdiocese had placed the former seminary up for auction to help pay mounting bills and claims filed by nearly 300 sexual abuse plaintiffs who sued the church. Post file photo

Nearly 90 properties of the Archdiocese of Agana, excluding any Catholic parish or school, have been discussed between the church and survivors of clergy sex abuse as assets to fund a potential settlement.

A federal judge vacated Friday's scheduling conference on the archdiocese's bankruptcy, after the parties reported "considerable progress" in their ongoing mediation.

Some 300 Guam clergy sex abuse cases could go to trial if there is no settlement outside the court.

The goal of the mediation is to move the parties materially closer to a "global settlement" in the case.

The archdiocese in January proposed an initial $21 million in restitution for abuse survivors and other creditors, as part of its reorganization plan to solve its bankruptcy.

But the abuse survivors and other creditors disagreed with the payout plan that they consider too small, and the court gave the parties more time to work out a mutually agreeable plan.

The parties said they have been meeting weekly with the court-appointed mediator, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris.

"The parties have made considerable progress in communicating and reconciling their respective positions on the availability of certain real property assets to fund a potential settlement and joint plan of reorganization in this case," the parties stated in a joint report to District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood.

No new amount

The latest joint status report, submitted by creditors committee counsel Edwin Caldie and archdiocese counsel Bruce Anderson, does not state a new proposed settlement amount. But it does state that the parties have "discussed nearly 90 separate properties over the recent months."

The mediator, they stated, has expressed support for the process and attorneys for some survivor claimants will continue to participate directly as well.

The parties said they are aware that the case involves issues, history and properties that are important to the public.

"For clarity, although the Committee and the Debtor reserve all rights, no property that is critical to the ongoing operations of any parish or school is being discussed as part of the current mediation process," the joint status report states.

The report also said the creditors committee is not requiring the archdiocese to sell any specific property by means of the ongoing mediation process, and the archdiocese has not committed to doing so.

"The way in which properties identified through this process will be used to generate funds for settlement will be determined at a later time," the report stated.

Thus far, the largest property that the archdiocese has sold to help fund the proposed settlement is the former Accion Hotel in Yona, for $5.7 million.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic further hurting the archdiocese's finances, the archdiocese has been allowed to use a portion of the sale proceeds for its operations and administrative costs.

The parties, in their report, also said they will ask the court for a continued stay of proceedings in the archdiocese's bankruptcy case and the adversary proceedings until Aug. 31, with further extensions beyond that date.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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