This new school year, the families of Guam's 4,424 Catholic school students will fork out an extra $12 monthly fee per student to help pay for the debts left behind by a closed college preparatory school and the financial problems caused by another school – but it shouldn't be that way, said an official with Concerned Catholics of Guam.
Each student will also be assessed a $25 fee for an administrative office for the 14 Catholic schools.
A closed school left behind $2.4 million worth of debts plus payables of about $60,000, and the obligations were assumed by the archdiocese, said David J. Sablan, president of Concerned Catholics. The other school, which fell behind in paying its past-due accounts, owes approximately $180,000, he said.
"The debts should be assumed by the Archdiocese of Agana, which then should find other ways and means" to pay the debts, Sablan said.
He didn't name the school, but St. Thomas Aquinas was a Catholic college preparatory school that closed in recent years in Guam.
'Freeloaders' living at former hotel
To spare Catholic students from the extra cost, the archdiocese can also charge rent to people who live as "freeloaders" in a prime church property – the former oceanview Hotel Accion in Yona, Sablan said.
The former hotel, which the archdiocese is trying to sell, and which was previously valued at around $40 million, houses more than 30 seminarians from all over the world, according to Sablan.
"There are seminarians there from other countries all wanting to be ordained as presbyters for the Neocatechumenal Way," Sablan said. "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," Sablan said. "There is a term we use to define such individuals: freeloaders."
The Neocatechumenal Way seminary began occupying the former hotel under the leadership of now-suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who is facing child sex-abuse cases before a Vatican tribunal and in the federal court in Guam.
Until that property is sold to cover claims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, including Apuron, Sablan said charging rent to the occupants of the former hotel should be done instead of making students pay more to attend Catholic schools.
Sablan was responding to a policy approved last month by Father Jeffrey San Nicolas, delegate general of Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, announcing the new fees.
San Nicolas noted that the indebtedness is a "regrettable situation" and the church is seeking the support of the island's 14 Catholic schools to "help pull us through this difficult time."
Sablan said, "the wrongs and debts of the past must be assumed by all of us in the archdiocese, not our schoolchildren."
San Nicolas indicated that the amount of the school assessment will be reevaluated annually.
'Pay up for all the problems'
Sablan suggested the priests and deacons teach courses and part of their salaries go toward helping retire the debts; reducing salaries for Chancery staff; and getting Apuron, Monsignor David Quitugua, and Father Adrian Cristobal to "pay up for all the problems they caused" the archdiocese when they were in charge of the Chancery.
"Good leaders sacrifice for their congregation," Sablan said.