The Archdiocese of Agana’s only operating soup kitchen for the homeless is on the list of properties eligible for sale to satisfy the damage claims being made by more than 200 sexual abuse plaintiffs whose lawsuits have forced the Catholic Church of Guam to file for bankruptcy protection.
Formerly known as the Kusinan Kåmalen Karidåt, the kitchen is now operated by the Ministry for the Homeless.
The building is located at 306 Father Duenas Ave. in Hagåtña. It is owned by the archdiocese and falls directly under the supervision of Archbishop Michael Byrnes.
“This property is on the list,” said Father Mike Crisostomo, an adviser to the Ministry for the Homeless. “So we could lose it.”
“We tried to take it off the list and put it under the churches and the schools, but even the churches and the schools could be in jeopardy,” Crisostomo said, “because we just don’t have enough money to pay off all the lawsuits.”
Each lawsuit claims roughly $5 million. Altogether, the plaintiffs are seeking more than $1 billion in damages for decades of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of the Catholic clergy.
In January 2018, following allegations of fraud and abuse of its tax-exempt status, Byrnes named a new board of directors for Kåmalen Karidåt Inc. Byrnes took over as board chairman, and John Taitano was named vice chairman.
“Right now, we are going through a reorganization and a name change,” said Taitano. The tax-exempt corporation under the Kåmalen Karidåt name “is in the process of being dissolved.”
Prior management failed to file the 501(c)(3) forms with the Department of Revenue and Taxation, which were required for Kåmalen Karidåt to maintain its tax-exempt status.
"Ministry for the Homeless is under the auspices of the archdiocese now, so we’re now under their 501(c)(3)," Crisostomo said.
Crisostomo said when Byrnes received a report from the Catholic lay organization Concerned Catholics of Guam about the possible misuse of funds by Kåmalen Karidåt, Byrnes appointed him to take over the ministry and investigate the issue.
“There weren’t any proper financial accounting procedures,” Crisostomo said. “It was all basically old-school type of accounting, just numbers written in books.”
“Things were not complete. It was just a mess,” he said.
As a result, a forensic audit was conducted on the financial records left by former Archbishop Anthony Apuron and former Deacon Frank Tenorio, who managed Kåmalen Karidåt before Byrnes took over.
The audit was completed in March and remains under review by legal counsel and the board. Declining to release a copy of the audit, Taitano said it contained sensitive information.
Crisostomo said, "Do we owe other vendors or other people, or are there any people that owe us?"
Those questions are with legal counsel now, Crisostomo said, and they are trying to sort out the results of the forensic audit.
Down to one
The Ministry for the Homeless used to operate two soup kitchens, the one in Hagåtña and the other at the Dededo Community Center.
However, Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares shut down the Dededo location in April following reports of vandalism and rowdiness.
Doris Royal, the program coordinator of Ministry for the Homeless, said the fraud allegations against Kåmalen Karidåt have affected the kitchen's mission.
“We're not receiving as much donations as we used to,” she said. “They’re still kind of leery about donating to the ministry.”
They shouldn’t be, said Royal. “Things have been straightened out now.”
“We’re doing our due diligence,” said Taitano. “Now that we’ve taken control of everything, we’re doing our very best.”