Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agana, has asked for the resignation of Catholic Cemeteries of Guam board members who voted in favor of publicizing a complaint filed against Rev. James Benavente.
In July of 2014, Benavente was removed from his post as Rector of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica by Archbishop Anthony Apuron over allegations of financial mismanagement.
Benavente was publicly besmirched by Apuron, and the clearing of his name as well as his reinstatement to his post were a major point of contention for the lay organization Concerned Catholics of Guam.
Last week, after archdiocesan officials formally cleared Benavente of all wrongdoing, a complaint was filed with the Guam Police Department and the Attorney General’s Office that included documentation of financial mismanagement.
The complaint was later found to be unfounded when Hon responded by stating that the subject matter detailed in the complaint had already been addressed by church investigations.
In response to questions from the media, Rev. Jeff San Nicolas relayed statements from Hon in regards to the filing.
“We have asked or are asking all board members of the Catholic Cemeteries who supported and voted for the resolution and for its release to the public to immediately resign,” San Nicolas stated.
San Nicolas reported that the Archdiocese is currently conducting an investigation into the matter. Initial findings revealed that the resolution was not approved by unanimous consent by all board members, contrary to the statement certified by Attorney Jacqueline Terlaje.
“The Archdiocese did not authorize the release of private and confidential documents involving third parties to the public by the filing of the complaint and the release to the media,” San Nicolas said.
San Nicolas assured the media that, after careful consideration and review of all the evidence, the archdiocese concluded that allegations made against Benavente that led to his removal as rector were unfounded.
“The Archdiocese apologizes to Monsignor James Benavente and his family for again having to undergo the sting and pain of baseless allegations,” San Nicolas said.
Though the issue of the allegations made against Benavente was widely publicized in the media, it was not the main purpose for the press conference held yesterday.
Speaking for the apostolic administrator, San Nicolas announced the appointment of Benavente to the post of Delegate of the Apostolic Administrator for Church Patrimony.
In addition to his new duties as parochial vicar to St. Anthony’s church, Benavente will have to assess those assets currently at the disposal of the archdiocese in order to coordinate response efforts to potential litigation made against the church by victims of child sex abuse.
With the lifting of the statute of limitations on civil litigation involving accusations of child sexual misconduct, the church has anticipated the potential for “unlimited financial liability.”
In addition to Benavente’s appointment, Hon also authorized San Nicolas to “reconstitute” the Archdiocesan Finance Council.
San Nicolas explained the reconstitution to mean that he would be searching for people to fill positions in the AFC.
The current AFC is composed of Sonny Ada, Danny Quichocho and John Weisenberger.
As the church continues to prepare for contingencies concerning potential litigation, San Nicolas stated that the Archdiocesan legal counsel, Ed Terlaje, would be working with the AFC to meet prospective challenges.