Church: Guam property should not be sold to pay abuse claims

HAGATNA, Guam — The Catholic Church in Guam does not agree that its parishes and schools should be sold to settle more than 200 clergy sexual abuse claims, according to officials.

The statement by the Archdiocese of Agana Tuesday was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, the Pacific Daily News reported Tuesday.

The lawsuit includes a list of Catholic schools, parishes, shelters, cars, cemeteries, and a shelter for battered women that the creditors believe should be considered archdiocese property and liable for sale, the newspaper reported.

Parishes and schools are not owned by the archdiocese, but rather held in trust, and the "trust relationship is well established" and supported by Guam's "corporation sole" statute, said Ford Elsaesser, a bankruptcy counsel for the archdiocese.

The archdiocese believes the trust relationship is consistent with both case law and canon law within the church, Elsaesser said.

The disputed properties include the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in Hagatna, which is valued at $9.5 million, and the St. Anthony Church and School in Tamuning, valued at $6.2 million, the creditors committee said.

All other Catholic schools and parishes are also on the disputed list, the committee said.

Guam's Catholic Church filed for bankruptcy in January, allowing the archdiocese to avoid trial in dozens of child sexual abuse lawsuits and enter settlement negotiations.

Resolution of the lawsuit by the creditors committee will allow the parties to go back to mediation and resolve issues including abuse survivor compensation, the archdiocese said.

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