The Archdiocese of Agaña, Guam has announced that it will file for bankruptcy, following mediation efforts in September regarding clerical abuse claims in the territory.
Archbishop Michael Byrnes said the bankruptcy declaration “will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims,” allowing them to know “that they’ve been heard and understood,” the Associated Press reported.
Leander James, an attorney working with alleged victims in the territory, welcomed the announcement, saying, “Bankruptcy provides the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims.”
There are currently $115 million in lawsuits from over 180 abuse claims pending in Guam.
In March, the Archdiocese of Agaña announced plans to sell its chancery property and move offices, as part of a broader move to liquidate and sell archdiocesan property to settle sex abuse cases.
Anthony Perez, another victims’ attorney, explained that the local diocese will not necessarily be forced to close its doors.
“In my discussions with attorneys from my team with extensive experience in these types of bankruptcies, this filing will allow the archdiocese to reorganize and still be operational after the claims are paid and the bankruptcy is closed,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
In March, Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron was found guilty of “certain” charges and sentenced to be removed from office and forbidden from living in the archdiocese. Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Michael Byrnes as Apuron’s successor.
The Vatican did not state the charges for which Apuron was found guilty. He had been accused of a multitude of offenses, including raping his nephew in 1989 or 1990.
Apuron maintains his innocence and immediately filed an appeal, which Pope Francis said he was personally evaluating.